OUseful.Info, the blog…

Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education

Posts Tagged ‘calendar

Maintaining a Google Calendar from a Google Spreadsheet, Reprise

In the post Updating Google Calendars from a Google Spreadsheet, I described a recipe for adding events to a Google Calendar from a Google Spreadsheet using Google Apps Script. After a quick chat with the person who was compiling a spreadsheet they wanted to use to populate a set of calendars, I revisited the script to make a few tweaks and hopefully increase its usability.

So here’s a glimpse of the spreadsheet they’re using to list dates for various campaigns and channels where related activity might occur. Firstly, we have some columns relating to the event or activity, and the dates on which they occur. The first column (added to calendar) is a control switch that identifies that the calendar details have been updated for that event:

Within the spreadsheet, I set the two date columns to have the Date type (from the Tools menu, set the Data Validation option to Date). I’m not sure how the spreadsheet is (correctly) identifying the US date format (MM-DD-YY) – maybe from a US timezone as a global setting for the spreadsheet?

As well as various other admin columns, there are columns relating to whether or not a channel will be used to support a particular event:

From what I could ascertain, the way the spreadsheet is supposed to work goes along the lines of: someone adds details of an event and the associated channels for the event to the spreadsheet. “Add” in a channel column says that event is to be added to that channel calendar. When the updating script is run, for each event it checks the control column A to see that an event hasn’t been added to the various channel calendars, and if it hasn’t checks the channel columns; if a channel column is set to “Add” the event details are added to that event calendar.

So – how do I need to modify the original script? Firstly, the original script use the default calendar. In this case, we need a separate calendar for each channel, so in Google Apps I created one calender per channel:

We can grab a calendar by name from a spreadsheet apps script using a call of the form:

 var cal_broadcast=CalendarApp.openByName("broadcastDemo");

When the script runs, we need to grab the appropriate range of cells from the spreadsheet to see which calendars to update. For testing purposes, I only grabbed a few rows…

var startRow = 2;  // First row of data to process
var numRows = 4   // Number of rows to process
var dataRange = sheet.getRange(startRow, 1, numRows, 26);
var data = dataRange.getValues();

for (i in data) {
  var row = data[i];
  var title = row[1];
  var desc=row[15];
  var added = row[col_added];  //Check to see if details for this event have been added to the calendar(s)
  var tstart = row[2]; //start time - I have defined the column in the spreadsheet as a Date type
  var tstop = row[3]; //start time - I have defined the column in the spreadsheet as a Date type
  var broadcast=row[col_broadcast]; // is this event one to "Add" to the broadcast calendar?
  var itunes=row[col_itunes]; // is this event one to "Add" to the itunes calendar? etc
  var youtube=row[col_youtube];
  if (added!="Added") { //the calendar(s) have not been updated for this event
    if (broadcast=="Add") {
      cal_broadcast.createEvent(title, tstart,tstop, {description:desc}); //add the event to the "broadcast" calendar
    if (itunes=="Add"){
      cal_itunes.createEvent(title, tstart,tstop, {description:desc});
    // etc for each channel
    var v = parseInt(i)+2; // +2 is an offset to do with the numbering of rows and the "blank" header row 0;
    sheet.getRange(v, 1, 1, 1).setValue("Added"); //set the fact that we have updated the calendars for this event

In order to identify which columns to use to identify the broadcast, itunes, etc channels, I went defensive (the following bit of code comes before the previous snippet; what is does is to look at each column heading, and then set the column number for each channel appropriately based on its name; I should probably use a similar technique to identify the start/stop dates. What this approach does is accommodate changes to the spreadsheet in terms of the insertion of additional columns or the reordering of columns, for example, at a later date):

var ss=SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSpreadsheet();
var sheet=SpreadsheetApp.setActiveSheet(ss.getSheets()[0]); //need a routine to set active sheet by name?
//go defensive
var col_broadcast,col_itunes, col_youtube=1;
var maxcols=sheet.getMaxColumns();
for (var j=1;j<=maxcols;j++){
  var header= sheet.getRange(1, j, 1, 1).getValue();
   case "Added to Google (Y/N/Hold)":col_added=j-1;
   case "Broadcast":col_broadcast=j-1; break;
   case "iTunes":col_itunes=j-1; break;
   case "YouTube": col_youtube=j-1; break;

Running the combined function thus searches the spreadsheet for the appropriate channel columns and control column, checks the control column for each event entry to ensure that the event hasn’t been added to the selected calendars, and then adds the event to the appropriate channel calendars if required.

