SharePoint calendars can be really useful tools if you use them correctly. But they are also one of the most disappointing lists provided in SharePoint. I say that mainly because I had high expectations when I was first introduced to them and few of my expectations were met. Very obvious functionalities—to me, at least—aren’t present in SharePoint calendars.
I expected vast improvements in calendars with SP2010 and SP2013 and was once again disappointed. They were even left behind in some respects. But, what can you do?
That being said, don’t fear them and don’t ignore them because I’m being a pessimist. I use them all the time and I’ve built some great business processes that have improved group dynamics and information sharing by a lot just be creating a quick, out-of-the-box SharePoint calendar. You should try them to.
But if you do, take note of some of these drawbacks.
Only site owners can create calendars
Unlike some other tools (like alerts and Outlook integration), creating calendars can only be done by a site owner. This is because SharePoint calendars are lists; only the site owner of the site where you want the calendar to reside can create them, add columns, make public views, change permissions, etc.
If you’re not a site owner, you need to request the calendar from the site owner. If you don’t know that person very well (or at all), be prepared to reach out and make your case. Start with an email to explain your use case, then follow up with a phone call later that day or the day after so you can reiterate your vision and answer any questions. Then again, if you are the site owner, congrats. Move forward with whatever you’d like to do.
Once the calendar is created and set up the way you want to be, you need to provide contribute access to everyone you want to be able to edit it. Be default, the calendar will inherit whatever permissions exist in the site. So, if your site has very few site members (edit access), not many people will be able to edit the calendar. If you want it to be editable by anyone that already has access, it’s smart to give the entire site visitors’ group contribute permissions to the calendar.
No, calendars can’t make appointments in Outlook
If there’s one thing you walk away knowing about calendars after reading this post, it needs to be this: SharePoint calendars are literally a virtual recreation of a physical calendar that you’d have hanging on at your desk; they cannot make appointments in Outlook.
Just like the calendar hanging at your desk—well, admittedly SharePoint will most likely be missing the photos of your kids or favorite vacation destinations—your SharePoint calendar doesn’t connect itself magically to your daily planner, date book, or smart phone calendar. It’s meant to be a big-picture reminder of what’s coming up. For that reason, SharePoint calendars don’t have the ability to perform any advanced actions in Outlook.
As I cover above, you can connect any calendar to Outlook, but what you’re really doing there is just overlaying a SharePoint calendar(s) on top of your personal appointment listing so you can easily see how they compare. Nothing more.
Yes, you’re allowed to sigh in disappointment. We all have.
Be careful when editing SharePoint events in Outlook!
One of the biggest downsides to SharePoint is its lack of an undo button when it comes to changing list items. Calendars are ultra-sensitive to this. Presuming you have member/contributor/edit access to this SharePoint calendar, you can wreak havoc totally by mistake.
If you drag, extend, move, or delete an event in the SharePoint calendar while in Outlook, that change will be reflected in SharePoint. And there’s no undo function. So, for the sake of the poor schmuck who’s trusting you not to be a bull in his/her China shop of a SharePoint site, please handle your calendars with care when you’re in Outlook!
No, you can’t easily connect calendars
Calendars are separate lists in SharePoint. While it’s possible to connect them using a custom-developed solution (likely involving SharePoint Designer or some custom programming), the typical SharePointer won’t be wanting to venture down that path. Give up those dreams now unless your company has the luxury of people who have those skills and are looking for that kind of work.
Admittedly, it would be great if there were a way to add a calendar event to two or more calendars at the same time. A syncing function would be a welcome improvement and help reduce effort duplication. (For example, your supervisor, team, and project manager may all want you to list your planned time out of the office, each in a separate calendar, which means three times the entries, and triple the steps to remember. Annoying. Not back-breaking, of course, but a nuisance. It’s a first-world problem for sure.)
Yes, you can color-code entries, but it’s not easy
I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten this request. I never saw the use. You can just categorize your calendar based on some other taxonomy rather than color code, but then again I’m not one who uses colors in Outlook either. (Please put down your pitchforks, organization diehards.)
Honestly, you can get everything you want by categorizing with a new column/field and creating views that automatically sort, filter, or group from there. And it’s pretty much guaranteed that out-of-the-box fields will upgrade just fine. But that’s just me.