A joint Google calendar for the whole family

Sharing a calendar is very useful to always stay informed of appointments within your household. Yet many do not yet use a joint agenda, while it is not that difficult to create one. In this article we explain how it works.

We help you create a digital agenda for the whole family, trying to take into account all situations: from families where everyone has a smartphone, to families where no one has one and everything in between.

01 Choose platform

People are all different and everyone has their own preferences. One is a big fan of Microsoft's services, while another swears by Apple's. When you want to share a calendar with your family, it is important that you choose a platform that fits the family as well as possible. As you will read later in this article, different platforms can communicate well with each other, but secretly it is most convenient when everyone uses the same service. To illustrate: when everyone in the family has an iPhone, it makes more sense to use Apple's calendar than Google's.

In this article, we choose Google because it has the largest user base with over a billion active users per month. However, most of the steps we perform are also possible with, for example, Apple's agenda, only certain options have a different name.

02 Create calendar

When you create a Google account (which also applies to an Apple ID), you automatically receive a calendar / agenda. This is your main calendar, which is not shared with anyone by default. You can add appointments directly to it when you surf here. When you want to share a calendar with someone, it is not always convenient to do that with your main calendar. In a family you want, for example, dental appointments, football training sessions and so on in the shared agenda, and you may not want them in the same agenda as, for example, your work appointments.

If you use more than one calendar, you can easily filter, about which more in step 5. To create a calendar in Google Calendar, click the plus sign at the top right of the heading My calendars in the left pane and choose New calendar. You now have to make the important trade-off: do you make an agenda for every family member? Or make an agenda for the family as a whole. The advantage of the first option is that the family members are not confronted with each other's agreements, while the parents have a total overview. The disadvantage is that you have to make sure that you put it in the right agenda for every appointment. In this course we go for the first option. Give the calendar a name, a description, choose a time zone, then click Create calendar.

To-do apps

In this article we mainly discuss real calendar apps and platforms, such as Google Calendar and Apple Calendar. These are all quite extensive platforms with many possibilities. However, not everyone needs all these options. In some cases, it may also suffice to use a to-do app. In such an app you add a task with a deadline (which in many cases you can also assign to a person). Such an app can be extra useful if you are looking for a combination between a calendar and a way to schedule household chores for the residents of the house. Apps that we like to use for this are Wunderlist or Todoist. Both apps can be found in the Chrome Web Store, the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

03 Share calendar

When you have created an agenda, you will of course want to share it with the person(s) involved. This is where Step 1 is relevant, because it's easiest to share a Google Calendar with someone who also uses Google services, an Apple Calendar with someone who has an Apple ID, and so on. In the next step we will show you how to solve it if different platforms are used within a household. In this step, we assume that the other family members, like you, are using Google Calendar. To give others access to the calendar(s) you just created, click on the three dots next to the name of the calendar you want to share and then click Settings and sharing. You can now indicate whether you want to make this agenda public (under the heading Access rights), but that strikes us as an extremely bad idea for a family agenda. It is more convenient to share the agenda only with the people involved. You do this by entering the e-mail addresses of the people in question under the heading Share with specific people and then indicate whether these persons may only view or make changes as well. Please note, it makes no sense to enter a non-Gmail email address here, external addresses will not work and will not receive an invitation email. Gmail addresses you've added will get that and those people can see the calendar immediately.

04 Accept/Delete Calendar

If you entered a Gmail address when sharing, the person in question will receive an email with a notification that you have invited him or her to a shared calendar. What's both useful and a little dubious is that you don't get the choice to opt-out of the shared calendar… it's automatically added under the heading My calendars. In the unlikely event that someone has added you to a calendar that you do not want to be part of, you can click on the down arrow next to the relevant calendar and then on Settings and sharing. Then you can choose at the bottom for Sign out (if you just want to unsubscribe) or – if you have those rights – remove if you don't want it to be available to anyone anymore. The agenda will then immediately disappear from the overview.

05 Different platforms

In the previous step, we mentioned that you can only enter a Gmail address when sharing your calendar. But what if someone else in the house (for example your child) uses the Apple calendar on their iPhone, does not have their own Google account and also wants to synchronize the appointments. That now seems very complicated, but fortunately it is very simple. Sign in to the iOS device you want to view the calendar on and navigate to Settings / Accounts & Passwords / New Account. Then choose google and log in with your own Google account email address and password. In the options that you can enable, in this case you only switch Calendars in. Now when you open the Calendar app on the device, you have direct access to Gmail's calendar and appointments (if put in the correct calendar) are synced.

Note: since e-mail and contacts can also be synchronized in this way (for example on your child's iPhone), it is not useful to use your main account for this. It is probably wiser to create a family account on Google.