Playing with the script, it seemed a little bit clunky, so I tweaked it to update the channel cells with the word “Added” if it had been set to Add, and the calendar had been updated:

if (broadcast=="Add") {
  cal_broadcast.createEvent(title, tstart,tstop, {description:desc});
  dataRange.getCell(parseInt(i)+1,col_broadcast+1).setValue('Added'); // Replace "Add" with "Added"; +1 is offset for sheet numbering

It also struck me that if the settings of a channel was updated to “Add” after that event was updated, that channel’s calendar would never get updated. So I created a variant of the updating function that would just run on a per column basis and update a calendar entry for an event if it was set to “Add”, rather than checking the control column:

function caltestAddtoCal_broadcast(){ caltestAddtoCal("broadcast"); }
function caltestAddtoCal(addCal){
  if (addCal!="") {
    if ((addCal=="broadcast")&&(broadcast=="Add")) {
      cal_broadcast.createEvent(title, tstart,tstop, {description:desc});
      dataRange.getCell(parseInt(i)+1,col_broadcast+1).setValue('Added'); //+1 is offset for sheet numbering
  // ...

What this means is is that a channel controller can update entries in their calendar by running the script just for that channel and adding “Add” to any event they want adding to the calendar, the list of “Added” entries showing which events have already been added to that calendar:

Having doodled a script that sort of works, it’s now time to hack it around it so it looks a little more elegant. Which means refactoring.. sigh… and another reprise in a day or two, I guess…?!

Written by Tony Hirst

March 7, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Posted in Google Apps

Tagged with ,

Grabbing Google Calendar Event Details into a Spreadsheet

A comment to Updating Google Calendars from a Google Spreadsheet, where I showed how to get events described in a Google spreadsheet into a Google Calendar wondered if the other way around is possible? … It would be great for logging hours for projects or declaring working hours ;-)

Yes:-) Twenty seconds ago, this spreadsheet was empty:

A quick run of a script and I populated it from my default calendar using Google Apps script. Once again, all I did was peek through the docs and pull out the fragments I needed: Here’s the script:

function caltest3(){
  // The code below will retrieve events between 2 dates for the user's default calendar and
  // display the events the current spreadsheet
  var cal = CalendarApp.getDefaultCalendar();
  var sheet = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSheet();
  var events = cal.getEvents(new Date("March 8, 2010"), new Date("March 14, 2010"));
  for (var i=0;i<events.length;i++) {
    var details=[[events[i].getTitle(), events[i].getDescription(), events[i].getStartTime(), events[i].getEndTime()]];
    var row=i+1;
    var range=sheet.getRange(row,1,1,4);

So now not only can we use a spreadsheet as a database we can also use a calendar in a similar way, and if necessary, link them all together?

Written by Tony Hirst

March 5, 2010 at 9:47 am

Posted in Google Apps

Tagged with ,

Updating Google Calendars from a Google Spreadsheet

I got a request today along the lines of:

We’re in the process of creating a master calendar of events spreadsheet relevant to [various things]. These [various things] will all then have their own Google calendar so they can be looked at individually, embedded etc and everyone could of course have access to all and view them all via their personal Google calendar, turn different calendars on or off, sync with Outlook etc. etc.

X said “wouldn’t it be great if we made the master spreadsheet with Google docs and it could somehow automate and complete the calendars”.

Sigh…;-) So – is it possible?

I’ve only had a quick play so far with Google Apps script, but yes, it seems to be possible…

Take one spreadsheet, liberally sprinkled with event name, description, start and end times, an optional location, and maybe a even a tag or too (not shown):

The time related columns I specified as a date type using the “Data Validation…” form from the Tools menu:

