MacInTouch Reader Reports

iCal: Timezones

Feb. 19, 2009
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Feb. 19, 2009

item.87390

Scott Rose

How To Miss Your Flight (And Other Important Life Events) Courtesy of iCal

Last week, I almost missed a flight due to iCal's handling of time zones. And I'm going to show you how you can miss your very own flights - as well as other important life events - for free! You don't even need to do anything special to miss your important appointments. All you have to do is use iCal as your calendar program (on Mac OS 10.4 Tiger or Mac OS 10.5 Leopard) and then travel to a different time zone.

Go ahead and try this simple experiment on your computer right now: Let's say, for example, that you're living in California. In your Date & Time system preference, click on the Time Zone tab and make sure that your Time Zone is set to PST, which can be accomplished by choosing any city in California, such as San Francisco.

Now let' say that you'e traveling to New York this weekend and you have a lunch appointment scheduled for noon on Saturday in New York. Go ahead and add an appointment to your iCal calendar for noon this Saturday. So far, so good.

Okay, now let's pretend that you've landed in New York and you want to change your system clock to match the time zone where you are currently traveling. Naturally, you will go back into your Date & Time system preference, click on the Time Zone tab, and change your Time Zone to EST by choosing New York for your city.

Go ahead and do that now, then take a look at your iCal calendar in horror.

Your lunch appointment has now shifted to 3:00pm. Your lunch appointment, which was actually supposed to take place at noon, is now supposedly taking place at 3:00pm. And, lo and behold, every other appointment on your entire calendar - past, present, and future -- has shifted 3 hours later because you switched time zones.

Most business people live and die by their calendars being accurate, so the times that we enter should never change without our permission. If we can't trust our very own calendar, what can we trust? And why is this happening?

iCal has a feature called "time zone support", which you can turn on in iCal>Preferences>Advanced. Turning on this feature is what causes this behavior to happen, but the real problem here is that iCal does not stop this behavior when you turn this feature off. iCal always acts exactly the same, whether time zone support is turned on or off. As far as I'm concerned, the automatic adjusting of appointments should stop if you've never turned on time zone support to begin with, by making all of your appointments have a "floating time zone". A "floating time zone" is assigned to an event whose time should always stays the same across all time zones. More on floating time zones in a moment, but first let me explain what happens when you turn on time zone support.

When you turn on time zone support, iCal will tag all of your appointments with a PST Time Zone (when you are creating them in the PST time zone), and then when you switch to a different time zone, iCal adjusts all of your appointments based on their former relationship to your new time zone. I think I am being conservative here when I say that 98% of all people using iCal do not want their appointments to auto-adjust appointment times for them. If you're scheduling a lunch for yourself at noon, you're already thinking ahead to whatever time zone you're going to be in, and so you put it on your schedule at noon. Likewise, if you're scheduling a flight for yourself in the future, you're typing it on your calendar for the local time zone in which you are going to be departing from (which is also how it appears on your airplane ticket), not adjusting its time for the time zone that you're currently scheduling the appointment in. Imagine how you'll feel when you show up to the airport 3 hours late for your flight that has already taken off without you!

I can understand that some people (my guess is less than 2%) might have a conference call back with the Los Angeles office while they're traveling to Europe, and they want their calendar to automatically adjust for the time difference so they know when to call Los Angeles. Or maybe they want to keep track of when their favorite sports team is playing, so they want the game time to automatically adjust for them as they travel through time zones.

Great! If you're one of those 2% of people who actually need this feature and are going to diligently use it, then that's what time zone support was created for! All you need to do is turn on time zone support in iCal's preferences, and then whenever you create a new appointment in iCal, you will notice that there is a new pop-up menu to choose from where you can associate a time zone with your appointment. Note that you will have to manually choose the appropriate time zone for every one of your appointments. Then, while you're traveling, in the upper right-hand corner of iCal, there is a global pop-up menu that lets you choose which time zone your entire calendar is currently based in. As long as you have manually edited all of your appointments with the appropriate time zone, you will have an accurate calendar. But if you did not manually choose the right time zone for even a single appointment (or if you forget to change the global pop-up menu while you're browsing your calendar), your iCal will be a confusing mish-mash of appointments that are scattered all over the place!

This sort of confusing mess might be acceptable for people who actually want to go through this, but what about the vast majority of people who don't want to use this feature at all? What about the normal person who just wants his lunch appointment to stay at noon?

We've already established that iCal's behavior does NOT change whether time zone support is turned on or off, so sadly, the only real workaround for this is to turn ON time zone support and then manually remember to set every one of your appointments to a "floating time zone", which is one of your time zone choices in iCal. A "floating time zone" means that your appointment time stays the same no matter which time zone you're traveling in.