Alternatives

While most people use the calendar app from Google and Apple, there are also many other calendar apps, including apps that specifically focus on creating collaborative calendars. Some good tips include Klenderen Fello, both of which are free to use. In no time at all you can create a shared agenda and you can also divide joint care tasks or see which housemates have done which tasks in the house.

06 Schedule an appointment

Now that you've created the calendar and shared it with everyone who should have access to it, it's time to schedule an appointment. How you do that is very important, because it is not the case that every appointment you schedule is automatically shared with all calendars. Open your Google Calendar and click on the day/time you want to schedule an appointment. Give the appointment a name and then click More options to add or edit more data. For example, you can indicate that the appointment lasts all day, where it takes place, you can add an attachment and so on. But the most important thing in this case is that you assign the appointment to the correct agenda. In our example, we have created a calendar for all members of the community (named father, mother, child 1 and child 2 for convenience). If you have shared the agenda of child 2 with child 2 and not the agenda of child 1 (which makes sense, because child 2 has not much to do with the football training of child 1), then child 2 will only see the appointments that you assign to child 2's agenda.

Export

When we talk about sharing a calendar in this article, we do it in a way that the appointments are synchronized. In other words, wherever you add or change the appointment, those changes are visible on all devices and accounts with which the calendar is shared. Another way of sharing is to export all appointments. This is not very interactive: you simply export a list of appointments that you can import into another program. This can be especially useful when, for example, you are creating a script agenda for a long-term event, or a travel plan for your vacation. These kinds of agreements usually do not need to be adjusted once they have been made. You can export a calendar in Google Calendar by clicking the down arrow next to the calendar in question and then clicking Settings and sharing. Choose now under the heading Calendar Settings in front of Export calendar.

07 Set default calendar

What we explain in step 6 is quite logical in itself: add the appointment to the correct agenda. Unfortunately, in practice this is very often wrong. It is important to do something about this, because if this goes wrong three or four times, users quickly get the feeling: 'this doesn't work for a meter' and that is a shame. Because a good agenda system works fantastic. Unfortunately, for some bizarre reason, Google Calendar (in your browser) doesn't allow you to set a default calendar.

If you use an iOS device, you can easily work around it by using the trick from step 5. Simply link your Google Calendar to your Apple ID, and you can easily set in the Calendar settings to which calendar you want to add your appointments by default. You can of course still adjust that on a case-by-case basis, but if you have one family account, for example, then everything will automatically go well from that moment on. Unfortunately, in Android, setting this default calendar is not possible with the default app.

08 Filter calendars

At the beginning of this article we indicated that it is not useful to use your main agenda for planning all kinds of family matters (unless you do nothing with that agenda yourself, of course). Whether you've created a calendar for every family member like us, or a calendar for the family as a whole… your calendar will fill up with appointments pretty quickly. This can become very unclear, especially when agreements overlap. Normally, overlap is a bad thing, but if, for example, your wife goes to soccer practice with the kids, while you have an important deadline, then the overlap is no problem at all. Different people, different appointments. But it is nice if you can turn off the display of the agenda. This way you will not be distracted by other appointments, while you will still receive a notification. This can be done very easily by clicking the colored square in the bottom left of Google Calendar for the calendars that you do not want to display. If the box is not filled with a color, appointments in that calendar will not be shown in your main overview. This way you can easily create an overview, and also view very specific appointments per person if you have given everyone their own agenda.

09 No smartphone?

Sharing a calendar is therefore very easy when everyone in the house has a smartphone. But what if that's not the case? You can of course choose to purchase a (cheap) tablet that is standard on the coffee table or hangs on the wall and on which everyone can see their appointments. In practice, however, that does not work optimally, because of course you do not receive notifications and you really have to train the family members to regularly check that calendar. If you would like to make a calendar for your children, but they do not yet have a smartphone, you can easily combine digital and analog.

Create a family calendar or a calendar per child, as we explained in step 1. As a parent, you then add the appointments of the coming month to the correct agenda. Suppose you want to make an overview for child 1. Then make sure that under My calendars alone Child 1 is activated and choose Month in the top right view. Then click the gear icon and Print in the menu that expands. A calendar is now printed containing the appointments of the person concerned. In case of changes, you can add those appointments manually. Hang the agenda on the bulletin board or door of Child 1, and everyone knows where they stand.

Flexibility

We have taken Google as the main example in this article, because it is one of the largest platforms in the world, but also because the platform is super flexible. Whichever calendar app you download for your smartphone, almost all of them allow you to sync your Google Calendar. That means you have the freedom to choose the app that works best for you, all the while continuing to use Google's calendar. The best of both worlds.

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