Feb 282014
 

[Update 7/1/2015: Super.cc appears to be no more.]

In academia, email continues to be our primary means of communication. Since this is where we spend most of our working hours, it makes sense that we use email to keep our lives sorted. For email messages I want to follow up on, I forward them to followup.cc. For email messages I need to do something with, I forward them to Trello, my preferred task management system. And this is why I’m excited about the newest addition to my email arsenal: Super.cc. Now I can use email to add appointments to my Google calendar.

Signing up.

Go to Super.cc, and enter your email address (you can add more email addresses later), and give Super.cc permission to add stuff to your Google calendar. Now you’re ready to go.

Adding an appointment.

Send your email message to add@super.cc. In this example I have written the day of the week (I could have said March 3rd), the time (I could have included the time zone), and the location (expressed as “@ location”; if it’s a notable landmark, Super.cc will look up the address. Or you can enter a phone number for location as @ 800-555-1234). Here I’m setting up a time to get together with myself. If I were reading an email someone had sent me, I could forward it to add@super.cc. Super.cc does a pretty good job digging the time and date out of the body of the email.

Within seconds, I got an email confirmation from Super.cc with the appointment information in it, which is nice to see, but the magic is my calendar. In Google calendar, I can see that the appointment has been added to the next available Monday, March 3rd at 8am with a default meeting length of one hour. The subject line of the email message becomes the subject line of the appointment.

This is what the appointment itself looks like. The location was automatically added to the “Where” field. The description contains what was written in my email.

Conclusion

This is one of those tools that’s going to slip right into your workflow. You’re going to wonder why it ever seemed normal to open up your calendar to add an appointment.

Super.cc is a new product, so keep an eye out for added functionality. They’ll email you with new features, but you can always check in on their FAQ page.

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Dec 202013
 

Are you looking for a tool that works as a to-do list manager and a project manager? A tool that will work for your own use as well as being good for collaborative work? A tool that is as effective and easy to use as it easy pretty? A tool that works well on both your computer and on your mobile device? Trello has it all, for free. Trello Gold, $5/month or $45/year, gives you added functionality. Everything you see here is what’s available in the free version.

Do you remember the old school video games that came with a thick user’s manual that you had to read through before you could play? Then someone in the gaming world had the genius idea of building tutorials right into the game. You didn’t need to read the manual. The game taught you what you needed to know as you moved through it. Trello has taken a page out of the gaming programmer’s playbook. When you create an account in Trello, you are provided with a “Welcome Board” that shows you the ropes.

Now, if I were you, I’d take a glance at the image below, get the gist of it, and then go create a Trello account. Play around a bit, and then come back here for the specifics.

Boards and lists

The first column introduces you to the basics. In Trello, each task is placed on a card. To view the information attached to a card, click on it. You can write a simple description, attach pictures, files, or URLs. Or build a checklist

On the intermediate list you learn about adding team members to your board, assigning team members to cards, color-coding your cards, adding lists, dragging cards, and archiving cards you’re done with.

The advanced list reminds you that you can create multiple boards. Create one for your personal to-do list and a different one for that committee you’re chairing or your research assistants. Or share a board with your classroom students so you can monitor their group projects. (For each person you get to join Trello, you get a month free of Trello Gold – up to 12 months.)

Cards and lists

Clicking on a card generates a popup window. Think of this as being the flip side of the card. In this example, I clicked on the card aptly named “Click on a card to see what’s behind it.” At the top we see both the title of the card and the list that it’s in (Basics). The card’s description is below that. The “Activity” panel shows who has done what with the card

On the right side of this popup window, click “Edit Labels” to color code the card – add as many labels as you’d like. Click on the color bar to select them. Click “Change label titles” to add labels to your color coding. If you or one of the people sharing this board with you are color blind, click “Enable Color Blind Friendly Mode” to make patterns overlay the green, orange, and purple patterns.

If you are sharing a board with one or more other persons, and you want to identify who is working on what, click “Assign Members,” and then click on the person or persons you want to assign to the task. The “Welcome Board” Trello starts you with, you share a board with Trello. Here I have clicked on me to assign myself to this particular card.

