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June 03, 2020
Tips and Guides

Getting the Most Out of Your Microsoft Office 365 Calendar

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By Calendly

Table of Contents


Microsoft's Office 365 Calendar today

Setting up your free Office 365 Calendar

Creating calendars in Your calendar

Editing your calendars

Limitations of Microsoft's Office 365 Calendar


Microsoft's Office 365 Calendar today

The Microsoft Calendar is changing. Once upon a time, Office 365 was a corporate behemoth that ran every aspect of your working life, and you had little choice but to schedule all of your meetings through Outlook.

After a while, Microsoft started to get complacent. The nature of work changed, and employees were no longer tied to their desktop computers. The more these professionals were on the go, the more they started to demand the ability to schedule and view their calendars from their smartphones and tablets.

In this, Apple and Google were ahead of the game. They were manufacturing branded phones, so they could include their calendars as standard. People got used to using these calendar apps, which users could integrate with web-based versions if they wanted to do so.

Today's employees have spent years using these convenient, free and well-integrated calendar apps. They started to see Microsoft as stodgy, and Microsoft noticed. It realized that users had dynamic and easy-to-use options, and it knew it had to do something more to compete.

Microsoft now offers free versions of its core products online. It has streamlined branding both in these free versions and in its subscription version for business. At the same time, it has added functionalities that appeal specifically to administrators and business leaders.

Microsoft 365 vs. Office 365

For obvious reasons, it’s easy to confuse Microsoft 365 (a more expensive business suite released in 2017) that includes Microsoft Office 365 with Office 365. This comes from the mistaken belief that they were one and the same. Suffice it to say, if you have Microsoft 365, you also have Office 365, but the inverse may not be true.

Setting up your free Office 365 Calendar

Microsoft Office has been available online for a while.

First, there was Office Web Apps. It was Microsoft's answer to free word processors, spreadsheets, and presentations. That gave way to Office Online, which became just Office in 2019.

Through the suite of services formerly known as Office Online, you can access the basic functions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. It also allows you access to other apps including Outlook and Calendar.

Exploring the features of the free Office 365 Calendar is a great way to discover whether you might be interested in the full version. It can even be a good stand-alone solution, especially if you're interested in using Outlook.

Everything is easier to understand hands-on, so you're going to want to start by setting up an Office account.

Creating your Outlook ID
creating your account

The free version of Office 365 Calendar is fully embedded into Outlook. There's no stand-alone Microsoft calendar app or even a separate website like there is for Google or iCal. You have to go through the Outlook app or web interface, so you need a login.

If you don't already have one, you can set one up for free at Outlook.com. Just click Create free account on the upper right. It will take you to a screen where you can choose your new email handle “@outlook.com.” Assuming your choice isn't already taken, you then choose a password and give them your basic information: name, country of residence, and birth date.

Finally, just copy some letters to show the system that you're not a robot, and you're in your brand-new Outlook inbox.

This might seem like a lengthy process just to access your calendar, especially if you're used to the convenience of something like Google. It should only take you a few minutes, though, and you'll have an Outlook email to use as well. The next time you need your calendar, you'll just have to go to Outlook and click on the calendar icon.

Once you're in your email inbox, you can access your calendar by clicking on the calendar icon at the bottom left of the screen, right next to the envelope.

The Bing shortcut

Once you have an Outlook ID and are signed in, you can get one-click access to your calendar by using the Bing search engine. At Bing.com, go to the menu bar at the top of the screen. You may have to click the three dots next to the word “Images” to drop down the whole menu. Then, just scroll down to Office and select Calendar.

The Outlook app

Microsoft's Office 365 Calendar doesn't have a stand-alone app like Google or iCal does, but you can still get Microsoft's calendar on your phone through the Outlook app. You can get it from the App Store or Google Play, or you can just default to accessing Office 365 Calendar through Outlook on your mobile browser.

You'll probably find it easiest to go through the app instead of the mobile website. The interface is intuitive:

  • To add an event, just tap the plus sign at the top right corner and follow the prompts.

  • To switch views, tap the icon next to the plus sign. You can choose Agenda, Day, 3-Day, or Month.

