iCal: Your Powerful Personal Assistant:

When you add an event to your iCal calendar, you can do much more than simply name it and specify a date and time. Like a good personal assistant, it can remind you of upcoming events, help round up others for meetings, and even ensure that you have essential files in front of you at just the right moment.

To access iCal’s hidden superpowers, just double-click on the event’s name (or select it and type Command-i), then click the Edit button.

To invite other participants to an iCal event, just type their email addresses into the Attendees field. If you prefer, you can open iCal’s Addresses panel by typing Command-Option-a, and drag names from your contacts list. When you’ve added the desired contacts and event details, click Send, and Apple Mail will email the event request. If the event changes, you can send an update with the revised information.

There are many options here. For example, you can assign customized, color-coded categories to help keep track of work projects, personal appointments, and other commitments. You can set up recurring events via the repeat menu, which allows for custom recurrences (say, the last Tuesday of May every ten years) in addition to daily, weekly, monthly, and annual events. To create an event that continues over one or more days, click the “all-day” checkbox.

You can ask iCal to remind you of your upcoming events through a powerful alarm function, which issues one or more event reminders via pop-up messages or email. When pop-up reminders appear, you can “snooze” them for as little as one minute or as much as a week. You can even schedule the iCal alarm to automatically run a script or open a file on your computer at a specified time.

You can also attach documents, graphics, or other files to an event — pictures, maps, spreadsheets, or whatever — and include any relevant URLs. Finally, you can insert additional text into the Note field: anything from a phone number to an entire meeting agenda. (Though this field initially displays as a narrow strip, you can type or paste in as much text as you like.)

When you’re finished, click Done. All the data you added will appear next time you double-click on the event.

Subscribe to an iCal Calendar:

You can create calendars in iCal to keep track of all sorts of activities — all your meetings at work, your spouse’s meetings, after-school activities for the kids, family birthdays.

You can even use iCal to subscribe to calendars published on the Internet. Let’s say your kids’ soccer league publishes the practice and match schedules on the league’s .Mac site. To subscribe, simply:

1. In iCal, choose Calendar from the Subscribe menu.
2. Type the URL for the .Mac website where the schedule is published.
3. Check the “Refresh” checkbox to have iCal automatically update your copy of the calendar when the league publishes updates.
4. Click the Subscribe button.

And you’re done. iCal adds the schedule to your Calendars list and places a curved arrow next to it. Double-click the name if you’d like to change it, but you can’t make any other changes to a calendar you’re subscribing to.

Share an iCal Schedule:

With your busy schedule, you depend on iCal to make certain you know when the kids need to be at the dentist and when you’re supposed to be in Philadelphia for the sales conference. Since this information may be just as valuable to your spouse, it would be helpful to share your calendar, and iCal offers a simple way to do so.

Select the calendar you want to share.
From the Calendar menu, choose Publish and fill out the form in the sheet that appears.
Click Publish. iCal displays the URLs where you can view your schedule online and lets you either visit the page or send email to those with whom you’d like to share your calendar.