Now doesn't this sound great? Wouldn't it be great if all of your appointment times stayed the same on your calendar at all times? If you'e one of the 98% of people who just want your appointments to always stay "as is" on your calendar, then wouldn't you want EVERY event to always be assigned to a floating time zone?

Yes, of course! Let's make every event a floating event by default!

Unfortunately, Apple provides absolutely no way to make every single one of your events default to a floating event. Even if you completely turn off time zone support in iCal, it will still tag all of your new appointments with an actual time zone, unbeknownst to you.

There is no easy way for you, the user, to automatically change all of your appointments to a "loating time zone". You have to manually and painstakingly go through every single appointment - past, present, and future -- and change it to a "floating time zone".

So what we really need is for Apple to step in here and put an end to this madness.

The simple solution that Apple needs to implement is this: iCal appointments should always auto-select the "floating time zone" when time zone support is turned off. In other words, if the user hasn't specifically chosen to turn on time zone support, then every event -- by default -- should be a floating event. That's the solution that we really need, but it has to come from Apple.

If you feel the same way as me about this issue, please be sure to send your feedback to Apple at
  http://www.apple.com/feedback/ical.html

Feb. 20, 2009

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Ilo V.

Making "floating time zone" the default is not the answer. Anyone who wants time zone support enabled most likely wants to enter time zones for each event.

What you are really asking for is the ability to turn OFF time zone support. When you uncheck the box, you want (the option to have) all events be automatically switched back to "floating"

A better way to phrase this: you want to use your calendar in a "all times are local" mode. This means all times on the calendar are intended to be in reference to the time zone that you will be located in when that event occurs.

It sounds like you are saying that, if you turn on the "time zone support" preference even once, you can't ever totally go back to the default "all times are local" mode without manually editing every single event. (I can't test this because if you're right I won't be able to turn it off ... I have too many events to fix them all manually)

Feb. 22, 2009

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C. Lawford

Virtual calendars tripping over time zone support isn't new.

When Palm introduced a web based calendar component linked to their handhelds years ago, everything was fine until you moved around. When the web app found your Palm suddenly configured to another zone in another country on what appeared to be a different day (say in the future...), you would find that sync'ing resulted in duplicate events at different times.

It was no fun trying to clear the mess up, and the only method was to manually remove the dupes individually, since the OS on the handheld swore they were unique events. I pleaded with Palm and was dismissed. A year later Palm canceled their online calendar effort.

These days, things have changed and I rarely travel - but I also never sync without a fresh backup, fearing just the type of scenario Scott Rose has now encountered.

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Ed Stockly

About time zones and iCal:

iCal uses the system clock to track time which is set to GMT. The time zone information in your preferences is used to adjust how the time will be displayed. In California iCal subtracts 8 hours from GMT. In New York iCal subtracts 5 hours.

The solution is to schedule your appointments and events at actual the time they will occur, not their localized time. That is pretty much how every scheduling program works on nearly every platform. It's not unique to iCal.

In the example given, if you have a meeting in NY at 3 p.m. and you are in California when you schedule that meeting, you need to enter 12 noon in iCal.

Suppose the meeting was also a conference call, and you had people from France, England and Cupertino participating. In I Cal you enter one time and the invitations will provide all your participants their local time for the call.

The time zone support preference helps in this process. It adds a pop-up menu to the iCal window to allow you to see and set your appointments in whatever time zone you choose.

So if you have a meeting in New York at noon, switch the time zone to Eastern Time, via the pop-up, schedule the meeting, then switch it back.

Hope that helps

item.87430

Scott Aronian

I thought the time zone popup menu in the upper right corner of the iCal calendar was used to adapt all appointment times to your current location.

Think of changing the System's Time Zone Preference and iCal's current Time Zone as a two-step process.

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Eric Hildum

Scott seriously underestimates the number of people who live cross time zone lives. The time zone features of iCal actually work quite well and are very reliable, unlike Outlook's.

Perhaps if he remembered that he was scheduling a lunch at noon EST, not noon PST, he might have had better luck in using his calendar. Real events ALWAYS have a time zone attached to them, either explicitly or by convention. Unfortunately, we do not have computers that can read your mind to determine the appropriate time zone to use for a calendar event.

By the way, the airline example he gives is a perfect example of why you need time zone support. Airlines give the departure and arrival times in the local time for the embarkation or disembarkation point. Unless you fly north/south only, you need to consider the time zone every time you look at at ticket. Otherwise on transpacific flights you will arrive before you take off.