In the “Actions” section, you can add a checklist, add a due date, attach a file, move the card, subscribe to get a notification when something about the card changes, vote on the card, or, if you’re done with this particular card, archive it. Archived cards can be searched later. Later in this post you’ll see where you can find those archives and learn how to permanently delete a card.

While you can attach a file using this menu, you can also just drag and drop a file onto either the front or back of a card. I’m going to drag and drop a photo of one of my dogs onto the card. After my changes, this is what the card looks like now. My image in the corner means that I’m assigned to do something with this card. The eye icon means I’m subscribed to receive change notifications, the pencil means that there is a description on the “back” of the card. The icon with the callout bubble tells me that one comment has been made on this card. The paperclip icon tells me that one attachment has been added – that would be the photo of Lucky.

To add a new card to a list, click “Add a card” at the bottom of the list. To move it to a different place in the list or even into a different list, click on it, drag it to where you want it to go, unclick. To add a new list, click “Add a list” on the far right of the board.

One more word about lists. Mouse over the right corner for any list title. Click on the arrow that appears. You can’t see it in this screenshot, but I circled where it would be. That gives you a popup menu for the list. This menu is all about manipulating the list: Copy it, move it, subscribe to get a notification when something on the list changes, move or archive all of the cards, or just archive the entire list.

Board menu

To the right of the board, click on “Menu.” If “Menu” isn’t there, the sidebar is hidden. Click “show sidebar.”


“Filter cards” lets you identify which labeled cards you’d like to see. If you only want to see the cards you’ve added red labels to, click the red label. Or maybe you want to see all the cards assigned to a particular person. Or maybe you want to see all the cards that are overdue. Or you can mix and match – you want to see all the red and green labeled cards assigned to a particular person that are either overdue or due in the next week. When done, click “Clear filter.”

Cards and lists are not automatically deleted. They are archived. You can always go into the archive. Scroll through them. Search for them. If you truly are done with them and are ready to delete, click “Delete.”

Add stickers to your cards to liven things up a bit. This is the default sticker set. Click and drag a sticker onto a card. If you go with Trello Gold ($5/month or $45/year) you will get additional sticker options.

The “Welcome Board” has the voting option. When you create your own board, voting won’t be there. To activate it, go into “Power-ups” and enable it; “click for details” to decide who gets to vote. “Card Aging” will take the cards that have nothing done with them in a while, and will make them transparent. If you’re going to use this feature, “click for details” and in settings, select “Pirate Mode” to go with a yellowed, cracked paper look rather than transparency. Lastly, the “Calendar” power-up lets you see your cards with due dates in a calendar format. You’ll see a new “calendar” link at the very top right of the board in the board’s title bar.

Lastly “Settings.” You can rename your board here (or you can do that by clicking the pencil icon next to your board’s title). “Change organization” to change which organization this board is connected to. (If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that this is the first you’re hearing of organizations. Let me finish talking about settings, and then we’ll tackle organizations.) Use “Change Background” if you don’t like the default blue. In the free version, there are 5 other colors you can choose from. Upgrade to Trello Gold to get something spiffier like photos, patterns/textures, or create your own custom background. I can decide who gets to see this card through “Change Visibility.” By enabling “Card cover images,” you get to see my dog on the front of the card. If I uncheck this, she would only be visible by clicking on the card to see the backside – that would be the backside of the card, not the dog. If you’re sharing this board with others, you control who gets to comment on cards and who gets to invite others to the board. Use “Email settings” if you want to use email to add new cards to your board. This is a handy feature if you’re ready to stop using your email inbox as your to-do list. Forward those emails you want to do something with to your Trello board.

Back to the beginning

When you log into Trello, this is what you’ll see. If you’re in one of your boards, click the Trello logo in the top left corner to get back to this page. All of your boards are on the left. On the right, you can switch from the “Boards” screen to “Cards.” This will show all the cards on all of your boards to which you have been added. For boards that you are sharing, this is a quick and easy way to see what you should be working on.

