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MS Outlook Calendar: How to Add, Share, & Use It Right

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This post is part of a series called How to Use Microsoft Outlook (Essential Tutorial Guide).
How to Organize Your Outlook Email Inbox Efficiently
How to Organize Your Outlook Contacts

Meetings, assignments, and other items that impact our schedule--they all have one thing in common. We're often notified of them through email.

It can be inconvenient to close your Microsoft Outlook email and open another app to find your appointments and work. And then reopen Outlook again once you've got the schedule info you need. It's inconvenient, and it's also unnecessary.

Many people don't realize the MS Outlook has a calendar built right into it. If you know what to do, you can easily switch between your email inbox and your Microsoft Outlook Calendar.

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to use the Outlook Calendar. I'll explain how to add tasks and appointments to your calendar. We'll also explore how to share an Outlook calendar.

How to Use Your Microsoft Outlook Calendar—A Quick Overview (Video)

Outlook has the perfect tool to help you create and maintain your schedule, which is the Microsoft Outlook calendar tool. 

If you want to use Outlook to track your appointments and meetings as well as your tasks, the Outlook calendar can help. Here is a quick video guide on how to use the MS Outlook Calendar:

 

Learn even more about the Microsoft Outlook calendar by following the step-by-step instructions below.

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How to Access Your Microsoft Outlook Calendar

Your Outlook Calendar is a handy tool that you can reach quickly and easily from with your email by just clicking on a single icon if you know how.

Step 1. View a Calendar Thumbnail

Start with your Outlook inbox open:

Open Microsoft Outlook Inbox
Access your MS Outlook calendar through the Calendar icon in your inbox.

Find the Calendar icon in the lower left of your email interface (below the Navigation pane). If you hover your mouse over the icon, you’ll see a thumbnail of your calendar with your upcoming appointments.

Step 2. Open Your Calendar View

To open your calendar, click the Calendar icon. Your Microsoft Outlook calendar appears:

Microsoft Outlook Calendar
A look at the Microsoft Outlook Calendar.

Notice the default view is of about a month’s time. This is called the Month view. The current date is highlighted, although you can select various calendar days to work with.

The Outlook calendar also includes some neat features:

  • There’s a local weather report at the top of the calendar. Customize this information by entering your city name or zip code.
  • There are thumbnails of the months before and after the current month on the left of the screen. To hide these thumbnails, grab the right side of the pane containing the thumbnails and drag it to the left.
  • There’s a search bar at the top right of the calendar. You can search through calendar events by key words or phrases.

Now that we've explored the month view, we can take a look at some of the views available.

Step 3. Change Your Calendar View

You can change your Calendar View. At the top of the Outlook calendar click View from the menu:

Change the Outlook calendar view
You can change the Outlook calendar view in the View tab.

On the View tab, you’ll see various settings that will allow you to customize the way your calendar looks. The five we want to focus on for this tutorial are:

  1. Day. The Day view allows you to see the events of a day. The Day view looks much like a page in a paper planner. Use the scroll bar on the right side of the Day view to move up and down on the page.
  2. Work Week. The Work Week view lets you see five days of your schedule (Monday through Friday) at a time.
  3. Week. The Week view is like the Work Week view, except it includes the weekends. This view can be helpful if you work non-traditional hours or if you include personal appointments on your calendar.
  4. Month. We’ve already examined the Month view, which allows you to see a month at a glance.
  5. Schedule View. The Schedule View allows you to see a day’s appointments in bar graph form. The let’s you spot conflicts and overlapping commitments quickly and easily.

To open a view, click on the icon for the calendar view you want to open. For this example, let’s click on the Schedule View icon. The Schedule View displays:

Schedule view of MS Outlook calendar
The Outlook calendar schedule view shows where your meetings overlap.

Notice that this example Schedule View already has two sets of overlapping appointments. Knowing about the schedule conflict lets you manage your time efficiently. You can plan to attend only one of the meetings and reschedule the other. Or, you could attend part of each of the meetings.

Also, this Schedule View illustrates that there’s a breakfast meeting set to begin at 7:00 a.m.-- before the start of the work day.

Note: The various views also appear on the Home tab of your Outlook calendar, and you can also access them from there.