Rather than a "floating time zone" perhaps a better feature would be multiple time scales so that you can see the time zone corresponding to your events. Then he would have realize lunch was really at 9:00 AM and he should order breakfast.....

item.87463

David Lounsbury

[I] second Ilo V's analysis that floating time zone approach is the incorrect approach. It can work in the few instances where you set up all the appointments in your calendar, but if you receive appointments from systems in other TZs, or subscribe to external calendars (e.g., TripIt for travel scheduling) correct TZ conversion is a must if you want your appointments to show up correctly as you travel.

I've never had problems with timezone conversion, despite a fairly elaborate syncing setup including iCal on my Mac, my iPhone (which auto-adjusts both system and displayed TZs based on location and cell carrier info) and Google Calendar sync via Spanning Sync.

The key is to make sure your system TZ is always set correctly, and that iCal's displayed calendar is showing the TZ you want to set and see your events in - this is usually the same, but I find it sometimes helps to change the display TZ if I am setting up several appointments with someone in a different TZ.

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Roger S. Cohen

Re Scott Rose and RE: Ilo V.

"It sounds like you are saying that, if you turn on the "time zone support" preference even once, you can't ever totally go back to the default "all times are local" mode without manually editing every single event. (I can't test this because if you're right I won't be able to turn it off ... I have too many events to fix them all manually)"

I am running Mac OS 10.4.11 with iCal 2.0.5 (1069).

I turned off/on iCal Time Zone Support, and changed time zones in Date and Time. The times of my appointments, which were set in Eastern Time, all shifted to the new time zone, and then returned to their original times when I set the Date/Time back to Eastern.

Scott Rose said that did not happen. It worked for me.

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John Konopka

I totally agree with [Scott Rose's] comment. Time zone support in iCal is very poor. I always make sure to select floating time zone for most events when I'm traveling. However, after I arrive and reset the time zone then I have to recreate anything with an alarm. I've had problems with alarms after changing time zones. Further, iCal in Leopard was a step back from that in Tiger. It used to be that when you changed time zones iCal would ask if you wanted to change time zones there as well. Now you have to remember to do that. The whole issue of notes and times also got worse. I liked the side panel much better.

item.87471

John Antolak

I think Scott is being a little too dramatic. The program is behaving in a perfectly rational manner. He almost missed his flight because of a data entry error. I don't manually add flight information to my calendar. The airline web site makes it available as a download into my calendar. Meeting invitations get sent by email and added to my calendar automatically. Doing these things (and more) without an idea of the time zone would be very difficult to do accurately.

I like to think of it this way. If what I enter into the calendar belongs in a certain place, then the time zone of that place belongs with the event. If the event is something that happens at the same time each day (wake up at 5 am) and does not depend on where you are, then floating time zone is appropriate. However, if you think about the types of things entered into calendars, very little of it is truly floating.

Having a default behavior of using the local time zone is quite reasonable. After all, most of what you enter into you calendar will be for locations in your local time zone.

Feb. 23, 2009

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Philip Jones

An interesting and educational discussion on time zones in iCal. As usual, I am learning a lot. My question is: does any of this time zone configuration information have implications for the iPhone? For instance, does the iPhone know which time zone I'm in and shift appointments accordingly?

item.87515

Antonio Tejada

Nobody asked, but I will add one more thing to the time zone issues discussion: iPhone wonkiness. I hope the solution saves someone else from pulling their hair out!

I just moved from Maryland to Switzerland, and when I arrived here, I dutifully changed my system, iCal, and iPhone time zones from Baltimore to Zurich.

Just one problem happened: the iPhone was showing the correct clock and date, but all appointments were off by 6 hours (the time difference between Baltimore and Zurich). I restored, toggled the time zones back and forth, re-synced from MobileMe, all to no avail.

Then I turned Time Zone Support in the iPhone off altogether, and I noticed that when I did that, for the briefest of moments, the iPhone's time zone city flashed "Baltimore" before showing the grayed-out "Zurich". Ah ha! It said Zurich, but it was still thinking Baltimore.

Turning time zone support off, and then back on, and then setting Zurich again, made Zurich "take", and now it works perfectly. Just remember to assign the correct time zone to your appointments in iCal!

item.87510

Marc Heusser

What is the recommended procedure and settings to deal with daylight saving time? I have had errors there several times, shifting appointments by one hour to my embarassment. It happened when I had entered an appointment while we still had standard time for a period with daylight saving time. Any tips most welcome (using the latest Mac OS X 10.5.6 including all updates of iCal, together with an iPhone 3G with the latest 2.2.1 software if that matters).

item.87522

Bernard Harte

Turning off time zone support in iCal only removes the time zone shown at the top right of the main window. It does not remove time zone data from events.