Organizations

Farther down on that right-side menu is “New Organization.” Let’s say that you want to share one board with your department, one board with your research assistants, and another board with a committee you’re chairing. You can invite them all to join their own specific boards, and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with doing it that way. Alternatively, you can create separate “organizations,” and then add members to each organization. Let’s take your research assistants. You’re working on two projects, and each project is complicated enough that they have their own boards. Rather than having your research assistants join each board separately, you can create a “research assistants organization,” and invite them to join that. Now create your two project boards, and just add your “research assistants organization” to the board, and they now all have access. Later, when you start project #3, you can create yet another new board and add your “research assistants organization” again. This is much easier than inviting board by board.

Mobile app

The Trello mobile app works well on both my Galaxy Nexus 10 tablet and my Galaxy Nexus phone. The interface is very similar to the web-based version of Trello.

Bonus

If you’re a Gantt chart aficionado, you can turn your Trello boards into Gantt charts.

Try it out!

Dive in! Sign up for Trello, check out the welcome board, and then create your own boards. Happy organizing!

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Nov 192013
 

In 2011 I wrote about YouCanBook.Me (see this blog post), the very cool service that lets others schedule themselves into your calendar. YouCanBook.Me has business as its target audience, so many of its features are more than what the run-of-the-mill academic needs. Calendly has arrived on the scheduling scene with a manageable set of features in a user-friendly interface. Like YouCanBook.Me, Calendly will sync with your Google Calendar. Those who have been intimidated by YouCanBook.Me will find Calendly to be as approachable as a golden retriever puppy.

What Calendly looks like from the student’s perspective

A student goes to my Calendly calendar: http://calendly.com/sfrantz.

In step 1, students click on any of the 3 (customizable) meeting options. I selected “15 Minute Meeting” for this example.


In step 2, students see today’s date blocked in green. The available options show in blue. The student can navigate to a different week. While the time zone defaults to whatever time zone the student’s computer is set at, the student can select a different one.

A student clicking on the Friday AM option generates this popup where the student has chosen 9:00 am. The selection turns green, and the choice is noted at the bottom of the popup screen. The student clicks “Continue.”

In step 3, the student enters their name, email address, phone number, and answers an open-ended question. In the settings you’ll see below, the name, email address, and phone number are questions built in to the program. The open-ended question is optional and customizable.

Here are the responses for a sample student.

I apparently moonlight at a dog obedience school.

This is the confirmation screen. I like that students are able to add this appointment directly to their own calendar.

This is what’s generated when the student selects “Google.”

Regardless of whether the student adds the event to a calendar, the student gets an email with the pertinent meeting information as well as another opportunity to add the meeting to a calendar. And, like YouCanBook.Me, there is a link for canceling the meeting. If the student cancels, there will be a text box where the student can add a comment. The event will be removed from my Google Calendar and an email will be sent to me. [Correction: The event isn’t removed. “Canceled” is added to the front of the event name and the event is marked as “free” instead of “busy.”  I like this even better than having the event completely disappear.]

As the owner of the calendar, I also get an email about this appointment. The email gets sent to my gmail account since that’s the email account that was used to create the account. While I’d rather have Calendly notifications sent to my college email address, at this writing there is no mechanism to change it, however one of the developers tells me that they are working on adding that feature.

And, of course, the genius of the whole system is that it’s automatically added to my Google Calendar.

And here’s what the entry looks like. Pay particular attention to the note at the bottom: “Should you need to cancel the event, Calendly recommends you use the event cancellation feature in Calendly.” Later in this post I’ll return to why you would want to cancel this way and how to do it.

Setting up Calendly

When setting up your account, because Calendly uses your Google Calendar, you will be asked to give Calendly permission to connect to your Google account. Granting permission takes a couple of steps but it’s painless.

Next, fill in your time zone and your Calendly URL. This URL is what you’ll be giving to students.

The next couple screens tell you what to do once your account has been set up. You won’t do any actual configuration at this point.

No configuration here either.

Now you’re ready to go. You can skip the “copy URL” and “Send via e-mail” buttons. Until you do some customization, you’re not going to be ready for anyone to use your Calendly scheduler. Click “Finish.”

Synching with Google Calendar

Use the dropdown menu in the top right corner of your Calendly dashboard. (You can always get back to your dashboard by going to Calendly.com and clicking on “Go to Calendly dashboard” in the top right corner of the screen. Your dashboard is actually a calendar that shows all of your Calendly appointments and only your Calendly appointments. Even though my calendar is synched with my Google calendar, none of my other Google calendar appointments appear here. While Calendly does know my free and busy times from my Google Calendar, it doesn’t look like that here.

Let’s start by synching Calendly with Google Calendar. After selecting “Calendar sync” click the “Sync” button and tell Google that you’re giving Calendly permission to access your calendar.

Once Google knows you’re fine with Calendly, you’ll get this screen. On the left you can choose which of your Google calendars you want Calendly to check for free/busy times; choose as many as your like. On the right, tell Calendly which calendar you want your appointments to appear on. When done, click “Save changes.”

Customizing event types

From the dashboard dropdown menu, select “Event types.”

“Event type” is Calendly-speak for “appointment options.” They start you off with 3 options, but you can edit, delete, and add to your heart’s content.

After doing some editing, these are the options my students how have.

The color coding only appears in the dashboard because these are the colors that will be attached to these appointments in the Calendly dashboard. The color coding does not carry over to Google Calendar. And the color coding doesn’t carry over to the Calendly student view. The blue boxes that students appear in row order by length of meeting. They cannot be moved, although this would be a very desirable feature. Don’t be surprised if this functionality appears in a later version of the service.

In dashboard view, click “edit” for the “event type” you’d like to edit. Here are your options.

Clone/delete. Clone will copy the event exactly as is, and it will add “clone” to the event name. You can then change the name of the event and any other features you’d like to be different.

Event name/duration/event description. The event name will be the blue box that appears in the student view. Name it whatever you’d like, but it’s probably a good idea to keep the length of the appointment in there so students know from the beginning what kind of time commitment they’re making. In “Duration” choose how long you’d like this particular appointment to be. Your shortest option is 15 minutes; your longest is 12 hours(!). The optional event description is a subtitle that appears in the student view blue box. I used an event description in the “Test review” event.

Event URL. The event URL will default to something based on the event name. Here’s a nifty feature. If I’m sending out an email to my advisees reminding them that it’s time to make an appointment, I can just send them the advising appointment URL. That URL will take them directly to that event; my advisees won’t have to select from the array of boxes. By giving them the URL, I have effectively selected the “advising” box for them.

Event color. Choose the color you’d like for the event. But remember, color-coded events will only appear in the Calendly dashboard calendar and no where else.

Additional questions. If you toggle this to “Yes,” you’ll be able to enter your additional question. This question appears at the point of making the appointment when the student is entering their contact information.

Weekly recurring availability. Choose the days you’re accepting appointments. This could be different for each event type. Maybe you only want to accept advising appointments on Thursday and Friday mornings. For that event type only select Thursday and Friday mornings. This means that even though your Google Calendar shows you’re available at other times, anyone who selects the advising blue box will see that the only options are Thursday and Friday mornings. The “add interval” option is handy. If you always want to have 2pm to 3pm on Wednesdays set aside for nap time, you can either schedule into your Google Calendar showing that you’re busy at that time, or you can have your available times on Wednesday be 10am to 2pm and “add interval” for 3pm to 5pm. The in-between time of 2pm to 3pm on Wednesdays would be blanked out by Calendly.

In “Advanced settings”…

Max number of this event acceptable per day. If this is your advising event type and you can only handle advising no more than 4 students per day, then enter 4 in this box. While it’s an interesting feature, I’m not sure that I have a use for it.

Scheduling notice. Calendly defaults to 24 hours. This means that the earliest appointments available to students are 24 hours from the time they look at your Calendly page. I generally prefer 12 hours, but again, this can be customized for each event type. Perhaps for test reviews, you need 24 hours advance notice but for advising, you may only need 12 hours advance notice. Choose when those appointments can be made. One term I did a “meet and greet” for extra credit. If students made an appointment and came by my office within the first two weeks of the term, it was worth a couple points extra credit (out of the 1,000 points in the course). I could create an event type where I set the from/till dates for the first two weeks of the term. After the two weeks passed, I could go into this event and switch “Public” from yes to no, making it invisible – until the next term when I can flip the switch to yes to make it publicly visible again.

