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Google Apps: 5 Hidden Calendar Tools and Tricks

Many of us would be lost without our calendars--they're where we schedule meetings, pencil in appointments and set project deadlines. And without the proper tools, managing a calendar can become a headache.

While Google's Calendar app has a number of known features that ease the pain of planning--integration with other calendars, mobile accessibility and schedule sharing, for example--there are a handful of other useful tools and tricks you may not know about. Read on to find out how these features can help you cut down on planning time and increase your productivity.

1. Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts can be a great time-saver if you know the right moves. Much like Gmail's keyboard shortcuts, Google Calendar has its own set designed to help you fly through scheduling appointments, viewing your meetings and managing your events.

To view the full list of keyboard shortcuts, open your Google Calendar and hit Ctrl + ?. Below are six shortcuts you're likely to use the most.

Create an event: Hit "c"

Move to view today's schedule: Hit "t"

Display your calendar in the "Day" view: Hit "1" or "d"

Display your calendar in the "Week" view: Hit "2" or "w"

Display your calendar in the "Month" view: Hit "3" or "m"

View calendar settings: Hit "s"

2. Auto-Decline Appointments

If you'll be away on vacation or know you have a prior commitment, a handy tool in Google Calendar labs is "Automatically declining events." To turn on this feature, click the gear icon at the top right of your screen and select "Labs." Click "Enable" next to it, then "Save" at the bottom of the page.

This feature lets you block times in your calendar when you know you'll be unavailable. When someone sends you an invite for an event during this time period, Google Calendar will automatically decline it.

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3. Easily Reschedule Events

Scheduling a meeting or event at a time that works for everyone can be a nuisance. One handy feature in Google Calendar labs that aims to make this process easier is the "Smart Rescheduler," a tool that helps you reschedule an event by analyzing everyone's schedule, evaluating conflicts, obtaining conference rooms and proposing the best meeting times.

To use this feature, click the gear icon at the top right of your screen and select "Labs." Click "Enable" next to it, then "Save" at the bottom of the page. Once "Smart Rescheduler" is activated, select an event that you want to reschedule, then click "Find a new time..." You'll then see a ranked list of possible times for your meeting and a replacement conference room nearby.

You can refine the results by marking people as optional attendees, changing the meeting duration, ignoring certain conflicts or specifying the earliest and latest times you want. The results will update to reflect your new requirements.

4. Add Attachments to Events

Need to share a document with meeting attendees? Visit the Labs section of your Google calendar by choosing "Labs" from the gear icon at the top right of the page. Scroll to "Event attachments" and click "Enable," then "Save."

The "Event attachments" lab is an experimental feature that lets you attach a Google doc, spreadsheet or presentation to your event, or upload a file from your computer. Do note that if you're sharing a Google doc, you must grant them access to view it beforehand.

Once you enable the "Event attachments" lab, an "Add attachment" link will appear under the description of the event. Click this to browse your Google Docs or upload a file from your computer.

5. Add Events to Google Calendar Via SMS

If you're at the airport and forgot to schedule a meeting in your Google Calendar or you don't have good Internet service, don't worry: You can easily add events via your mobile phone in a few quick steps.

First, from your computer, sign in to your Google Calendar account, click the gear icon at the top right of your screen and choose "Calendar Settings." Then click the "Mobile Setup" tab and enter your country, phone number and carrier. Gmail will send a verification code to your mobile phone; enter the code and click "Finish setup."

Once the setup is complete, you can send events to your calendar via your mobile phone by texting the details of your event (such as, "Dentist appointment 1:00pm April 20) to GVENT (48368). You'll receive a confirmation text message shortly after, and the event will appear in your calendar.

Kristin Burnham covers Consumer Technology, SaaS, Social Networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at kburnham@cio.com


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