Now take one Google apps script:

function caltest1() {
  var sheet = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSheet();
  var startRow = 2;  // First row of data to process
  var numRows = 2;   // Number of rows to process
  var dataRange = sheet.getRange(startRow, 1, numRows, 5);
  var data = dataRange.getValues();
  var cal = CalendarApp.getDefaultCalendar();
  for (i in data) {
    var row = data[i];
    var title = row[0];  // First column
    var desc = row[1];       // Second column
    var tstart = row[2];
    var tstop = row[3];
    var loc = row[4];
    //cal.createEvent(title, new Date("March 3, 2010 08:00:00"), new Date("March 3, 2010 09:00:00"), {description:desc,location:loc});
    cal.createEvent(title, tstart, tstop, {description:desc,location:loc});

(This was largely a copy and paste from Sending emails from a Spreadsheet Tutorial, which I’d half skimmed a week or two ago and seemed to remember contained a howto for bulk mailing from a spreadsheet, and the Apps script Calendar class documentation.)

And here’s the result of running the function:

The email tutorial adds a bit of gloss that allows a further column to contain state information about whether an email has already been set; we could do something similar to specify whether or not an event has been automatically added to the calendar, and if not, add it when the function is run.

Because it can be a pain having to go into the script editor to run the function, it’s easier to just create a menu option for it:

Here’s how:

function onOpen() {
  var ss = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSpreadsheet();
  var menuEntries = [ {name: "Shove stuff in calendar", functionName: "caltest2"} ];
  ss.addMenu("OUseful", menuEntries);

I had a little play to see if I could trivially get an RSS feed into the spreadsheet using an =importFeed() formula, and use the details from that to populate the calendar, but for some reason the feed importer function didn’t appear to be working?:-( When I tried using CSV data from a Yahoo RSS2CSV proxy pipe via a =importData() formula, the test function I’d written didn’t appear to recognise the date format…

PS Arghh… the test formula assumes a Date type is being passed to it… Doh!

Hack round importFeed still not working by grabbing a CSV version of the feed into the spreadsheet:

Tweak the calendar event creation formula:

cal.createEvent(title, new Date(tstart), new Date(tstop), {description:desc});

Run the function:

Heh heh :-)

PS it’s also possible to move content from a Google Calendar to a Google spreadsheet, as Grabbing Google Calendar Event Details into a Spreadsheet shows…

PPS it strikes me that the spreadsheets2calendar route provides one way of generating an iCal feed from a list of event times held in a spreadsheet, by popping the events into a Calendar and then making the most of its output formats? A bit like using Yahoo pipes as a quick’n’easy KML generator?

[UPDATE: related, via @mhawksey - Using Google Apps Script for a event booking system (Spreadsheet to Calendar & Site | Form to Spreadsheet, Email and possible Contacts)]

Re: not creating duplicate entries, check out this thread

Written by Tony Hirst

March 4, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Merging Several Calendar iCal Feeds With Yahoo Pipes

Following up on Displaying Events from Multiple Google Calendars in a Single Embedded Calendar View, and picking up on a quip Jim Groom made in the post that started this thread (“Patrick suggested Yahoo Pipes!, you ever experiment with this? “), I did have a quick play with pipes, and this is what I found..,

The “Fetch Feed” block is happy to accept iCal feeds, as this iCal Merge pipe demonstrates:

(I grabbed the iCal feeds from pages linked to from the Stanford events page. A websearch for “ical lectures events” should pull up other sources;-)

If you import an iCal feed into a Yahoo pipe, you get an iCal output format option:

You can then render this feed in an online calendar such as 30 boxes: pipes merged iCal feeds in 30 boxes (here’s the 30 boxes config page for that calendar).

(NB it’s worth noting that 30 boxes will let you generate a calendar view that will merge up to 3 iCal feeds anyway.)

Using the Pipe’s output iCal URL to try to add the merged calendar feed to Google Calendar didn’t seem to work, but when I converted the URL to a TinyURL (http://tinyurl.com/67bg2d) and used that as the import URL, it worked fine.

Do this:

then this:

and get this:

(I couldn’t get the Yahoo pipe iCal feed to work in iCal on my Mac, nor could I resyndicate the feed from the Google Calendar. I think the problem is with the way the Pipes output URL is constructed… which could be worked around by relaying/republishing the Pipe iCal feed through something with a nice URL, maybe?)

That okay for you, Reverend? :-)

PS having to add the feeds by hand to the pipe is a pain. So how about if we list a set of iCal feeds in an RSS feed (which could be a shared bookmark feed, built around a common tag), then pull that bookmark feed (such as the feed from a delicious page (e.g. http://delicious.com/psychemedia/ical+feedtest)) into a pipe and use it to identify what iCal feeds to pull into the pipe?

