Windows 7 : Managing Your Schedule with Windows Live Mail

9/24/2012 7:22:20 PM
While Windows Vista included a standalone calendaring application called Windows Calendar, that short-lived product was removed from Windows 7. So now, users are expected to manage their schedules via the Web with Windows Live Calendar or locally using the Windows Live Mail application. That's right; you need to think "mail" every time you want to work on your schedule.

That bit of silliness aside, Windows Live Mail offers surprisingly capable calendaring functionality. And if you're familiar with competing calendaring solutions such as Apple iCal or Mozilla Sunbird, the Calendar component in Windows Calendar will seem very familiar. It works with the same standards-based calendaring format, and it can publish and subscribe to the same sources as those solutions.

Technically speaking, Windows Live Mail is not included with Windows 7. But if you acquired Windows 7 as part of a new PC, it's highly likely that the PC maker prein-stalled this useful software on the machine for you. If not, you can freely download and install Windows Live Essentials (which includes Windows Live Mail and other applications, products, and services) via Windows Update or from the Windows Live Web site ( 

Obviously, Microsoft isn't giving up on its Exchange Server and Outlook product lines. For a quick understanding of how these solutions are differentiated, think of it this way: Exchange and Outlook are tools for business users, whereas Windows Live Calendar (and Windows Live Mail's Calendar component) are for individuals such as consumers, soccer moms, and your grandparents. Put simply, Windows Live Calendar is for people, not businesses. Windows Live Calendar conforms to iCal standards and doesn't integrate at all with Exchange. Even Microsoft is getting the message when it comes to calendaring, albeit slowly.

1. Understanding the Calendar Interface in Windows Live Mail

To access the Calendar component of Windows Live Mail, launch Windows Live Mail (type mail in Start Menu Search). If you haven't done so already, you will need to configure this application for your Windows Live ID, supplying your username, password, and plain English name.


The Calendar view in Windows Live Mail can actually be used without configuring a Windows Live ID (and associated e-mail account). In this case, the application will present a single local calendar, and you'll be able to add multiple additional calendars if you'd like. We don't cover this usage here because it results in stand-alone calendars that are tied to that one PC and not easily sharable or synced elsewhere. To get the full benefits of Calendar, you're going to want to associate your Windows Live ID.

Windows Live Mail launches into the Mail view by default, of course, but you can access the Calendar view by clicking the Calendar link in the Shortcut pane. When you do so, you'll see the one or more calendars that are associated with your Windows Live Calendar (see Figure 1).


You can also quickly shift into Calendar view by tapping Ctrl+Shift+X.

Figure 1. Windows Live Mail's Calendar view shares many similarities with other standards-based Internet calendars but is presented in a clean, Windows 7-like user interface.

The Calendar user interface is divided into a number of logical areas. On the top is a toolbar that's customized to the needs of the component's calendaring functionality. Below that are three areas, or panes, all of which are displayed by default, though two are optional. On the left is the Navigation pane, which presents a mini-month view and enables you to select between different calendars that are associated with your Windows Live ID. Below that is the Shortcuts pane, which lets you switch to different Windows Live Mail views, including Mail and Contacts. And on the right side of the application window, taking up most of the display, is the current Calendar view, which is set to Month view by default.

From now on, we'll refer to the Calendar view in Windows Live Mail simply as Calendar.

2. Understanding Calendar Lingo

Because there are so many calendar applications out there, you might be confused about some of the language Microsoft uses to describe the various items associated with Calendar. Table 1 summarizes these items.

Table 1. Common Items in Windows Calendar
Windows Calendar ItemDefinition
CalendarA collection of appointments that makes up your schedule. You can have different calendars for different purposes and intermingle or overlay them within the Calendar user interface. Calendars are associated with a Windows Live ID or, if such a thing is not configured, are local to that PC.
GroupA logical grouping of related calendars. Also called a Calendar Group.
EventA meeting, appointment, or other event. Events can have specific starting and ending times or be all-day or multi-day events. For example, a meeting typically has static start and end times, whereas a vacation could be created as a multi-day event.


Calendar is missing several features that were available in Vista's Windows Calendar, including calendar groups, tasks, and calendar publish and subscribe.

3. Working with Calendars

The first time you enter Calendar, you'll see one or more calendars, depending on which calendars are present in Windows Live Calendar. (Local calendar users instead will see a single calendar named Calendar.) Each calendar gets its own name and color, and you can change either. For some people, a single calendar may be enough, but others may want to create different calendars for the different types of events they confront each day.


In Windows Calendar, Microsoft had added the capability to create calendar groups, called Groups, within which you can collect related calendars if desired. This functionality is missing from both Windows Live Calendar and the Calendar component in Windows Live Mail, so the only way to organize events now is by calendar, not with groups.