  • To search, tap the magnifying glass on the bottom of the screen. Because it's an integrated email and calendar app, you're not limited to searching events: you can also search for email messages, contacts and files.

The Outlook app isn't as richly functioned as other calendar apps, but you can switch back and forth from calendar to email easily. That's a huge asset.

Populating your calendar

It's relatively easy to import another calendar into Office 365. You can also share information from your Google or iCal calendar through one of the following workarounds.

Exporting from Google

Exporting your calendar data from Google will populate your new Office calendar just fine as long as you don't need future Google Calendar events to be visible in Office 365. Go to Settings in Google Calendar. This is the cog icon, next to the question mark icon for Support at the top right.

In Settings, click Import & export from the left-hand menu bar. Scroll down to the export section and click the Export button.

Google will prompt you to save the data as an iCal file, which you'll need to unzip by right-clicking and selecting Extract all. This will create separate ICS files for each of your calendars.

To get the data into your Office 365 calendar, you can go through the web version of your calendar or your desktop Outlook app.

On the web: Click the toggle next to New event and scroll down to click Add calendar. Then, click Upload from file. You'll see a field where you can add an ICS file.

Drag one of your ICS files from your Google Calendar into that box and click Import. You'll need to go through this process for every ICS file you want to import. Once you're done, click Save.

Sharing from Google
importing from google

If you'd like to keep using your Google Calendar as well as your Office 365 calendar, you'll want to share instead of export.

Go to Google Calendar on your desktop and look for the list of calendars in the left-hand column. Hover your mouse over a calendar and click on the three dots that appear next to it. Click Settings and sharing.

Google will take you to another page where you'll see Settings for my calendars in the left-hand column. Click on Integrate calendar, near the bottom of the calendar settings list.

On the right, a series of greyed boxes will appear. Look for the one marked “Secret address in iCal format.” It should be the last address listed. Copy the URL listed there and open your Office 365 Calendar.

In the left-hand column, under the small calendar that shows the current month, select the Add calendar drop-down and click From Internet.

When prompted, paste the “secret address” URL that you copied from Google and name the calendar. Click Save to prompt Microsoft to connect with your Google calendar.

Because this calendar will be shared and not imported, your Office 365 Calendar will update itself whenever you add to your Google Calendar.

Sharing from iCloud

You can also use the share function to integrate your iCloud calendar. Sharing will be a little bit simpler here than in Google, simply because Apple publishes a simpler calendar.

When you open your iCloud calendar, you'll see broadcast icons next to each calendar. They look like slightly tilted Wi-Fi symbols. Click on the icon next to whichever calendar you want to share first. You'll see options for private or public calendars.

Click the checkbox next to Public Calendar and copy the link that appears. The rest of the process is the same as it would be in Google: go to your Office 365 Calendar, click From Internet under Add Calendar, then paste to share the data.

Be aware, though—your Office 365 calendar will import data from your iCloud calendar, but it doesn't work the other way around. If you add an event to your Office 365 calendar and you want to see it in iCloud, you'll have to copy it manually.

Exporting from iCloud instead of sharing

Your iCloud Calendar doesn't technically support exporting, but if you know how to share it, you can make one quick change and export it instead.

Begin as if you're going to subscribe to your iCloud Calendar in Outlook: open sharing settings for your chosen calendar, click the checkbox next to Public calendar and copy the link.

Next, open a new browser window or tab and paste the URL you just copied, but don't hit Enter yet. First, delete the “webcal://” at the beginning of the address and change it to “http://”

Once you make that change and hit Enter, your browser will let you save the calendar as an ICS file. Once it's saved, open Office 365 Calendar, choose Add Calendar and upload the ICS file.

This works because Webcal isn't a universally recognized Uniform Resource Identifier, so machines can't recognize it outside of iCloud. Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is universal, so systems can recognize and save the data.

Customizing your calendar settings

Through your Office 365 Web interface, you have lots of settings for customizing your calendar. Some are purely aesthetic, the wallpaper being one standout example, but Microsoft also lets you set a workweek that's separate from the full seven-day week. It's just one of the many benefits involved in using a calendar tool that's designed for business: it supports your efforts to maintain a work-life balance.

You'll learn how to make the most out of the workweek function later. For now, you can focus on making your calendar look the way you like it.