Got that? The Loop block grabs the URL for each iCal feed listed in the input RSS feed, and pulls in the corresponding iCal events. It seems to work okay, too:-) That is, the feed powered iCal merge pipe will aggregate events from all the iCal feed listed in the RSS feed that is pulled into the pipe.

So now the workflow, which could possibly be tidied a little, is this:
- bookmark iCal feed URLs to a common somewhere (this can be as weak as shared tags, which are then used as the basis for aggregation of feed URLs);
- take the feed from that common somewhere and pop it into the feed powered iCal merge pipe.
- get the TinyURL of the iCal output from the pipe, and subscribe to it in Google Calendar, (for a personal calendar view).

Hmm… we still can’t publish the Google Calendar though, because we don’t “own” the calendar dates (the iCal feed does)? But I guess we can still use 30boxes as the display surface, and provide a button to add the calendar to Google Calendar?

OKAY – it seems that when you import the feed, it makes sense to tick the box that says “allow other people to find this calendar”:

… because then you can generate some embed code for the calendar, provide a link for anyone else to see the calendar (like this one), and use the tidied up iCal feed that Google calendar now provides to view the calendar in something like iCal:

PPS To make things a little easier, I tweaked the feed powered pipe so now you can just provide it with an RSS feed that points to one or more iCal feeds:

I also added a block to sort the dates in ascending date order. It’s simple enough to add the feed to iGoogle etc, or as a badge in your blog, using the Yahoo Pipes display helper tools:

Hmm, it would be nice if Pipes also offered a “calendar” output view when it knew there was iCal data around, just like it generates a map for when it sniffs geo-data, and a slideshow view when it detects appropriately addressed media objects? Any chance of that, I wonder?

Written by Tony Hirst

December 6, 2008 at 11:22 am

Displaying Events from Multiple Google Calendars in a Single Embedded Calendar View

Of all the things Google Calendar is good for, producing a single embedded calendar from a set of Google Calendars has not been one of them…

[Cue sideaways glance] Or so I thought…

In a flurry of activity earlier today, the Reverend posted this:

while I was admiring the new link to UMW Blogs on the UMW homepage, I clicked on the Events link, and to my surprise it was a Google calendar. Wow! Who knew? When looking at the source code, I released it was actually an aggregation of 10 different Google Calendars–all the more fascinating.

Jim went on: “I did a search for the term “UMW” through Google’s public calendars and found over 40″ and the describes subscribing to the calendars, looking at them in the single aggregated view within Google Calendar itself, before hitting a problem: “Google won’t given me an embed code for the aggregation of all of the public calendars I subscribed to around UMW”

Err… rewind one moment… “When looking at the source code, I released it was actually an aggregation of 10 different Google Calendars“…?

This is what Jim saw but didn’t see:

Got it yet?

Take these two calendars, discovered by searching the Public Calendars in Google Calendar:
- Snooker Championships Listing (some events are listed over the next four months or so).
- Formula One Grand Prix listings for 2009 (the events start during March, 2009).

Now look through to March on this calendar: aggregated calendar view. It shows events from both calendars in the same view.

So what we have here is an aggregated calendar view that can be used to display several (that is, multiple) Google calendar feeds in a single view. To embed the calendar in your own page, just stick it in an iframe.

For each extra calendar feed, just add &src=CALENDAR_ID to the URL. The CALENDAR_ID will probably be of the form:

PS I did wonder whether I could add the aggregated calendar view as a single calendar to my Google Calendar. It seems not:

That is, it looks like each calendar feed will be added separately, rather than as a single, combined calendar.

But while that would have been a “nice to have”, the ability to display events from multiple Google calendars in a single calendar view in such a straightforward way is probably a big enough win anyway:-)

PPS aren’t comments wonderful (thanks Steve:-) – it seems thaqt you can generate the combined embed code within Google Calendar… Subscribe to the calenders you want to display, then go to the calendar settings:

Select the “Customise the color, size and other options” in the “Embed the Calendar” area:

And then select the calendars you want to include:


Written by Tony Hirst

December 4, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Posted in Tinkering

Tagged with , ,


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