How to Create an Appointment or Task

You can add various types of items to your Microsoft Outlook calendar, including:

  • Appointments. An appointment typically just involves you and one other person. For example, you set appointments with your doctor or accountant. Often (but not always) an appointment is set with someone outside your organization.
  • Meetings. A meeting usually involved a group of people. If you’re the meeting organizer, you would be responsible not only for scheduling the meeting, but also for sending out meeting invitations.
  • Tasks. A task is time you block off on your calendar to meet certain goals and assignments.

You can also set any item to be a recurring item or a multi-day item. 

Step 1. Set Up a New Appointment

Start from any calendar view, but make sure that you’re on the Home tab. For this example, we’ll start with the Month view open: 

Setting an Appointment
Click the New Appointment icon to set an appointment.

Click the New Appointment icon. A blank Appointment screen displays:

New Appointment screen
Use the New Appointment screen to enter the details of your appointment.

Type your appointment information in appropriate fields. Here’s a brief description of each field and how to fill each one out:

  • Subject. Type a brief description of your appointment.
  • Location. Enter the location where your appointment will occur.
  • Start Time. Type the date and time your appointment will begin. Click the calendar thumbnail to select a month and day. Click the down arrow to the right of the time to choose a time. Check the toggle box to the right of this field if the event will last all day.
  • End Time. Enter the date and time your appointment ends. Use the calendar thumbnail and down arrows.

To make your appointment last more than one day, select a date for the End Time that is after the Start Time date.

Caution: If your selected dates and times overlap with another appointment or meeting, you may see a warning in the upper left of the Appointment screen. However, Outlook will still allow you to add the conflicting appointment.

In the big square below the appointment information, type any notes you’ve got about the appointment. In the example below, I’ve filled the Appointment screen out with information about a parent/teacher conference:

ParentTeacher Conference Appointment
An appointment showing a parent/teacher conference.

To schedule a recurring appointment, click the Recurrence icon in the Ribbon (it looks like a circle). The Appointment Recurrence dialog box displays: 

Appointment Recurrence dialog box
You can set your appointment to recur using the Recurrence icon.

Select a Recurrence pattern for the appointment. You can also define how long the appointment will continue to recur. In the example above, I’ve set up a monthly parent/teach conference. When you’re done, click OK to return to the Appointment screen.

When you’ve finished entering appointment information, click the Save & Close icon in the upper left of your Appointment screen. The appointment is added to your calendar.

Step 2. Set Up a New Meeting

Whether you need to gather a group together for a business project or a social gathering, you’ll find the New Meeting tool helpful. Start with the Outlook calendar open:

New Meeting icon on the Outlook calendar
Use the New Meeting icon to create a new meeting.

Click Home > New Meeting. A New Meeting Invitation screen opens:

New Meeting Invitation screen

Use this screen to schedule a meeting and invite meeting participants. Here’s a quick overview on how to fill out the meeting invitation:

  • The From field defaults to your primary or default email.
  • Click on the To field to select participants for your meeting from your Address Book.
  • Enter a brief description of your meeting in the Subject field.
  • Type the meeting location in the location field or use the down arrow at the right of the field to select from recently used locations.
  • Select a start date and time and an end date and time. If the meeting will last several days, make the start date after the end date.
  • If the meeting will last all day, check the box next to All day event

Once you’ve filled out the meeting information, use the box below the message header to write a brief note to message participants. Here’s an example of what a completed meeting invitation might look like:

Sample completed invitation
Here's an example of a meeting invitation email.

If this is to be a recurring meeting, use the Recurrence icon in the Ribbon to define how often the meeting will occur.

When your invitation is ready to send, click the Send button in the upper left of the window. Your meeting is added to the calendar. All the recipients you included in the To field will receive a meeting invitation attachment for the meeting.

Learn more about sending messages in MS Outlook in this tutorial:

This article can help you to write an effective email to send with your meeting invitation:

Step 3. Set Up a New Task

Tasks differ from appointments and meetings in that they typically just involve you. You can set up tasks on your calendar to function as sort of an online to do list. You can also use the task function in the Outlook calendar to assign a task to another person or to send status reports.