Quick settings and themes

Start by clicking on the cog icon. Under the search box, you'll see a collection of themes. Click on a few, and you'll see different colors and designs appear in the header bar.

If you'd like to see more, scroll to the bottom of the Settings drop-down menu and click View all Outlook settings. Click General on the left and Appearance to the right of that. Several additional options will show up, from solid colors and circuit boards to jellyfish and cats.

Try some of them on for size, and don't forget to click Save if you see one you like. Once you're ready to go back to the original Quick settings view, click the X at the top right corner of the Settings window or click View quick settings at the bottom of the left-hand menu bar.

Back in Quick settings, you'll see more options, including toggles that will let you shift your calendar into dark mode, view events in bold, or change your default time zone.

Other calendars automatically take your time zone from your IP address, but in Office 365, you have to choose it. You also have a checkbox that you can click to tell Microsoft that you're planning to stay in your current time zone permanently.

Working hours

Under the time zone field, you'll also have the option to change your working hours. To do this, click Update working hours. This will open an advanced settings window where you can:

  • Select the first day of the week and the first week of the year

  • Choose the days of your workweek

  • Specify your working hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., etc.)

Setting your working hours lets you control what shows up when you choose work week view. You can make this selection at the top of the calendar, where there's a drop-down that lists Day, Work week, Week and Month.

If you look at things in day view, you may also want to take advantage of the setting that lets you choose 15 or 30-minute increments. When using the 30-minute increment setting in day view, each hour has two subdivisions. With the 15-minute increment setting, each hour has four. This might be a logistical choice rather than a purely aesthetic one: it depends on how long your meetings will be and how tightly you want to schedule yourself.

To view the rest of the settings you can customize, scroll to the bottom of the Settings drop-down menu and click View all Outlook settings.

Weather

You can click Weather to choose whether you want to show the weather on your calendar view. Setting allow you to select Fahrenheit or Celsius and choose the locations that you want to display weather for.

Be aware that no matter where you live, Office 365 Calendar will default to showing you the weather in Redmond, Washington, where Microsoft is headquartered. (Whether this is hubris or advertising is anybody's guess.)

Outlook email integrations

The current version of Office 365 Calendar also has several Outlook integrations that you can manage in Settings. Click Events from email and you can tell Outlook to automatically add certain events to your calendar, including dining, hotel and rental car reservations. This is a great option if you travel frequently.

Agenda mail is located below Events from email in the expanded Settings view. This option lets you opt-in for a daily email that includes events from selected calendars.

Customize actions, next on the list, lets you include add-ins when you add meetings from Outlook to your calendar. If you're not a regular Outlook email user, you probably won't need to use this section.

Sharing

Resource scheduling will let you book meetings using shared company resources. This is a more advanced feature that you are less likely to need if you're a free or individual user. It allows your calendar to process invitations to meetings in shared spaces and indicate who can schedule this kind of event. 

Shared calendars lets you grant calendar access to other people or publish a calendar online. When you click on this in the Settings menu, the first option available is for selecting a calendar to share. Make your selection, then enter the email address or name of the person you want to be able to see your calendar. Then, click Share.

Once you have at least one shared calendar, you can select which of those calendars you want to receive updates for. Microsoft will send you email notifications when someone makes changes in a shared calendar.

Your third sharing option is to publish a calendar and host it online. Choose your calendar and then select which permissions to enable. One lets people view your calendar when you're busy, and the other lets them see all of your details. Your selection will generate two links: one in HTML and one in ICS mode.

If you want people to be able to subscribe to your calendar, choose the ICS link. The subscriber will then be able to import your calendar into their own calendar app.

On the other hand, if you only need recipients to be able to view your calendar in a browser, copy the HTML. You can publish these links wherever you want people to find them.

In-App Settings

If you want to access your Office 365 calendar on your phone, the Outlook app is your best bet. Download it from the App Store or Google Play and enter your email address and password. To get to the calendar, just click the calendar icon at the bottom right side of your screen.

It's a little bit trickier to customize your settings in the mobile app.
  • First, you have to click on the blue circle containing your initials at the top left of the screen. This will call up a menu bar with your calendars listed. At the bottom of that screen, you'll see the cog icon.

