How to create a family calendar on Google

Organizing your own schedule is hard enough. What happens when you need to be aware of friends’ and family members’ schedules, too? It’s a lot to handle. And that’s where Google Calendar comes in. 

If you’ve only been using it for yourself up to now, you might not know about the world of shared calendars, which you can use to corral appointments for your whole family (however you choose to define “family”) and make sure everyone sees events all handily in one place.

If you have a Gmail email account, the calendar is one of the included features. On the top of your inbox, click on the 9-by-9 grid icon. You’ll see the Calendar icon with the number “31” in a colorful box. 

You can also type in your browser to pull up the calendar. If you have the Google Calendar app on your smartphone (yes, even iPhone users can download it, despite it being a Google app), you’ll find it there.

Find the Google Calendar.

Find the Google Calendar.

Image: Screengrab: google

Here’s how to get the most out Google Calendar for groups, whether that means your blood relatives or housemates.

Create a family on Google

Once you have your own Google account (sign up directly through the Google homepage or through Gmail; click “create account”), you can do more with your calendar, like share it or link it to other accounts. An easy way to do this is through a family account.

First you’ve got to create a family on Google. This sounds like something out of the Sims, but it’s really just gathering together friends, bandmates, book club members, or family members and creating a digital shared account. A family maxes out at six people total, with one person appointed as the family manager. You can make a family account with  a minimum of two people. It’s easiest to do this on a web browser, but there are also apps, like Google One and others listed below, that help you build your “family.” You will need everyone’s Gmail addresses to find them and connect those emails to the group account.

If you’re the manager, you have a few different options for setting everything up: 

  • Add people on the family Google webpage.

  • Download Google’s family link app.

  • Use the Google One or Google Assistant app to set up the family account. Find the “Manage family group” setting or, using a voice search, say, “Manage family group.” All these apps are available in both the Apple App Store and Google Play app store. 

Set up a family Google calendar

Now that you’ve got your Google family set up, you automatically have access to a shared calendar called “family” (creative, we know, but you can change it later in the calendar settings). You’ll see the default family calendar under “My calendars” on the main calendar page.

Everyone you’ve added has access and can edit, delete, and create events. And everyone can see everything on the calendar, so don’t plan any surprise parties on the shared space. Also, note that any alerts set on the family calendar will go out to everyone.

Share your individual Google calendar with others 

There’s also the option for people to share their individual calendar instead of creating a group account. For this method, open your personal calendar settings and select “add people” to, well, add people who can see your calendar listings. Added people can only view, not change or delete any events on your calendar. This is more common for work calendars, but the same principles apply for sharing with family/friends/social groups as with coworkers or a boss. 

When you share a calendar, you can decide how much detail you want outsiders to see. For example, instead of seeing “Hair appointment” at 4:30 p.m., you can chose to “hide details” so that the calendar only shows if you are free or busy at that time. That appointment will look like a busy block of time to others. If you’re very open, you can keep the listings the same as when you view your calendar, down to the very specific details.

Color code family members

To better organize every family member on the family calendar, decide on a color for each person so you know whose event you’re seeing on which date. With my family of two (my boyfriend and myself), the default “family” calendar is purple. I keep events for both of us that color. For an event only I’m attending that I want my boyfriend to see, it’s blue. His events are red. 

When editing an event, there’s a colorful circle next to the name of the calendar where you’re posting the event. Click on the circle and pick which color you want for that event. If you don’t pick a color, it will default to your “family” color.

You’ll notice that the calendar square still has an outline default purple box behind the blue for my color-coded event:

Keep it colorful.

Keep it colorful.

Image: screengrab: google

Non-family members can be invited to family calendar events, but those guests won’t be able to access the calendar or change any settings or event details. That’s a family affair.

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