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OS X Lion: Quick Tips for iCal

Following up on my recent Lion Quick Tips article for The Hub, here are some more tasty Lion Quick Tips for anyone who's upgraded to the new OS. Users new to the Macintosh will find some useful pointers here, and those Mac veterans who aren't completely comfortable with the many changes in the new OS will also benefit. This time around, we'll be focusing on the new version of iCal - let's get started.

1. iCal - One Hour Events

iCal in Lion is much more like the iOS versions found on the iPhone and iPad, and so has instituted some changes that long-time OS X user may find... disconcerting. (Not to say annoying.) For example, when in Month view (which is what I always use), double-clicking to create a new event used to, by default, create a one-hour event. In Lion, the same action creates an all-day event, and this behavior isn't changeable. So, here are a couple of workarounds to let you create one-hour events. You'll need to learn some new routines, but once you do you'll have more more control over iCal.

First, if you switch to Week or Day view, double-clicking at a particular time location will create a one-hour event at that time. However, let's say that you, like me, don't want to switch views just to create one-hour events. Here are two other workarounds.

In Month view, double-click to create the event, then immediately start typing to name the event. If you also add the time to the event, like so:

create event in Month view

Now hit Return, the time you added will disappear, and the event will start at the time you specified with a duration of one hour:

creating a one hour event

An alternate approach is, in any view, to type Command-N (or click the + button in the upper left of the Calendar window) to show the Create Quick Event pop-up.

Create Quick Event pop-up

Then type in the event with day and time, hit Return, and again you'll have a new event of one hour starting at the time you specified. If you don't specify a day, the event will be entered for your current day.

2. iCal - Default Event Types

One thing I noticed while creating the events above - certain event types in iCal will automatically default to one hour, and will start at default times. For example, create a new event as described above, but type in "lunch" - just "lunch", then hit Return, and you'll see that the event not only defaults to one hour, but also starts at 12PM! This also applies to "breakfast" (which starts at 9AM) and "dinner" (which starts at 8PM, apparently in the European manner). If you're a person of regular, fixed habits, this is a handy shortcut. 

You can, of course, change those times once you hit Return by double-clicking the event to edit it, or by typing Command-I to open the Info window for the event, or by typing Command-E to open the Edit Event pop-up (which has all the same stuff in it as the Info window.)

3. Top Sekret

No, that isn't a typo - iCal has long had a hidden Debug menu available, but in Lion a new sub-menu called Top Sekret has been added to it. This Top Sekret menu has one very useful command for those who prefer to work in Week view - the ability to change the number of days shown in Week view from the default 7 to 14, 21, or 28. This is useful if you want to see more than one week's worth of events at once, but less than a full month, and also because Week view shows a lot more detail than Month view.

To access the Top Sekret menu, you first need to enable the Debug menu. To do that, launch Terminal (in the Utilities folder in your Applications folder). When you do, you'll see a prompt in the Terminal window. After the prompt, type in the following text: defaults write com.apple.ical IncludeDebugMenu 1 exactly as shown here.

Terminal view

defaults write com.apple.ical IncludeDebugMenu 1

Then hit Return to enter the text. After that, quit and relaunch iCal to use the new settings, and now you'll see a Debug menu in the menu bar. Then choose Debug > Top Sekret > Days in Week View to change the default from 7 to one of the other values. 

Once you've changed the default, you can hide the Debug menu again if you wish by launching Terminal again and entering:

defaults write com.apple.ical IncludeDebugMenu 0 

to turn it off. That's up to you, of course - if you want to freely switch the number of days shown in Week view, you'll need to have the Debug window enabled.

And there you have some useful iCal tips. Stay tuned for another episode of Lion QuickTips, coming soon!

Richard Lainhart

Richard Lainhart | Articles by this author

Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, filmmaker, and author. His compositions have been performed in the US, Europe Asia, and Australia, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, Infrequency, VICMOD, and ExOvo labels. His animations and short films have been shown in festivals in the US, Europe, and Asia, and online at ResFest, The New Venue, The Bitscreen, and Streaming Cinema 2.0. He has authored over a dozen technical manuals for music and video hardware and software, served as Contributing Editor for Interactivity and 3D Design Magazines, and contributed to books on digital media production published by IDG, Peachpit Press, McGraw Hill, and Miller Freeman Books. Previously an Adobe Certified Expert in After Effects and Premiere, a demo artist for Adobe Systems, and co-founder of the official New York City After Effects User Group, he was, from 2000-2009, Technical Director for Total Training Productions, an innovative digital media training company based in New York and California.


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