  • Scroll down until you see the four calendar options.

  • First up is Notifications. Tap that, and you'll be able to set a default notification time for events. Options range from one week before the event to the exact start time of the event. Or, you can choose to receive no notifications at all by default

  • For all-day events, you have fewer notification options: one week before, one day before at 9 a.m., or the day of the event at 9 a.m.

  • If you don't want notifications for anything, click the blue toggle next to Enable notifications. This will turn it grey for “off.” If you do want notifications, tap Sound to choose what you want your notifications to sound like.

  • Next, you can choose whether you want time-to-leave notifications for your event. If you tap this toggle to turn it on, you'll have to agree to Microsoft's privacy and cookies.

The only other settings you have on the app are to set your default calendar—the one that your new events will get set up in unless you tell it otherwise—and to set your week start, as you did in the web version.

It's a simple app, but it works. It's particularly good if you prefer something that gives you a basic view.

Creating calendars in Your calendar

One of the standard features of digital calendars is the ability to create multiple calendars. You still only have one calendar platform, complete with settings and features. The “calendars” that you're adding function more like schedules.

If you like to think of things in real-world terms, think of a pile of paper calendars inside of a manila folder. Each one contains a schedule for a different aspect of your life: work, family, medical and so forth.

Creating calendars within Office 365 works similarly, but it's better because it's digital. You can look at all of your calendars at once, each one color-coded so you can tell them apart. You can also view them one at a time, as though you were putting that hypothetical paper calendar on the top of the pile.

You can even create groups of calendars. This is a helpful function if your schedule is complex or if you have to manage calendars for multiple teams.

Creating a calendar group

To make a new group to sort calendars into, hover over My calendars on the left sidebar. Slide your pointer to the right of the words until you see three dots. Click on these and you'll see options to rename or delete the group.

Click on New calendar group and a text box will appear. Enter whatever name you'd like to call the new group, hit “Enter,” and it's ready to hold new calendars.

Creating a new calendar

You can add new calendars to your Office 365 Calendar any time you want. In the web version, just click the three bars under the word “Outlook” in the upper left corner of the screen to open the left sidebar. Then, click Add calendar.

This brings up a window where you can add one of three types of calendars: your own, an uploaded file or a subscription.

To add a calendar you created

To create a new calendar of your own, click Create blank calendar, located near the top of the left sidebar. Outlook will prompt you to name your calendar and give it a color code. You can also give it an icon, such as an airplane for a travel calendar or a graduation cap for a school calendar.

Finally, choose the calendar group that you want to put this new calendar into. If you haven't created a second one, My calendars will be your only option. Click Save, and your new calendar will be added to the group you've chosen.

To add someone else's calendar

There are many reasons, personal and professional, why you might want to add a calendar that someone else created. You might be responsible for tracking your team members' meetings, or maybe you just need to know when your spouse is free to swing back home and walk the dog.

To add someone else's calendar to your Office 365 Calendar, you need them to create an ICS file and send it to you. If they have Google or iCal and need help creating the file, point them to the instructions for exporting above.

Once you have the ICS file, go to Add calendar like you did when you were adding one you created. This time, though, click Upload from file. You'll be prompted to drag a file to the window or browse for one.

You also have to select where you want the new calendar to go. You can import it into one of your existing calendars, but keep in mind that doing so will merge the two calendars into one.

If that's not what you want, start by creating a new calendar. Give it a name that you'll associate with the schedule you're going to import: “Sean's soccer schedule,” for example, or “All-team meetings.” Select that calendar from the drop-down when you import.

Once that step is done, you're ready to click Save and bring that other schedule into your Office 365 Calendar.

To subscribe from the internet

Right above Upload from file in the Add calendar sidebar, you'll see Subscribe from web. Make sure you've copied the URL of the calendar you want to subscribe to first. Then, copy that URL into the field when Outlook asks for it and click Import.

From now on, all of the additions and updates to that calendar will also show up in your Office 365 Calendar.

Microsoft even gives you suggestions for calendars that you can subscribe to, although it's not always easy to see that that's what you're looking at.

