Take Your Calendar to the Cloud!
More and more people are discarding desktop calendar solutions in order to take advantage of cloud-based, online calendars. These are particularly useful if you use multiple computers or take advantage of a smartphone for calendar and time management tasks; such calendars can be updated from anywhere, allowing you to add, edit and remove appointments and details without being tied to your office, or being forced to call a colleague to make changes.
Among the most popular online calendar solutions is Google Calendar, and this service can be used easily and efficiently as an alternative to a system such as Microsoft Outlook. Various additional features are included in Google Calendar beyond the standard adding appointments and task management.
Google Calendar is also a popular cloud calendar for other applications to sync with, such as iCal on the Mac. However many users have discovered that the software sends far too many invitations per meeting request, something that has led to people discarding the solution.
Google Calendar and Invitation Spam
What generally happens in these problems is that Google Calendar decides that it is going to send an email message to anyone mentioned in events that you have saved in a calendar synced with a Mac using iCal (the problem does not occur in other syncs such as with Windows Live). Clearly this is a little annoying, but as there seems to be no way of preventing it from occurring, many users taking advantage of Google Calendar have become increasingly disillusioned over the issue over the past few months.
As of Spring 2011, Google has failed to treat this problem as an issue for over two years, which can only mean that it is an intended feature.
What this means is that rather than waiting for a solution, a workaround is required that will stop Google Calendar from sending invitations when they are not required.
Creating Unnecessary Invites with iCal and Google Calendar
These issues affect anyone using iCal on the Mac, with a sync relationship to Google Calendar. The cause of the problem is the way in which the iCal files (in .ICS format) are handled by the web-based calendar system when a meeting is added to the calendar. Typically you might click the .ICS file to save it to iCal in order to sync it to Google, and this is where the problem arises.
As we know, when a meeting event is added to Google Calendar, any names that are included are also emailed. Assuming they were already emailed at the same time as you, they will already know about the event, so at this stage have received two messages.
However, editing the original meeting request (perhaps to adjust the time) and saving will result in a third message being sent to the other attendees!
Working Around the Problem
As Google is unable or unwilling to offer a way around this problem, your only recourse is to work around it.
The best way that you can do this is to avoid clicking any .ICS files. Instead, meetings should be manually entered into the Google Calendar, with names of attendees omitted. This way, Google won’t spot the names and associate them with email addresses in your account.
While not a perfect resolution, you will nevertheless allow your colleagues and partners some respite from endless notifications for the same meeting!
Screenshot by author