Buffer. The buffer option is nice if you need time to prepare before an appointment or, say, make notes after an appointment. If I had a 10-minute buffer before an advising appointment and a 15-minute afterwards, anyone setting an advising appointment for 10am to 11am would also block off 9:50am to 10am and 11am to 11:15am on my calendar ensuring that no one else could schedule during those times.

Decide what kind of “event types” you want, and then customize each to meet your needs.

How to cancel a meeting

You’ve set up Calendly, given the URL to your students (or a particular event URL to a particular group of students), and students are making appointments. All is working according to plan. And then your Dean requests a meeting with you – completely bypassing your Calendly calendar, something about a pay raise – at a time you’re scheduled to meet with a student. Go to your Calendly dashboard. Click on the appointment in question. At the very bottom of the popup screen click “Cancel.” A textbox will open giving you the option to add a note to the student. Click “Cancel event.” The event will still appear on your Calendly calendar, but the text will have a line drawn through it. (What’s the past tense of strikethrough? Struckthrough?)

The event will be deleted from your Google Calendar. And the student will receive an email. [Correction: Again, not deleted. “Canceled” is added to the front of the event name, and the event is marked as free.]

Conclusion

If you had the time to read this blog post, you have the time to set up a Calendly appointment calendar. Once you have your calendar set up, in the comments section I’d love to hear the event types you’ve created and any special settings you have for them. If you’re a YouCanBook.Me user and have decided to try Calendly, what Calendly features were the most persuasive in influencing your decision?

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Mar 272013
 

For the YouCanBook.Me users (see this blog post for more info about this service), did you know that you can let more than one person sign up for a given time slot? Let’s say that you wanted to do group advising, or perhaps you’re signing up, say, 10 participants at a time for a study you’re doing. On the “advanced” tab, change “units per slot” to the number of people you want to be able to sign up at one time. If you change this to 10, then YouCanBook.Me will show each time slot as being available until 10 people have signed up for it.

But there’s an interesting quirk. If you change “units per slot” to some other number, say 3, any time you have blocked off in the Google Calendar that YouCanBook.Me is using will show as available since only one person (you) has signed up for that time slot. YouCanBook.Me will let 2 others sign up for that time. If that time is blocked off in your Google Calendar, I’m willing to bet however you don’t want anyone signing up in that time slot.

Here’s the work-around. For each of your Google Calendar entries, add YCBM-OVERRIDE-BPS in the calendar entry’s description. YouCanBook.Me will show that calendar entry blocked off. Remember, this code is only necessary if the “units per slot” is set to more than one.

Bonus tip: If you use a text expander, like Phrase Express (see this blog post; or TypeIt4Me for Macs), create a keyboard shortcut for entering the YCBM-OVERRIDE-BPS code in your Google Calendar description boxes. Something like #yo for “YouCanBook.Me override” or #pita if you’d like to be a bit more expressive.

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Feb 212013
 

Did you know that you can ‘import’ a gmail message into a new Google calendar event? Did you know that what most of us call appointments, Google calls events? “I have an event scheduled with my dentist.” That makes it sound way more serious than an annual checkup should sound.

I don’t really know what ProjectX is, but it certainly sounds worthy of the “event” designation, however.

Here I’ve received a message about needing to meet to discuss ProjectX in my gmail account. When I click on the “More” button, I get a dropdown menu where I can select “Create event.”

This generates a new Google calendar appointment, where the subject line of the email becomes the subject line of the new event and the body of the message becomes the event description. The time and date default to just minutes from now so I need to manually change those. Google also includes me, the person who sent me the message, and anyone who was also included in the message as guests to the event. If you don’t want them as guests, click the “x” to the right of each person’s name to delete them.

Click save. Now you have the meeting agenda in your calendar.

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Jan 172013
 

I’m attending a workshop at a nearby college in a couple weeks, and the organizer has already emailed me a parking pass to print and bring with me. As I was thinking about where to save the parking pass so I won’t forget it, I thought, “I wish I could just save it in my calendar.” After a little investigation, you can do that in Google Calendar.

Go to settings by clicking on the cog icon, and select “Labs”.

Scroll down to “Event attachments” and click “Enable.”