Choosing a current time zone in the Date & Time pref pane is using half the intended functionality. Consequently iCal - which conforms to the iCalendar standard (it's not something Apple dreamed-up) - accurately reflects this change in its display.

Those who dislike the way iCal works would be best to change the time on their computer manually - instead of relying on network time syncing - and leaving the time zone alone.

Mr Rose's hyperbole is rendered somewhat less credible when one refers to his Apple Discussions post on this very subject in September 2008:
 http://discussions.apple.com/message.jspa?messageID=8559830#8559830

I get on just fine with iCal as it is - and, yes, I do travel. Frequently.

item.87528

Roger S. Cohen

I wonder what happens if you add a new calendar event in iPhone, and then change time zones. iPhone iCal does not have a time zone setting per event. It only has Time Zone Support for the phone.

Let's say you're in Phoenix, and add an iPhone event that starts at 10 am MT local time (1 pm ET). Then you sync to iCal on the Mac, which is set to MT because you and the Mac are in Phoenix.

Then you fly to NY, and set your Mac to ET. The Mac iCal event now appears as 1 pm because iCal Mac has Time Zone Support enabled.

Separately, iPhone automatically changes back to ET. What does the iPhone calendar show for that event (before you sync to the Mac) -- 10 am or 1 pm?

item.87539

Will Hammond

I couldn't agree more with [Scott Rose's] comments. This has got to be one of the most idiotic ways of setting up a calendar I have ever dealt with. Where I travel nearly every week, it makes using iCal impossible. It is one of the only reasons I still use Palm Desktop (the old Claris Organizer) and a Palm Treo instead of an iPhone.

If I am in Kansas City and set an appointment that I am attending at 4:00pm in Seattle, my alarm goes off at 2:00pm when I am in Seattle? What idiot set this as the default? I have repeatedly emailed Apple about this and can only imagine the sea of blank faces staring at my queries there as I have never had a single reply. I too have been able to get support to work.

Feb. 24, 2009

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Gene Cowan

Re: Timezones in iCal

I'm really perplexed by this thread of complaints, as I've never had any trouble with iCal's time zone support.

When Time Zone Support is enabled and you create an event, simply tell iCal what time zone the event takes place in. That's all I've ever had to do to get the times correct.

This applies to the iPhone as well. Under Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars, scroll to the bottom and tell iPhone your current location under Time Zone Support. This doesn't seem to automatically update as you travel.

Feb. 25, 2009

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Will Hammond

Gene Cowan posted:

I'm really perplexed by this thread of complaints, as I've never had any trouble with iCal's time zone support. When Time Zone Support is enabled and you create an event, simply tell iCal what time zone the event takes place in. That's all I've ever had to do to get the times correct.

Gene, different people use appointments different things. For me the issue is that if I teach a class each day with 5 sessions for example (I'm a software trainer and do seminars all over the world), I can't set a repeating alarm if I travel. If I have breaks at the same time every day I have to reset the things for each session and break each day. It is not unusual for me to be in 3-4 time zones in a week and it is 3-4 times the work if I have to reset the alarms for each time zone.

At very least there should be an easy way to set a time zone independent (tied to the local time zone you are actually in when the event takes place) event as well as a time zone dependent event. It appears, from what I am reading, that you can't have both or even the former in iCal but I can and do have the former in Palm Desktop.

Regards

item.87638

MacInTouch Reader

So, if you use iCal and have an iPhone "all you have to do" to get your appointments to show at the correct time when you're traveling is:

(1) turn on time zone support in iCal
(2) turn on time zone support on the iPhone
(3) remember to schedule the appointments in the time zone of the city where the appointment takes place, using the time zone drop-down menu in iCal... except you can't do that on the iPhone, so in that case you'll have to calculate the time difference relative to the iPhone's current time zone
(4) remember to set iCal to the current time zone, because it doesn't automatically adjust to the Mac's time preference setting
(5) remember to set your iPhone to the current time zone when you're traveling.

Come on! Those of you who say they haven't had any trouble are being disingenuous.

In Entourage, the calendar would automatically chase the Mac's time so I didn't have to worry about forgetting to reset the time zone for both the calendar and the computer... and now my iPhone.

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Jeremy Roberts

re: Gene Cowan - Timezones in iCal

When Time Zone Support is enabled and you create an event, simply tell iCal what time zone the event takes place in. That's all I've ever had to do to get the times correct.

