How to add Facebook events to your normal calendar

Facebook is all about sharing – until you want to go outside its walled garden. It is a right bugger trying to get anything out of the Facebook app and into anything else and nowhere is this more ragingly painful than with events.

If I get a notification on Facebook that someone has invited me to an event, sometimes I will avoid reading it until I know I can do something about it. Until I know that I will be able to check my calendar and know whether I'm free. Until I know for certain that I can make the decision and say yes right away, I will sometimes come off Facebook rather than do it or lose the notification.

And other times I just say bollocks to it all, I don't know if I can go so I'm going to say I'm not going.

It is possible to link Facebook to your regular calendar. That's certainly true on a Mac or iOS where Facebook is baked into the operating system, I'm sure it must be easily possible on PCs and Windows too.

I will never know.

Not because I won't bother to try it on a PC but because I will not do it on anything. Most especially not on my Mac.

Because that setting links your calendar and your contacts: every bleedin' Facebook person you know is then automatically added to your phone book. There are people on Facebook I can't even remember adding as friends and my Contacts book is long enough already. I'm not doing that.

Now, because I won't do that – you try undoing the addition of hundreds of people to your phone book – I can't test out what happens with calendars. It seems highly, highly likely to me that if you give Facebook the keys to your calendar, it will use them. It will add every Facebook event to your calendar.

But have you see every Facebook event? Tonight I decided to sort this out for good and in doing so poked around a lot. I saw my complete list of Facebook events and there are dozens upon dozens of which I am going to one. And of which I had heard of two. Dear god in heaven, keep Facebook away from my calendar.


I did this so you don't have to: I worked through how to tease a single event out of Facebook. I was invited to something, I fancied going but wasn't sure I could make it, so I got it out of Facebook and I added it to my calendar. I did so prefixing it with ¿ (just as I recommended here) and I'll look at later at whether I can make it. I'll look later because I can. Because it's in my calendar and I chose to put it there.

It's a measure of how frustratingly locked down Facebook is that this feels like a victory.

Here's how to do it.

1) Go to the Events page on a web browser, not the Facebook app.
2) Find the event, click or tap to go into it
3) Look for the … option toward the top and click that
4) Choose Export Event
5) Choose Send to Email

There may be several email addresses available to you there in a drop-down menu: choose a real, non-Facebook address.

You'll get a calendar invitation file, a .ics, in your email. Click on that and you'll see more details than you ever care to know (like the list of everybody who's said they're going) but also an option to add it to your calendar.

Does that sound like a faff? Imagine figuring it out like you're searching for an Easter Egg in a game. That was me tonight.

It's a waste of time, having to get an emailed .ics before you can do anything about it, but at least it works.

¿ Best calendar tip ever ?

You noticed that headline, didn’t you? It’s because of that ¿ and how remarkably it stands out.

Incidentally, this doesn’t work at all if you happen to be reading this on a screen that doesn’t display Spanish-style upside down question marks. But if you can see them, you can use them and they are remarkably useful in calendars.

I have more and more events or meetings to go to and it’s rare that I know immediately when they’re on. If it’s that the meeting will be ‘in a few weeks’ or ‘early in June’ then I’ll put a To Do reminder in OmniFocus to find out and confirm the date then. But the most often thing is that I’ll either offer or be offered a particular date and time and it has to be confirmed later.

You can’t risk agreeing to a date and then double-booking yourself but where possible you also don’t want to block out some time that may not be used. So I’ll use a ¿ at the start of the name.

I did this just now: went to Fantastical, tapped the + sign to add a new event and typed this: “¿ Yasmin tea 1-4pm tomorrow at Yorks Bakery”. There are two elements there: I know the range of times I can get to a meeting with Yasmin, I’m waiting to see if she can do any of those. So that’s why it’s “1-4pm”. But the key thing is that ¿ because, wow, it stands out.

¿ Yasmin tea 1-4pm at Yorks Bakery

See? You can’t miss that.

If you’re on an iPad or iPhone then the ¿ is on the standard keyboard: just press and hold on the regular ? key to get it. (I use a Belkin external keyboard on my iPad and on that I need to press Alt/option and ?.) On a Mac it’s Alt-Shift-? and if you’re on a PC, hold down the Alt Gr key (to the right of the spacebar) and on the keypad type the number 168.

This idea is stolen, by the way. I believe I got it from David Sparks and Katie Floyd on MacPowerUsers who I believe may have got it from Merlin Mann. Now you’ve got it too

Is it a task? Is it an event? No, it’s… er… um…

I was in a meeting last night and was told I had to do something – but only if certain other things happened. Broadly, if any of these things go wrong then I have to do this or that or the other depending on what and where and when.

It all makes absolute sense but it makes sense to me now. I don’t know that it makes so much sense that I will remember it in a year’s time when one of these things goes wrong.