Look under Upload from file. You'll see five options:

1. Schools

Click on Schools, and Microsoft will prompt you to search by zip code for area schools and districts. If you click on a town or district, you'll usually get four options: District, High, Middle and Elementary. Click on your choice and then hover over the name of the school or district. A circle will appear. Click to check it off, and you're subscribed.

2. Holidays

Under Schools, you'll see Holidays. By default, Microsoft gives you the option to subscribe to US holidays on your calendar's home screen. If you click Holidays, you'll have the option to subscribe to religious or cultural holidays for different nations and faith groups.

Scroll down to find your choice, or enter it into the search box. Then, as you did with schools, hover over the name of the calendar to click and subscribe.

3. TeamSnap

Microsoft partners with TeamSnap, a subscription-based service designed for sports teams. If you have a TeamSnap account, you can import your team calendar into your Outlook calendar so you always know when games and practices are happening and where they are.

To connect your TeamSnap calendar, click on TeamSnap in the Add calendar vertical menu bar and click Sign in to TeamSnap.

4. Sports

Microsoft gives you the option to subscribe to the game calendars of almost any professional sports team you follow. Simply click on Sports and follow a local team by clicking one of the names under Teams around you.

You can also browse well-known leagues, listed at the bottom of the screen under Sports leagues, or click Find more teams to search by sport. Microsoft lists everything from auto racing to cricket.

5. TV

You can add your favorite shows' broadcast times to your Office 365 calendar thanks to Microsoft's partnership with TiVo. At the bottom of the Add calendar menu bar, click on TV and select your time zone.

Click on the network that airs your show and search for the listing of the program itself. Then, click the program name to subscribe.

There's not yet a way to search by program name from any of the earlier fields, but who knows? That function could be on its way. Microsoft has made a lot of enhancements to its Office 365 Calendar web interface lately.

You can even give the company ideas for what to add. At the bottom of the Add calendar menu bar where it asks you if you're looking for other calendars, click Yes. A checklist will pop up where you can indicate the type of calendar you want or add your original ideas.

Creating a new calendar in Outlook for desktop

You can create a calendar on your desktop app, but it's a little bit less intuitive. Make sure you're in the calendar view, then go to the File drop-down in the menu bar at the top of the screen. Select New, and then choose Folder from the drop-down. A new untitled folder will appear in your list of calendars.

To name your calendar, click Untitled folder. Hit “Delete” on your keyboard and type in a new name.

Sharing your new calendar with others

To make the most of the sharing function, you have to be able to share your own new calendars as well as subscribe to and import other people's calendars.

You've already learned how to share your default calendar through the settings. (See “Sharing” under “Customize your calendar settings” above.) Sharing a new calendar works the same way.

If you just want to share your calendar with a single person, click the Share button at the top right of the page and enter that person's email address. If they're in your contacts, just enter their name.

Editing your calendars

By this point, you should have all of your personal, business, and shared calendars ready to go. Now you can start adding events.

Adding a calendar event on the website interface

You'll probably add calendar events more than you add anything else to your Office 365 Calendar. You do this using a fill-in form, much like creating an event using Google Calendar's web interface.

This is likely to be the most straightforward Office 365 Calendar function you've learned so far. Microsoft walks you through the entire process. To start, just click on the filled-in New Event button at the top left of your calendar window.

Give your event a title and then look below the title to select a date. Next to the date, you'll see drop-downs for the event's start time and end time. Select the times you want for this event, or turn on the All day toggle if you're scheduling an all-day event.

If you've selected 30-minute increments using the Update working hours function (see “Working hours” above), you'll be able to select a start time that's on the hour or the half-hour. If you've selected 15-minute increments, you can start or stop on the quarter-hour.

Now might be the time when you realize you've made the wrong working-hour increment selection. You can still fix it. Just go to Update working hours under Settings and change your selection. Your new event form will update automatically.

Updating locations

Microsoft lets you search for a location to add to your event. If you're new to Office 365 Calendar, your browser will probably ask you for permission to share your location with outlook.live.com. Click Allow if you want to use the location search function.

Next, click on Search for a location on the New event form. You can either type in the address of the event location or enter the name of a business. Addresses closest to your location, if you've shared that information, will show up first. Click on the correct one.

Repeating events

You can choose to list an event at regular intervals. Click the “repeat” drop-down (the default will be “never,”) and select whether you want to repeat the event every day, week, month, or year.