No. No. No. That's simply not intuitive!

Let's say time zone support is off. You enter your flight from New York to LA on Monday, and then the return flight on Thursday. While in LA, you change date&time's timezone pref to PST, so that your system clock shows the local time. Unfortunately, now your iCal events display PST time now, not the time you entered.

The default for this should be whatever time is entered is the displayed time, regardless of the local time zone in date & time.

I doubt that many of us are scheduling events in other time zones. Most users only care about where they are, right now, and what time is it right now, where they are.

iCal events must be independent of date & time local time zone. That is, you should be able to put your computer anywhere in the world, but iCal will be on "your computer's" local time, regardless of time zone.

This *totally* throws me when I travel... Add the Mobileme sync w/ iPhone, and it's always a mess.

Here's a real-world version of why this doesn't work:

While in NY, I entered an event for Feb 28, 8pm (which will take place in NY). I traveled to Denver, and while in Denver on Feb 19, I scanned my future events in the iPhone, and it thinks my Feb 28 8pm event is at 6pm. Dumbass iPhone. It should *always* think local time, regardless of where I physically am.

This reeks of geek.

Apple, simplify please?

Feb. 26, 2009

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Kikjou Delatour

To Jeremy Roberts:
Let me give you an example of where this correct way of time zone support comes in handy: Let's assume that you have phone conference at 11 am in New York and then you travel to Los Angeles where you set your computer to local time. Now you will get a reminder for that phone conference at 8 am. Which is the time when this conference actually happens. The way you propose it, you would have had a reminder at 11 am L.A. time and you would have missed your meeting.

If you want it your way, simply don't change the computer's time when you travel. There are lots of people who don't set their wristwatches, so why not doing the same for your computer?

item.87799

Paul Mireault

First of all, managing time zones is not an easy topic. So, the definition of user-friendly is different whether your are an occasional user or a regular traveller. User friendly for the occasional traveller means giving priority to setting events in the user's usual time zone. For the regular traveller, it means letting the user specify the time zone of the event.

For the anonymous MacInTouch Reader who finds that 5 steps are ridiculous, let me say that steps 3-5 are natural actions for those who travel often, and steps 1 and 2 need to be done only once.

Jeremy Roberts writes:

"While in NY, I entered an event for Feb 28, 8pm (which will take place in NY). I traveled to Denver, and while in Denver on Feb 19, I scanned my future events in the iPhone, and it thinks my Feb 28 8pm event is at 6pm. Dumbass iPhone. "

I wouldn't insult an inanimate object. Personally, I find this to be the perfect behaviour: that 8pm event in NY really happens at 6pm in Denver time.

It seems to me Apple chose to implement the best way to manage time zones for regular travellers. Unfortunately, it leaves occasional travellers with a complicated interface.

I travel occasionally, so I'm probably an in-between user. But since I change the time zone on my phone, I need to record events in the appropriate time zone: I take the time to do it, and I find it works well.

I learned, in this topic, about "floating time zone", which takes care of events happening at a specific time, regardless of the time zone, like wake-up time. This is great as it solves a problem travellers face.

Apple, don't change anything.

Feb. 27, 2009

item.87821

Jack Barse

Paul Mireault and Kikjou Delatour summarized my own thoughts about this complex topic perfectly. I'd add only a couple of comments.

First, to the anonymous '5 step' reader, it is entirely possible to specify the time zone for a given event in the iPhone, but it's not as simple as in iCal on a Mac. Assuming one has Time Zone Support turned on, specify the time zone for your new event in the Time Zone Support prefs. Then create the entry, then switch your time zone back to the one you prefer. Apple could make this MUCH simpler by adding a Time Zone field to the event creation screen, much the same way iCal works.

Following on that thought, the iPhone has an option to automatically adjust the calendar times to the time zone set by the cellular network. You have to turn OFF Time Zone Support to get that to work. In that case, absent a Time Zone field in the event creation screen, setting an event to a given time zone while using this feature seems impossible without editing the event either with TZS turned back on or on a synced Mac.

Second, to Will Hammond, who wants to set class sessions and breaks that will stick at the specified time regardless of time zone, that's exactly what the 'floating' time zone will do. So you can, in fact, have time zone dependent and time zone independent events in the same calendar.

In addition to adding a time zone field to the iPhone event creation screen, I hope Apple considers allowing those of us who use TZS to have a change in the system time zone automatically reflected in iCal. Finally, I hope Apple will reconsider the name 'Time Zone Support' for this feature. As evidenced by this VERY interesting and useful discussion 'Support' apparently connotes different things to different people. 'Time Zone Control' or some such might be a better handle.

item.87824

Ed Stockly

There seems to be some confusion over how iCal functions and what iCal's Time Zone Preference does.

Since iCal uses the system clock for everything and the system clock is set to GMT, when you schedule an event, iCal converts the local time set in your preferences to GMT and stores the event to GMT. When you travel, and change your Time Zone in the date and clock preferences, that doesn't change your system clock, it's still set on GMT, it only changes how the time is displayed on your mac.

When the zero hour for your event arrives (in GMT) iCal will trigger whatever alert you have set, no matter what time is displayed on the mac or in iCal.

The Time Zone Support preference in iCal puts a pop-up menu in the top right corner of the iCal window making it easy and convenient to view and set your events in a different time zone.

That's all Time Zone Support does. It does not change any other behavior of iCal or affect how events are tracked or displayed. It's just the menu, nothing more, and it only changes the time displayed in that window, it doesn't change the time zone for any other app.

To use it, if you have a flight, set the Time Zone Preference pop-up for the departure city's time zone,
then enter the time, then set the pop-up preference to the arrival city's time zone, enter the local arrival time as provided by the airline, and you are done.

The key to making iCal work the way it is intended is to remember to enter every event at the time it will actually occur. (This is true for Enourage and nearly every other calendar/scheduling application.

If you're in New York and you're scheduling an iCal event a Los Angeles event make sure either you do the math first, or use time zone support. You can also use time zone support to verify that the correct times have been entered.

Rest assured that your reminders etc. will be triggered at the time stored on your mac system clock, no matter what time zone your system preference is set to or what time zone iCal is displaying.

Feb. 28, 2009

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David Krafchick

I have read this and finally went to iCal and put in time zone and got this expanation from Help:

1. Choose iCal > Preferences, click Advanced, and select the "Turn on time zone support" checkbox.

2. In the main calendar view, select the event and click the Info button in the bottom-right corner of the iCal window.

In Day or Week view, you can also double-click the bar along the top of the event (where its start time appears).

3. To change the event's time zone, choose a time zone from the pop-up menu in the Info drawer. To make the event appear at the same time no matter what time zone the main calendar view is in, choose Floating.

To choose a location that isn't listed in the menu, choose Other. Click the approximate location for your time zone on the map, and then choose a time zone from the pop-up menu that appears.

The event's time zone affects where it appears on the calendar. For example, if the iCal time zone is set to San Francisco, California, and you create a lunch event at noon and then set its time zone to Paris, France, the event will move nine hours back in the main calendar view. When you travel to Paris and change the iCal time zone to Paris, the event will appear at noon again.

This seems straightforward. I cannot speak to the iPhone issue, but it seems to me that this feature has not been really noticed and if you set it starting with the following month, things might only make sense, but work as your move around the country and the world. Think forward.

Mar. 2, 2009

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Ed Stockly

Re:

3. To change the event's time zone, choose a time zone from the pop-up menu in the Info drawer. To make the event appear at the same time no matter what time zone the main calendar view is in, choose Floating.

I would be very careful using the floating time zone for events like meetings or flights. It's more suited for things like birthdays or anniversary reminders, things more associated with a date than a location.

If you want to wake up at 7 am local time no matter what time zone you're in, use floating to set the alarm.

If you want to be reminded to call home at 7 am in your home town's time zone, schedule the alarm using the that time zone.

item.88025

Will Hammond

Okay, after going back over every post in this thread, I had clearly missed something. A "floating time zone" event is exactly what I want to create for the type of events I usually do.

This is why I like these Reader Reports, most of you are far more clever than I am :-)

Your point has been made, noted and accepted. Thanks so much for the help!

item.88039

Robert DeVoe

Ed Stockly wrote

"To change the event's time zone, choose a time zone from the pop-up menu in the Info drawer".

I seem to have missed something: where is the Info drawer?

Mar. 3, 2009

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Colleen Thompson

Robert DeVoe asked where the "info drawer" is re this clip from iCal Help:

"To change the event's time zone, choose a time zone from the pop-up menu in the Info drawer".

I think that's in Tiger and earlier. I'm not going to turn on TZ Support to check it out (I never go anywhere, sigh), but if you have Leopard, look in the lovely detail-editing balloon for any event.

Handy shortcut for those of us who loathe mousing: command-E opens the edit balloon, Escape saves and closes it.

item.88065

Simon Wagstaff

Re:

"To change the event's time zone, choose a time zone from the pop-up menu in the Info drawer".

I seem to have missed something: where is the Info drawer?

It's in iCal 2, but not iCal 3. The equivalent in iCal 3 is the cute lil' gray balloon that pops up when you select an event and then Edit > Edit Event. (Tip: you can drag the gray balloon around like a window.)

item.88070

Mike Kobb

Beware one caveat with floating time zones, though: They're not supported by MobileMe! I've reported this issue to Apple, but I was quite disappointed to find that a number of floating events that I had created were showing up at the wrong on me.com after I sync'd my calendars.

Mar. 31, 2009

item.89848

Andy Law

Following on from the discussion on timezones, I've just nearly been bitten by a different but clearly related issue.

I haven't travelled anywhere. I'm still sitting at my desk. Yet today at 10:45 am, an iCal alert popped up reminding me about a meeting I was supposed to be attending at 10:00 am. So what happened?

Well, on Sunday morning we switched from GMT to BST (British Summer Time === Daylight Saving Time) and the clocks went forward an hour. My system clock reset automatically. iCal displays the current time bar at the correct time. But it seems to store alerts relative to the time settings in effect when the event was created.

I have done nothing fancy with this system - it is a bog-standard default configured machine as far as I can tell.

Fortunately, I remembered the meeting 'manually' and was there on time. Others may not be so lucky.

Apr. 1, 2009

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Mark S

The Americans in their wisdom felt they could get more out of DST daylight savings time by creating their own start and end dates -- this may have something to do with your hiccup.

Just my guess . . .

Apr. 2, 2009

item.89927

Steven Wicinski

Regarding Mark S and the Americans change of DST, we recently changed our dates. However, the previous start time would not have occurred until this coming Sunday. Thus they were already different.

So I doubt that specifically had anything to do with it. It more likely is the same issue users have when changing timezones.

Apr. 8, 2009

item.90198

Roger S. Cohen

Following up to our discussion of confusing time zones in iCal, here's a new wrinkle.

I'm taking a flight from Newark to Phoenix, leaving at 10 AM EDT, and arriving 12:31 PM MDT. I have the times loaded as EDT, since that is when I am leaving. But when I arrive in PHX, and switch the Mac and iPhone to local (MDT) time, the arrival time will be wrong.

I will return PHX -> EWR leaving PHX at 3:05 PM MDT, arriving EWR 10:47 PM EDT. But iCal shows me arriving at 1:47 am EDT (next day).

There should be some way to split take-off and arrival times, so that they are each shown in the proper time zone.

May. 22, 2009

item.92666

MacInTouch Reader

I cannot believe that any frequent traveller would be happy with the way iCal manages time zones. When I look at my calendar before a trip to Singapore I don't want to see the times of my Singapore appointments in PDT. It doesn't make any sense. Not only is the time of day completely off, most of them will actually appear on the wrong day!

Yes, I realize it will all sort itself out once I get there and change the time zone of my computer. But I'd like to know ahead of time whether a particular meeting is on Tuesday or Wednesday - or whether I am flying back on Thursday or Friday.

I realize that some like iCal as it is. That's fine. What is not fine is that iCal doesn't even offer the option of being time zone neutral - like a paper calendar - which is what I and many others would personally prefer.

May. 23, 2009

item.92688

MacInTouch Reader

I am an airline pilot and travel between North America and Asia three times a month and love the Time Zone support in iCal. But that's me.

Here are some options you may not have explored...

What is not fine is that iCal doesn't even offer the option of being time zone neutral - like a paper calendar - which is what I and many others would personally prefer.

You can turn off Time Zone support in iCal's Preferences which will make it, as you say, 'time zone neutral'.

OR

When I look at my calendar before a trip to Singapore I don't want to see the times of my Singapore appointments in PDT.

If you have Time Zone support enabled in iCal's preferemces, you can temporarily and quickly change the Time Zone in iCal by using the pull down menu in the top right corner of an iCal window. There you can specify presets to the Time Zones you frequently use. That way, you can see your Singapore appointments in Singapore time.

item.92709

Aaron Walker

iCal's Preferences have an option on the Advanced section called "Turn on time zone support". I believe that disabling this option might give the reader who wanted a "time zone neutral" option what he or she is looking for.

You can also use the time zone drop down menu in the upper right hand corner of the iCal window to change the time zone you are viewing, so that you can easily switch to a remote time zone before a trip and see the events in their native time zone.

item.92712

Ilo V.

Re:

"What is not fine is that iCal doesn't even offer the option of being time zone neutral - like a paper calendar - which is what I and many others would personally prefer."

iCal actually does offer this. My iCal has no concept of time zones. I enter everything into it under the concept that "all times are local" My Monday morning meeting in Taipei shows up on the calendar as occuring on Monday morning even when I am in Chicago.

