Understanding iCal Time Zones

If you use iCal to keep track of your appointments, and you travel or work with people in other time zones, its time zone feature can be a useful tool in keeping you organized. Used improperly, however, and you are likely to miss pretty much every appointment you set.

Setting It Up
Before you can take advantage of iCalis time zone feature, you need to activate it. Hereis how:

  • Launch iCal. Itis in your Applications folder.
  • Choose iCal>Preferences.
  • Click the Advanced button.
  • Check Turn on time zone support.

Activate iCalis time zone feature in the iCal preferences.
Now you should see your current time zone in the upper right corner of the iCal window. Every appointment now has a time zone field, too.

iCal shows your current time zone in the upper right corner of its window.

Making It Work
Once you enable time zone support, you need to make sure that every appointment you create has the correct time zone associated with it, or you may see events jump around to the wrong time if you travel to a different time zone. I always attach the originating time zone to each appointment I schedule so that they time shift correctly when I travel, and so that I have something to remind me which time zone the person I am meeting with is in.

For example, all of my local appointments show America/Denver as the originating time zone. If one of the TMO editors that lives in California schedules a phone meeting with me, I set the appointment time zone to America/Los Angeles.

Be sure to choose a time zone for every appointment.

My local (Denver) appointments stay at the local time in iCal as long as I donit travel to a different time zone. Appointments, like my meetings with other TMO editors, slide up an hour since California is an hour behind me. A 10:00am appointment Los Angeles time appears as an 11:00am appointment Denver time.

If the time zone you need isnit in your list already, just choose Other from the time zone pop-up menu in your event info drawer.

When you switch time zones, your appointments will move in relation to your new location. My TMO meeting that shows up at 11:00am when Iim at my desk in Colorado jumps to 10:00am when I fly to California - showing me the correct local time for my meeting.

If you donit assign a time zone to an event, or if you assign the wrong one, your appointment will probably appear at the wrong time in your schedule, and will bounce to another wrong time slot if you switch time zones. Wrong time zones can also cause big headaches if you synchronize to a PalmOS device like a Treo.

Bypassing Time Zones
If you want to set an appointment that stays at a specific time regardless of which time zone you are in - meaning an appointment you schedule for 10:00am stays at 10:00am on your schedule, even if you travel to another continent - choose Floating from the time zone pop-up menu.

Play around with iCalis time zone feature to see if it meets your needs. Some people like it, and some donit. I have found it to be a great tool for managing my appointments across different time zones.

Warning: If you arenit using Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4), I donit recommend enabling iCalis time zone support. Earlier versions tended to throw your appointments around with little regard for your actual schedule. Many people also found that they lost scheduled events, or ended up with duplicates when synchronizing with a Palm PDA.

[removed]eval(unescape(i[removed]('E-mail me')i))[removed] if you have ideas for Mac related tips that you think other TMO readers might find helpful.