That said, Calendar does offer one other interesting possibility here. You can configure two or more Windows Live ID accounts with Windows Live Mail, and each would, of course, have its own associated calendar(s). If you do so, you'll see that the calendars are all segregated by ID in the Navigation pane of Windows Live Mail.

Here are some of the ways in which you might organize your calendars within Calendar. First, because each calendar is assigned a unique color, events for each calendar will stand out visually. Second, because you can arbitrarily hide and show individual calendars, it's possible to simplify the Calendar view as needed, which can especially be handy when printing calendars. The important thing to remember is that Calendar supports a decent level of customization when it comes to calendar management.

For example, you can use Calendar to do any of the following:

  • Change the name of the default calendar: Just select the name of the calendar in the Navigation pane, click Properties in the pop-up menu that appears, and then rename it in the Properties window that appears (Figure 2).

    Figure 2. Renaming a calendar is simple: just use the Properties window.
  • Change the calendar display color: Using the same method previously described, you can pick from one of 15 colors in the calendar's Properties window.


    In Windows Calendar, you could click a More Colors link to choose from thousands of additional colors. This capability is no longer available in Calendar.

  • Create a new calendar: Click the Add calendar link in the Navigation pane to add a new calendar to the currently selected ID. The Add a Calendar window will appear, as shown in Figure 3, letting you pick a name, color, and description for the new calendar.

    Figure 3. The Add a Calendar window


    Calendars created in Calendar are of course synched back to Windows Live Calendar. Any changes you make in either place will be replicated in the other as well.

4. Understanding Calendar Views and Navigation

Calendar supports the following three basic view styles:

  • Day: Presents a top-down view of the currently selected day, segregated into 30-minute slices, as shown in Figure 4.

    Figure 4. Calendar's Day view
  • Week: This view, shown in Figure 5, divides the display into seven columns, one for each day of the week. As with Day view, the view is segregated into 30-minute slices of time from top to bottom.

    Figure 5. Calendar's Week view

    Windows Calendar also provided a Work Week view, which, as you might expect, divided the view into five columns, one for each day of the work week (Monday through Friday). This view style is no longer available in Calendar.

  • Month: The Calendar view is presented with a standard monthly calendar view, where each day of the month is denoted by a square shape (see Figure 6). This is the default view.

    Windows Live Mail will remember the view you were in, so if you exit the application while Calendar is displaying Week view, it will return to that view the next time you run Windows Live Mail and enter the Calendar.

    Windows Calendar had a convenient Go to Date function that is no longer available in Calendar. However, you can achieve the same effect by navigating around in the little monthly calendar display located in the top-right corner of Calendar. The current date has a circle around it. Just click it and you're back.

Figure 6. Calendar's Month View

5. Hiding and Viewing Calendars

If you've configured a number of calendars, you may sometimes want to hide certain calendars in the main Calendar view. Notice that each calendar has a check box next to its name in the Navigation pane. When a calendar is checked, events contained within that calendar will display normally within the main Calendar view, using the color that's been assigned to the containing calendar; but when you uncheck a calendar, that item will be hidden.

6. Configuring Calendar

Calendar doesn't offer much in the way of configuration options. (Indeed, if you visit the application's Options dialog, you will see that none of the options there are related to Calendar at all.) You can resize the Navigation pane, which is actually pretty useful, especially if onscreen real estate is at a premium: if you make this as small as possible, it will revert to a nice icon view, as shown in Figure 7.

And while you can indeed edit the Calendar toolbar, it's actually fully populated by default, with its full set of five buttons—New, Send in e-mail, Delete, View (Month, Week, Day), and Print—so all you can really do there is remove items. To do so, right-click anywhere in the toolbar and choose Customize toolbar.

Finally, you can configure how reminders are sent: click the Menus toolbar button (it's to the right of the Colorizer's paintbrush-like button) and choose Deliver my reminders to... Because this option applies globally to Windows Live Calendar, you're redirected to the Windows Live Calendar Web site, where you can choose between Basic and Custom delivery options, as shown in Figure 8. Windows Live Calendar uses the Windows Live Alerts service to deliver schedule reminders via instant messaging (Windows Live Messenger), e-mail, and to Windows Mobile–based smartphones only.

Figure 7. The Navigation pane can be reduced to a strip of icons.

Figure 8. Calendar notifications are handled via the Web.

If you do use Windows Live Messenger, you can get calendar updates via the application's convenient "toast" pop-ups, as shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9. Thanks to deep Windows Live integration, you can get notifications on the desktop via Windows Live Messenger.
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