You also have the option to customize your repetition period. Click Custom and the drop-down will expand. As a default, you'll see “Repeat every 1 Week,” the 1 and the Week both being drop-downs.

You still only have the day, week, month, and year as duration options, but now you can also change the number. You can repeat every 10 days, every three weeks and so forth.

The main limitation is that the number menu only goes up to 10. That means you can't repeat every 12 weeks, for example. You'd have to select “every 3 months” instead. It's an easy limitation to work around.

Another option you have is to select the days of the week on which the event happens. Just click the day to leave it out. For instance, if you have an event that recurs every weekday, just deselect Saturday and Sunday.

Your customization options change if you're repeating monthly. In that case, you get to select if you're repeating based on the day of the month or by week. For instance, if you're starting a monthly event on March 23, 2020, you can select whether the event will recur on the 23rd of every month or the fourth Monday.

Likewise, if you're repeating annually, select whether you're repeating on that date or that day and week. Do you want that March 23 event to recur every March 23 or on the fourth Monday of March every year?

Your final option for customizing recurring events is selecting the end date. The default varies based on whether your event repeats daily, weekly, or less frequently. Click Remove end date to make the event recur indefinitely, or click the end date drop-down to select a custom end date from a calendar.

Reminders

By default, Office 365 Calendar notifies you 15 minutes before an event begins. You can change or cancel that reminder by clicking the drop-down arrow next to Remind me at the bottom of the new event form. Options for reminders are:

  • At the time of the event

  • Five, 15 or 30 minutes before

  • One, two or 12 hours before

  • One day before

  • One week before

To cancel reminders, select Never at the top of the list.

More options

Click More options to see what else you can do. Start at the top of the window. You've already dealt with most of these fields, but there are some new choices:

  • Change the default designation of Busy on your calendar for this time slot. Clicking Busy opens a drop-down where you can also select Free, Working elsewhere, Tentative, Away or Private.

  • Color-code your event using Outlook color groupings. You also have the option to create a new category or manage your existing categories.

  • Add response options: un-check Request responses and/or Allow forwarding, or choose to hide your attendee list.

Next to Response options, you'll see three dots. Click those and you'll see three more options:

  • OneNote, which will let you add event information to your OneNote notebook. You have to sign in to OneNote to use this function.

  • My Templates, an add-in that lets you select pre-written message text for your events or emails. Outlook gives you three standard options to start with, including “I'm running late,” or you can create your own.

  • Get Add-ins, which are great little tools that link your Office 365 Calendar with Microsoft partner solutions. Most are geared toward the email part of Outlook, but there are some calendar-related options as well.

Stay in the More options window to see a few additional customization choices:

  • Invite attendees, provided the people you want to invite are in your contacts list

  • Select Skype meeting instead of choosing a physical location

  • Attach documents

  • Add a description, with or without images and text styling

  • See whether you're available during the event's proposed time slot

You also have the option to set an email reminder for the event. Go to the drop-down next to the Remind me icon and select Add email reminder. In the pop-up window, click Add email reminder.

First, choose your reminder time. Your options are the same as they are in the event form itself. For an email reminder, however, you also have the opportunity to add some reminder text of your choice. Format the text any way you'd like—even including emojis and GIFs if that's your style.

When you're done reminding your future self—Don't forget Margie's play tonight at 8!—click Save and the note will go to your email at the time you chose.

Birthdays

Adding birthdays to your contacts is a great way to make business connections. To do this for new contacts, click the three bars next to New event and scroll all the way down to your Birthdays calendar. Click the three dots next to Birthdays and select New birthday. In the window that pops up, you can add the person's name and contact info in addition to their birthday.

To add a birthday to an existing contact from your calendar view, go to the People icon at the bottom of the left-hand vertical menu bar. (It looks like two silhouettes.) In the list of contacts, near the middle of the screen, click on the small circle that contains the contact's initials. Then click Edit.

This will bring up the contact's basic info. At the bottom of that pop-up, find and click Add more. You'll find Birthday near the bottom of the drop-down. Select that and then enter the person's birthday in the fields that pop up.

