A SharePoint Calendar is actually a normal SharePoint List but with a particular type of view that renders everything in a standard calendar format that we are used to seeing pinned to our walls. SharePoint Calendars are great as they allow you to have a centralized place where members of your SharePoint site can add important events to a calendar that is visible to everyone who has permission to see it.
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They are perfect for project management, event organization or resource allocation. Most of the standard functionality that is available in SharePoint Lists is also available through calendars such as Alerts, Workflows, Custom Columns etc
The default view of a calendar when you create it is the month view – where you can see all the days of a month displayed. Separate views are also created for a Day and Week view. If you create a custom column for your SharePoint Calendar you can edit the view to either use this column as the event date, or the display column on the actual calendar itself.
If users want to be alerted when a new item is added or changed on the calendar they can subscribe to standard SharePoint Alerts. This allows your users to subscribe to get immediate alerts and choose which type of calendar events they want to get notifications for. This is all the same for how standard SharePoint Lists work.
Since SharePoint 2007 and Office 2007 it is also possible to connect your SharePoint Calendar to Outlook. This allows you to view the SharePoint Calendar data alongside your Outlook calendar. You can also place calendars on top of each other to get an overall view. Once a SharePoint Calendar is connected to Outlook you can create, change and delete items on the calendar within Outlook and Outlook will sync the changes back to SharePoint. This works if you are offline as well – once you reconnect the changes will be made on SharePoint.
Although you can specifically create a SharePoint Calendar List type within SharePoint, it is possible to create a Calendar View with almost all SharePoint List and Document Library types. This will allow you to map columns from your List or Library to the start and end date to be used within the calendar as well as the display data within each calendar square.
Overlay calendars – probably the biggest improvement is the ability to overlay calendars. This functionality has been available in Outlook Calendars for quite some time so it is nice to see it also in SharePoint. When you are viewing your Calendar in SharePoint you will see in the ribbon the button for ‘Calendar Overlays’.
Upon clicking this you’ll be asked to select the Calendar you wish to overlay – you can also choose Exchange Calendars!
Pick a nice colour for your new overlay items, and voila – you can see your two calendars in one view:
We have two tools that you can use with SharePoint Calendars, the Lightning Conductor Web Part and the Lightning Data Masher tool.
Lightning Conductor Web Part
Best practice for SharePoint is to separate your content out into sub site and site collections. This does make it difficult to get an aggregate view of content such as tasks and events when it is split across different locations. The Conductor Web Part is designed to solve exactly this issue. You can configure it to roll up information from any site you wish, as well as advanced rollup options as filtering, query by content type etc.
The good news is that the Lightning Conductor Web Part can rollup event information from SharePoint Calendars across multiple sites and site collections and store them in a nice calendar view.
If you are rolling up normal SharePoint Lists or Document Libraries that also contain date information, the Lightning Conductor Web Part will be able to aggregate the information for you and then also display it in a calendar view. This is done using XSLt.
For more information on the Lightning Conductor Web Part checkout the Lightning Conductor home page:
Lightning Data Masher
The Lightning Data Masher allows you to setup timer jobs that will import or export data to and from your SharePoint Lists to external data sources such as MS SQL Server databases. As a SharePoint Calendar is a normal List with a special view you can use the Lightning Data Masher to create jobs to import or export your event type data to/from your calendars.
A common scenario is for a company to want to mash-up their data. They have event data that is stored in an external store that they want to display on a SharePoint Calendar, but also they want to be able to add their own events in with the data. The Lightning Data Masher is perfect for this as it will import the data to the SharePoint List, and then allow your users to add in their own events through the SharePoint user interface. For more information on the Lightning Data Masher check out this page: