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Mac 101: iCal alarms


iCal is the calendar software that ships with every Mac. When combined with a MobileMe account, it's quite handy. In fact, iCal is the only calendar I use.

New users are often unaware of how much iCal can do. In this post, I'll focus on the types of alarms you can create. With a few simple steps, you can go beyond a simple beeping message.

First, create a new event. Simply double-click the proper time on the proper day and an hour-long event appears. Double-click the event, and the edit window appears. From here you can name your event, identify the location and duration (all day vs. timed), set repeat options and the target calendar if you maintain more than one (I don't).

Now for the fun part. Below the calendar option you'll see "Alarm." Clicking it reveals several options:

  1. None (kind of self-explanatory)
  2. Message (presents a dialog box on your Mac and iPhone/iPod touch if synced via MobileMe)
  3. Message with sound (same as above with plus a system sound)
  4. Email (send an email message to a given address)
  5. Open file (Open a file on your Mac)
  6. Run Script (My favorite. See below)
The first three are self-explanatory. When selecting a message and/or system sound, you have to option to display it minutes, hours or even days before or after the event. Likewise, you can chose any system sound you like.

The email option is nice as well. For instance, once the mini at my day job has completed its daily task, I have it send me an email as a confirmation. As long as I see that message, I know that everything's A-OK.

The option to open a file is handy, too. I'm using it to open a Keynote file right now, but you can have it launch a kiosk application, perhaps a broadcast app like Nicecast, etc.

Finally is run script. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not Applescript pro, but even I see the powerful potential here: Have iCal run any script you can write up at any time. Awesome! Finally, you can set more than one alarm to an event. For example, display a message and send me an email, just to be sure I make that meeting.

As you see, iCal can do much more than store your appointments. Now go be productive and have fun!

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