Now when you create a new event or edit an existing one, you have an “Add attachment” option.

Clicking “Add attachment” generates a pop-up window. The initial view is your “My Drive”, formerly Google Docs. If the file you want to add isn’t in Google Docs, click on “Upload”.

If your file is on your desktop or in a folder, just click and drag it into this space. Click the “Upload” button, and the file will be automatically copied to Google Drive and attached to your calendar event.

Here’s what the event looks like with the attachment.

Other attendees

If there are “guests” associated with the calendar event and if you grant them access to the file by “sharing” it in Google Drive, then they’ll be able to download the file as well.

Closing note

I’ve also created a FollowUp.cc reminder for the day of the event that tells me to print out the parking pass that’s in my calendar. [Read more about FollowUp.cc in this earlier blog post.]

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Dec 222012
 

My favorite appointment scheduling service, YouCanBook.Me, lets people book themselves into your calendar. (See this earlier blog post for more about how YouCanBook.Me works.) One hesitation in using the service I’ve heard from faculty is that they want students to request appointment times, not have the appointment automatically confirmed. You now have that control.

Choose your YouCanBook.Me calendar you’d like to edit. On the “advanced” tab, at the very bottom, check “make new bookings tentative”.

The next person who selects an appointment time will get text at the top of the confirmation screen that reads “**This booking is not yet confirmed**”. You may want to change the text that you displayed on the confirmation screen to reflect that the appointment hasn’t been confirmed. The email sent to the appointment-maker includes that same text at the top of the message. Also consider changing whatever text you’ve told YouCanBook.Me to include in the email message to reflect that the appointment isn’t solidified yet.

This is the email that I received from YouCanBook.Me. I now click on Accept or Reject.

Accepting

If I click accept, I get this screen in my web browser.

If I check the “send a message” box, the screen expands to this.

After clicking the “accept booking” button, I’m redirected to my “bookings profile” page, where I learn, for the first time, that I have a bookings profile page.

The appointment then appears on the calendar like it normally does.

Rejecting

If I click reject, I get this screen in my browser.

If I check the “send a message” box, the screen expands to this. I can edit all of the message components except the ‘to’ address.

My bookings profile page now shows the rejected appointment request.

This is the email the appointment requester gets.

Viewing tentative bookings

YouCanBook.Me creates a new Google calendar for you called “YouCanBook.Me Tentative” where it holds the appointments that are in limbo.

To see that calendar, visit your Google Calendar page, and click the down arrow to the right of “My calendars”. Select “Settings.”

In your list of calendars will be your tentative calendar. Click on the checkbox to make the calendar available for you to see.

Now, click the “Back to Calendar” link at the top of that webpage. You can now view what’s in the tentative calendar. (The calendar name will have a white box next to it. To change the color, mouse over the name of the calendar, and click the down arrow that appears. Select the color you’d like those entries to appear in your calendar.


Accepting/rejecting from the bookings profile page

The easiest way to accept or reject an appointment is from the email YouCanBook.Me sends, but that’s not the only option you have.

Log into YouCanBook.Me. The page you see will list all of your calendars. If you’re editing a YouCanBook.Me calendar, you can always click on the “dashboard” button at the top of the page to get your list of calendars. Click the “bookings” button.

Here I can see that listing of all of my appointments. The most recent one is showing as undecided.

Clicking on the “undecided” button takes me to this page. I see the details of the booking, and I can decide to accept or reject it.


Conclusion

Are you a YouCanBook.Me user? What do you think about this new feature?

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Jun 072012
 

Boomerang Calendar, a gmail addin, looks for date/time information in your incoming gmail messages, compares them against your Google Calendar entries, and lets you know if you’re free or not, and then lets you schedule a time. It also allows you to easily propose meeting times to individuals or groups.

I sent this message to my gmail account.

This is what it looked like when I opened it in gmail.

Boomerang Calendar identified date/time information, and looked at those time slots in my Google Calendar. Green means I’m free, yellow means that the time is bumping up against another appointment, and red means I’m already booked at that time.