The Add more option also gives you the opportunity to add the person's anniversary, name of their significant other, and the address of their personal website. All of this information can help you to add a personal touch to your interactions.

Creating an event in the Outlook mobile app

Adding an event is simple in the Outlook app, but you have fewer customization options. Start by tapping the plus sign at the top right corner of the screen.

By default, the first thing you'll be invited to do is give the event a name. The app will bring up an icon based on what you type. For example, if you type “Coffee,” you'll get a picture of a coffee cup, and if you enter “Lunch,” you'll get a knife and fork.

  • Add participants by tapping on People and adding names and/or email addresses.

  • Tap Location to have Outlook search for locations, as you do in the web interface, or select Skype call.

  • Tap Description to enter a text description for the event.

  • Tap Repeat to have the event recur daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. (There are fewer customization options for this field compared to the web interface.)

  • Tap Alert to set an alert. Options are the same as they are in the web interface.

  • Tap Show as to choose Busy, Free, Tentative, or Out of office.

  • Tap the toggle next to Private to make the event invisible to anyone but you.

Date and time

Select Date to change the date of the event. You then have two options for how to select the time: 

  • Tap the checkmark at the top of the calendar view to go back to the event creation window, then tap Time

  • Swipe left from the calendar view to see the agenda view

In the agenda view, it's easy to select a custom time frame for the event. Touch and hold the event block to move it up or down the timetable if you want to move it earlier or later.

To make it longer or shorter, use the circles at the top or bottom of the event block. Dragging the top circle higher will make the event start sooner, and dragging it lower will make it start later. Likewise, moving the bottom circle will change the end time.

Using Cortana

Cortana is Microsoft's digital assistant, similar to Amazon's Alexa or Apple's Siri. You have it installed on your computer if you have Windows 10, and it's included on Microsoft's Surface tablet and Lumia phones. Activate it, and you can use it to edit your Office 365 Calendar.

Try asking Cortana to “schedule a meeting” at a certain place and time. Cortana will prompt you to add details so that you don't miss anything.

Cortana is available for Android and iOS devices as well. It's a little bit more difficult to use, but that's only because it doesn't default to Office 365 Calendar on those devices. You'll have to set Outlook as its default.

Limitations of Office 365 Calendar

Any software that’s free often lacks some more robust features, and that's true in Office 365 as well.

For example, even though Office 365 Calendar operates on the same platform as your Outlook email, it can't scan your Outlook inbox and automatically add events. That can feel like an inconvenience if you're used to doing things like booking plane tickets on Google, which will add your itinerary to your calendar without you even asking.

There are ways to manually connect meetings to your calendar. In the Outlook desktop app, you can drag an email to the Calendar icon in the bottom left corner of the window.

This prompts an appointment window to pop up with the same subject line as the email. The email is included as a text note, but you have to manually set the place, time and duration, even if that information is specified in the email.

If you're using the web interface for Outlook mail, open the email that references the event. Look for the arrow next to the sender's name and click the adjacent three dots. Select the fourth option, Reply all by meeting.

This brings up an event creation window. As in the desktop app, the email will be included as the event's text description. Add any information you'd like, including the date and time of the meeting, and then click Send at the top left corner of the pop-up window.

Another difference from Google is that you can't create new Office 365 Calendar events through Bing. You'll be disappointed if you're used to entering something like “Schedule a meeting for Friday the 13th” in Google and being prompted to add the event to your Google calendar.

Office 365's Calendar isn't always as intuitive as its competitors, but it's never tried to be the simplest option on the market. It's designed specifically as a business tool, which means that its free version is primarily a sampler for the paid subscription.

If all you want is a free calendar, you may be happier sticking with Google or iCal. Both offer just as many integrations as the free Office 365 Calendar and are more visually appealing.

Whether you're using the Home version or the business version of Office 365, Microsoft assumes that you're juggling complicated logistics and the scheduling needs of multiple people. You'll find that the functions available in Office 365 Calendar reflect that assumption. There's more sending and verifying involved here than you'll get with other calendars.

The downside is that you'll spend a lot of time learning the ins and outs of Office 365 Calendar. However, it can help to look at this time as an investment. The more you experiment with Office 365 Calendar and what it can do, the more time you'll be able to save when you really get going.

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