To set up a new task, once again start with an open calendar. Click Home > New Items. A pop-up menu displays:

Adding a task
You can also add tasks to your Outlook calendar.

Select the Task option. The New Task window appears:

New Task window
Use the New Task window to create a new task.

Type the task name in the Subject line. Pick a Start date and a Due date for the task. If you like, you can also assign values to following fields by clicking the down arrow next to each field and making a selection:

  • Status 
  • Normal
  • % Complete

If you want the system to send you a reminder, check the Reminder checkbox. You can also use the Recurrence icon in the Ribbon to make the task a recurring one. Or define the task as lasting more than one day by choosing a different start and end date.

Type more information or instructions about the task in the box below the header information.

When you’ve finished filling out the New Task window, click Task > Save & Close. Your task is added to your calendar’s to do list, but it won’t appear on your calendar unless you turn on the Task view.

To see your calendar’s task list, Go to View > To-Do Bar. A pop-up menu appears:

Viewing tasks
Turn on the To-Do Bar view to see your task list.

Click the Tools option. A pane opens on the right of your calendar. Your task list appears in the lower right of your Microsoft Outlook calendar beneath the thumbnail of the month’s calendar:

Task list on the Outlook calendar
When the To-Do Bar view is on, you can see your task list (or To Do list).

To open a task up and see more details or update it, double-click on the task. You can also flag a task as urgent by clicking the checkbox to the right of it. The task To-Do bar view remains open until you close it. If you switch back to your email inbox, the task list remains visible in the lower right corner of your MS Outlook window:

Email inbox with task list visible
If the To-Do Bar view is on, the task list will be visible in your Outlook inbox.

To close the task list, click the X in the upper right corner.

Step 4. How to Delete a Calendar Item

Remove an appointment or meeting from your Microsoft Outlook calendar quickly. Scroll to the calendar view that contains the calendar item you want to remove. Click on the calendar item to select it (in this case, an appointment), then right-click. A pop-up menu appears:

Pop-up menu
Right-click on a calendar item to see the pop-up menu.

Note: In the illustration above I’ve selected an appointment with just one other participant. If I had selected a meeting with more than one participant, the pop-up menu option would be Cancel Meeting. Upon selecting the Cancel Meeting option, I’d be given the opportunity to send a cancellation notice to all meeting participants.

Select the Delete option from the pop-up menu. If the item is recurring item, you’ll get the opportunity to choose whether you want to delete all instances of the calendar item (Delete Series) or just the single occurrence (Delete Occurrence) you’ve selected. The calendar item is removed from the calendar. The Delete Occurrence option is great to use if you’ve got a regular appointment, but need to cancel one instance of it due to a vacation or other schedule conflict.

The process to remove a task from your task list is even simpler. Simply click on the task in your To Do list, then right-click on it. Select the Delete option from the pop-up menu.

How to Quickly Add a Meeting or Task From an Email Message

One of the convenient things about the MS Outlook calendar is that your calendar doesn’t have to be open for you to add a calendar item. Add a calendar item directly from an email message. Here’s what to do:

Step 1. Select an Email Message

Start with your email inbox open. Click on a message to select it. Then double-click on the message to open it:

Select an email message
Select an MS Outlook message.

In the example above, I’ve been sent an email invitation to a meeting. The email wasn’t sent as a calendar invite, but I want to add the event to my Outlook calendar. One way to do that is to use the Reply with Meeting icon on the Ribbon. (It looks like a calendar with an arrow.)

When you click on the Reply with Meeting icon, a reply opens—but most importantly it’s in the format of a meeting:

New Meeting from email message
The system creates a meeting form from your selected email message.

Notice that the location information is blank and that the date and time default to the current date and time. You’ll need to correct this info using the details found in the original email. Next, type in your email reply to the original sender. When you’re ready, click the Send button on the left.

You’ve just emailed a response to the person who emailed you the meeting notification and added the meeting to your calendar in a single step!

Step 2. Add a Task to Your Calendar Task List from and Email

It’s also easy to add a task to your MS Outlook task list if you’ve got the To-Do Bar view open. Start with your email inbox open. Click on a message to select it, then drag the selected message to the task list in the To-Do Bar on the right of your inbox:

Dragging an email message to your task list
To create a new task from an email message select it and drag it to your task list.