If I mouse over those times, Boomerang Calendar gives me a little popup showing the proposed time in the context of whatever else my Google Calendar says I have going on that day. From here I can open Boomerang Calendar by clicking the “Show Calendar” button or add the appointment directly to my Google Calendar by clicking “Add This Event”. (The “Cancel” button seems unnecessary because the popup disappears when you move the mouse off the popup.)

When I click on “at 10am” Boomerang Calendar generates this popup, the same that’s generated if I were to click on “Show Calendar” in the mouse-over popup above. In the bottom left corner are the times it extracted from the email message. The 10am time, the time I clicked, shows up in orange and purple. The other proposed times are in orange and yellow.


Since the email I received suggested a time when I’m available, I’ll go ahead and schedule that by clicking on that orange and purple appointment time. Boomerang Calendar gives me another popup. It automatically enters “Meeting with Sue Frantz” by pulling the name off the email message of the sender, in this case, me. It defaults to an hour-long appointment, but I can change the length. The note field is prepopulated with the email message contents of the sender leaving space for me at the top to add any additional notes. Using the checkboxes, I can remind myself or others of the meeting, and I can use Google Calendar Invite if I’d like. At the very top of the popup Boomerang Calendar selected my Google Calendar named “Sue Frantz” because that’s what I told it to use by default. Using the dropdown menu, I can select from my other Google Calendars. Finally, I click “Add event” to add the appointment to my calendar.

I still have to email the sender back to confirm the time when we’re meeting, however. Just because it’s on my calendar doesn’t mean that they know it’s on my calendar.

Note: Boomerang Calendar does a very good job at guessing the dates/times meant in the email, but it’s not perfect. Double check Boomerang Calendar’s dates/times against what was written in the email.

Propose alternate times.

But let’s say that I don’t like any of the proposed times. I can click anywhere in my calendar, in this case 11am on Tuesday and 10am on Wednesday. Boomerang Calendar defaults to half-hour appointments but I expanded these by grabbing the white equals sign at the bottom of the appointment times and dragging them down so that each appointment is an hour long. In the bottom right corner, I can see the proposed times, and now I’m going to generate an email message with the “Generate email response” button.

And here is the automatically-generated gmail response that I am, of course, free to edit before hitting send.

But what if I want to be the first to propose times to meet?

Compose a new email message, and click “Suggest Times to Meet.”

Now I can click on any times in my calendar I’d like (shown in dark green).


If I click “location” and start typing, Google Maps helps me out.


When I click “Generate Email Template” Boomerang Calendar drafts this gmail message for me.

And, yes, if the recipient of the email clicks on “Starbucks” Google Maps will load showing the meeting location.

Group events.

Boomerang Calendar sits in the top right corner of the gmail window. Clicking its icon allows you to change settings, which, at this writing, are limited to which of your Google Calendars you want Boomerang Calendar to reference when identifying when you’re free/busy and which calendar you want Boomerang Calendar to add appointments to. Also in this menu is “Plan a Group Event.”


Enter the information requested…


And your invitees will get a message.

Unfortunately Boomerang Calendar doesn’t note those time slots in Google Calendar. You’ll have to enter them yourself as tentative appointments if you want to be sure not to schedule anything else at those times.

Each recipient notes when they are available, and they can do it directly from the email message or go to the Boomerang Calendar website by following the “click here” link in the email. If a recipient wants to change their responses, they can just open this email again, and re-enter their availability.

After each response I get an email that updates me on who is available when.

When I’m ready to schedule it, I click the appropriate “Choose Time and Notify Recipients” button. This email reply is generated in gmail. Edit it and hit send. Done.

Conclusion.

If you use gmail and Google Calendar, this is a powerful and easy-to-use scheduling tool worth having in your toolbox.

Boomerang Calendar as of this writing is only available by invitation code. Go to their website, scroll down to where the invitation code box is, and try iuseboomerang. If that doesn’t work, tweet or email per the instructions on that page.

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Dec 082011
 

As the term comes to a close and you slide into the break for a bit of a breather, consider checking out these tech tools. I know you probably don’t have time now to look at these, although if you’re looking for a good excuse to do something besides grade papers… If you don’t want to take the time now, bookmark this webpage, and take a look at these when you need a break from your visiting in-laws. (Yes, I know you love them, but that doesn’t mean that you have to spend the entire week with them.)