Plus, I got into a state recently because my OmniFocus To Do list was so full of stray ideas and stuff that I will never get around to that I wasn’t getting around to the stuff I needed to do. I was seeing trees instead of wood. I was feeling like I’d lost all control of everything. And while I’m back now, while it feels great to be on top of it all once more, the road to that misery is to bung in things that you shouldn’t.

And I don’t know. I can’t put this particular instruction in my calendar, that’s obvious. But I can put it in my task list. Yet if I do, when exactly do I tick it off? Possibly never, certainly not for a month, probably not for many months. It would sit there forever, really.

This is starting to happen more and more. I don’t know how I’ve coped with it before, I’m not sure that I have coped with it before, but it’s happening now and I need to deal with it now. So what I’m trying is this: I’m creating Evernote notebooks devoted to the organisation or the project. Those instructions are now one note that will stay in Evernote forever. Because that’s what you use Evernote for: it’s for remembering forever. And if I never look up the notebook again, it’ll be because I don’t need to. Fine.

But will this work? It sounds sensible to me. Except in a month or a few months or a year or if ever this thing goes wrong, then will I remember that I have these Evernote notebooks?

I should add a task to OmniFocus that says “Check the Evernote notebooks you created in order to not have tasks in OmniFocus that you need to check”

Three calendars, no waiting

Thanks. I was thinking about how we use calendars and how I have been working to use mine more but there was one exasperating thing. Yet just working out how I would describe it to you may have solved it for me. May.

It’s Fantastical 2. I bought this for my iPad and it sits there right alongside OmniFocus so I can and do work all my tasks and times together. It’s working so well that I’ve been using my ancient copy of Fantastical 1 for iPhone too and this week just bloody well caved in and bought the update to Fantastical 2 for iPhone. Still can’t tell you what the functional difference is but I like the look of it and I like paying for something I am using a lot.

Only, I have had to keep Apple’s Calendar app around too. On both iPad and iPhone, I’ve needed that because event invitations have come in via it. I’ve got notifications of event invitations and had to open Apple’s Calendar to see what they were and to say yes or no. Then I’ve closed Calendar and by the time I’ve opened Fantastical, the accepted event is in place.

That’s just a chore, though. Clearly I would prefer event invitations to come up in Fantastical and save me that trip out to another app and back. But before I said that to you here, I fact-checked like a proper old-fashioned journalist and it appears I’m wrong. It appears that Fantastical accepts invitations and that you can say yeay or nay right there. I cannot see how and I cannot see why it hasn’t happened before. Could you send me an invitation so that I can try it out? But  I am now convinced it’s true because there’s evidence on the internet. (That never goes wrong.) Evidence including screen grabs of it in action.

Mind you, the reason there are screen grabs of Fantastical showing event invitations is because people have been asking why it doesn’t or how the hell it does. So I’m not alone and if I am not yet fully imbued with the knowledge of how to do it, the next time I get a calendar invitation I will take a little time and figure it out.

If that happens, I don’t need Apple’s Calendar any more. Not on my iPhone and iPad. It’s still the calendar I use on my Mac: currently Fantastical for Mac is a menu drop down and I think I heard it may become a more fully-fledged app so while I continue getting used to it, I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

You can’t get rid of Apple’s Calendar on iPhone or iPad, it cannot be deleted. But you can bung it in a Apple folder alongside the weather and stock apps that you never use.

But Calendar and Fantasical. That’s two calendar apps.

And I did say I use three.

I’m using Mynd on my iPhone. No matter what, I would have to use something else on my iPad because Mynd is iPhone-only for now. But as I’ve mentioned before, I did not appreciate that it is actually a full calendar app. It’s just so useful for telling me the very next thing happening and a slew of rather spookily great extra features to help each meeting or appointment go well. But it is a full calendar, you can do everything you do on Calendar or Fantastical. (I don’t know about event invitations. That’s another thing I’ll need to try. Could you hurry up with that invitation? Is that too much to ask?) 

So not only do I have three calendars on my iPhone, two of them are on my front page, the home screen.

It feels wrong, it feels like a waste of space on that screen and it feels like an unnecessary division of mental effort. But I don’t think to use Mynd unless I’m going to a meeting and want all its extra gorgeousness for that one particular event.

Similarly, Fantastical 2 has a lot of features for running your To Do list and I so much, so completely fail to think of Fantastical for tasks that I even tried to switch that off. You can deny Fantastical permission to access your Apple Reminders list but if you do, I found it also wouldn’t let me enter any events. So with reluctance, chagrin and some annoyance, I allowed Reminders and just choose to never use them.

Why would you use Apple’s Reminders either directly or via Fantastical when you have OmniFocus?

Funny: OmniFocus has a calendar in it. Yet I use that. I use it to glance at the day and see how much is going on.

I should get a Venn diagram going here of how these four apps (Calendar, Fantastical, Mynd, OmniFocus) overlap and what I do and don’t use in them.

Or I could just get a life and accept that where I used to eschew all calendar apps, I now have three.