You’ll see a red line in the task list where the new task is about to be inserted. Once the email is inserted into your task list, double-click on it to view the message details.

Note: Although Outlook will insert the email into your task list, the message will also remain in your email inbox.

How to Get Your Outlook Calendar to Send You Reminders

Another convenient Outlook feature is the ability to have the system remind you before an appointment or meeting. To activate the reminder feature as you’re setting up a new meeting or appointment, click the down arrow on the Reminder icon in the Ribbon (it looks like a bell):

The Reminder icon on an appointment
Here's the Reminder pop-up menu on an appointment.

Select how far in advance of the meeting or appointment you want the reminder to appear from the pop-up. Then, click the Sound icon at the bottom of the pop-up to select a reminder sound.

Once your reminder has been set up, a reminder pop-up will appear each time you open your email or calendar:

A reminder pop-up
At the defined time you'll see a reminder pop-up when you open your MS Outlook email or calendar.

To get a reminder to stop appearing, click the Dismiss button. If the window is reminding you of multiple calendar items, you’ll need to click the Dismiss All button.

How to Share a Microsoft Outlook Calendar

Share your calendar through email or by giving others access. This could be helpful if you want to share parts of your calendar with a team member or if you’re trying to schedule a time to get together with someone. There are three ways you can share a calendar:

  1. Email. Share part of your calendar through email.
  2. Share feature. If your Microsoft Outlook installation runs through the Microsoft Exchange Server, you can give someone else access to your calendar. You can also use the Set Calendar Permissions icon to further define who can access your calendar and what level of access they have. 
  3. Publish online. Publish your calendar to an online server to provide access to others.

Since my Outlook installation doesn’t run on a Microsoft Exchange Server we’ll focus on the first and third methods of sharing your Microsoft calendar in this tutorial.

1. Share a Calendar through Email

With your calendar open, go to the Home > E-mail Calendar. A blank email message appears with the Send a Calendar via Email dialog box on top:

Send a Calendar via Email dialog box
Use the Send a Calendar via Email dialog box to send a message with your Outlook calendar information.

If you’ve got more than one calendar set up, click the down arrow in the Calendar field to select which calendar you want to share. Next, click the down arrow next to the Date Range field to specify which calendar dates to share. Then, click the down arrow in the Detail box to choose a level of detail to share—choose between the following detail levels:

  • Availability only. The email recipient will see when you’re available and when you’re free. They won’t see what your meetings and appointments are.
  • Limited details. The email recipient will see only the subject lines of your meetings and appointments and when they’re scheduled. 
  • Full details. The recipient will see your meetings and appointments are and the location of each of them. They will also see more details about each meeting or appointment.

Mark the checkbox if you only want the shared calendar to show working hours. If your working hours aren’t defined, click the Set working hours hyperlink to set them. When you’ve finished, click the OK button in the Send a Calendar via Email dialog box. Then click the Send button to send the email.

The email recipient receives and email with your schedule in the text of the email and a calendar attachment showing your schedule.

2. Share a Calendar by Publishing It Online

You can also publish your calendar online to a shared server. With your calendar open, go to the Home > Publish Online icon. The Publish Calendar to Custom Server dialog box appears:

Publish Calendar to Custom Server dialog box
If you've got access to a custom server, you can publish your calendar online.

Start by listing the URL for the server where you’ll publish your calendar. Next, define the date range that you wish to share. For the Detail option choose between: Availability only, Limited Details, and Full Details. If you only want to publish your calendar between working hours, click the checkbox.

When you’ve finished, click the OK button. Follow any prompts that appear.

Conclusion

You've just learned how to use your Microsoft Outlook calendar right. Getting your Outlook calendar set up properly can save you time and help you to be more productive.

Now that you've got your schedule in order by using the Outlook calendar, you may want to tackle your email inbox. For a free guide to managing a cluttered inbox, grab a copy of our FREE eBookThe Ultimate Guide to Inbox Zero Mastery. It's packed with advanced email inbox management techniques.

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Why not start cleaning up your email inbox today? 

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