Here they are (the tools, not your in-laws), in no real order.


Dropbox.com. Not using Dropbox.com yet? Still carrying around a flashdrive or emailing files to yourself? If it were foolproof, I’d say keep doing it. But flashdrives fail or get lost. People forget to email that changed file back to themselves, having to call home when they get to work, hoping someone you live with is still there. And for those who live alone, hoping that someone has broken into your house and willing to answer your phone.

Instead, install Dropbox on your work computer and your home computer. Dropbox will add a folder called “My Dropbox” to both computers. Anything you put in that folder on one computer will synchronize with the other folder. Automatically. Edit a file at home. Save it. And it will be there waiting for you when you get to work. [Internet connection required.] (Click here for an earlier blog post.)

Shortmarks. My partner tells me that this is the best technology I’ve brought into our house since the PDA I got her as a replacement for her five-pound DayTimer several years ago. And you know that a lot of technology has flowed through our home in that time.

With Shortmarks, you enter a bit of text in your browser’s address bar, and Shortmarks directs you to that website. They start you off with a bunch but make it easy to add your own. For example, qty in my browser’s address bar takes me to the quarterly. Entry takes me to the entry code page. But it gets even better than that. For sites that allow you to do searches, you can search that site before even going to the site. For example, when I type z unbroken into my browser’s address bar and hit enter, I’m immediately directed to Amazon’s page that displays all results for the term “unbroken”. (Click here for an earlier blog post.)

Speaking of Unbroken I highly recommend it. By the author of Seabiscuit, Unbroken is a page-turner, or a screen-tapper for those of with e-readers. I believe it has a chance to with a Pulitzer for general nonfiction.


Sandglaz. Ready to get organized? I’ve finally found a task management system that replaces all of my little paper notes. Click to add a new task. Add a note or a due date to it if you’d like. Have one list for work stuff with a few different areas cordoned off for different kinds of tasks. Add a new list and share it with others to help keep track of what’s been done and what’s left to do. Bookmark the site on your Android or IOS phone and add stuff on the go. But not while driving. (Click here for an earlier blog post.)


Join.me. It’s an easy way to share your desktop with others. I use it during conference calls that I’m coordinating. I run Join.me, and it generates a link. I send that link out to the people who are part of the meeting. They click on the link, and they can see my desktop in their browser. To talk to each other, we can either join the conference call using Join.me’s built-in conference call number (free, but long distance for everyone), or by some other means.

It’s also handy when consulting with students and you want to show them something – a document, spreadsheet, webpage, really anything on your computer. Send them the link, and have them call your office phone. (Click here for an earlier blog post.)

YouCanBook.Me. Using Google Calendar, this service shows students when you’re free and lets them book themselves into your calendar. It will even send them a reminder. They also get a cancellation link. If they click that, it will remove them from your calendar. Use gsyncit ($20) to synchronize Google Calendar with Outlook. (Click here for an earlier blog post.)

If you’d rather give students access to only certain times in your available calendar, check out appointment slots in Google Calendar.[Update 12/15/2012: Effective January 2013, appointment slots will be discontinued. Existing appointments will be fine, however.]  (Click here for an earlier blog post.)

If you want even more stuff to try, flip back through these blog posts for the last year or two. I’m certain you’ll come across something interesting to try!

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Nov 292011
 

I bet you don’t schedule many appointments between 9pm and 8am. Yeah, me neither. Google Calendar now gives you the option to hide those hours, or whatever early/late hours you choose.

To activate the option, go to your Google Calendar, and click on the cog icon in the top right corner. Select “Labs”.

Click “enable” next to the “Hide morning and night” tool.

Click the “Save” button near the top of the page, and you’re done.

Go back to your calendar.

On the far left, where the times are listed, some of the times will be shaded. Click and hold the little bar at the bottom to select the morning times you’d like to hide.

Google Calendar will now look like this.

Then scroll down and repeat for the evening times. Done.

Any time you’d like to see those hours, just click on the shaded area in the time column. Click again to hide the hours.

What if you schedule something during those hidden times? Google Calendar will show you.

Thanks to the Lifehacker blog for the heads-up on this new tool!

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