My understanding, however, is that if you ever ever ever enable time zone support, even for a moment, you can never get back to the time zone agnostic "all times are local" configuration. That, I agree, is "not fine."

I haven't tested this, because I'm afraid I won't be able to get back to my desired configuration. Maybe there is a way to delete everything including preferences and start over?

item.92716

kikjou Delatour

To MacInTouch Reader who complains about seeing his Singapore appointments in PDT:

SImply set your Singapore appointment to Singapore time. You can do this before you create an appointment by setting the time zone of iCal to Singapore (in the upper right corner of the window) or after you have created an appointment in PDT by selecting Get Info and changing the time zone underneath the time. iCal works as predicted. It cannot guess what time zone your appointment is in. Therefore, for any new appointment, it uses the time zone that is currently selected for iCal or, if this is not specified, the one set for your computer. Pretty easy and straightforward, I would say.

item.92722

Robert Rosenberg

iCal is *already* Time Zone Neutral (at least in 10.5.x - I've not checked 10.4.x). If you create the event and then go Edit Event you are presented with a window that lists the time zone (among other info). Click on that entry and select OTHER and then click on the Map to select the correct time zone. Now reset the time/date for your foreign location and it will show the event in the correct date window for your *current* Computer set location. When you reset your location I assume that it will then redisplay the calender with the correct date box.

item.92723

Graham Nealon

Go to the Preferences in iCal and make sure the 'Turn on time zone support' box is checked in the Advanced tab. That displays a dropdown menu in the top-right of the iCal screen. Use that to show events in the local time for a selected region. Make sure your events have the correct timezone added and they will display in local time for whatever timezone you select from the menu.

item.92726

Drew Colace

Regarding time zones in iCal, have you gone into iCal's preferences and enabled time zone support? This allows you to not only set the time zone of the calendar, but you can also select disparate time zones for each of your events. And if you want the entry to not be affected by time zones, I believe you can assign it a "floating time zone" for that purpose.

item.92728

Roger S. Cohen

Reader states:

"I realize that some like iCal as it is. That's fine. What is not fine is that iCal doesn't even offer the option of being time zone neutral - like a paper calendar - which is what I and many others would personally prefer."

iCal does offer that option. Change the time zone of the meeting to "Floating."

For example, if you always got out of bed at 8 am, regardless of the time zone, you would set an 8 am calendar event in the Floating time zone -- 8 am in any time zone.

item.92731

Alan Goldberg

Don't know if I misunderstand your last sentence, but wouldn't turning off Time Zone support in the advanced tab of iCal give you the equivalent of a paper diary?

item.92735

Prashant Joshi

Re:

I cannot believe that any frequent traveller would be happy with the way iCal manages time zones. When I look at my calendar before a trip to Singapore I don't want to see the times of my Singapore appointments in PDT. It doesn't make any sense. Not only is the time of day completely off, most of them will actually appear on the wrong day!
Yes, I realize it will all sort itself out once I get there and change the time zone of my computer. But I'd like to know ahead of time whether a particular meeting is on Tuesday or Wednesday - or whether I am flying back on Thursday or Friday. I realize that some like iCal as it is. That's fine. What is not fine is that iCal doesn't even offer the option of being time zone neutral - like a paper calendar - which is what I and many others would personally prefer.

I believe there is a way to get iCal to do what you want. In iCal preferences, under the Advanced "tab," there is a checkbox called "Turn on time zone support." Check it.

When you put in your appointments, always put them in as if they are in your home time zone. When you go to Singapore, in the Date/Time System Preference, change to Singapore. But in iCal, at the top right hand of the display window, use the drop down to tell iCal to display the appointment times as if they are in your home time zone.

I know that is a circuitous and non-intuitive way to do it, but I've just been fiddling with iCal and that seems to work.

Of course the downside of this is that, say if you need to conference call your colleagues back home during one of their meetings and need to know when that meeting is relative to what time it is in Singapore, it won't work.

item.92738

Ed Stockly

Wow, Lots of misinformation and confusion here.

As several others have pointed out turning Time Zone Support ON is the best solution.

Check out this topic in iCal help:

"Viewing all your events in a different time zone"

Here's some clarification:

"You can turn off Time Zone support in iCal's Preferences which will make it, as you say, 'time zone neutral'."

That's not the case. With TZS off iCal will always and only display event using whatever time zone your system clock is set to.


"My understanding, however, is that if you ever ever ever enable time zone support, even for a moment, you can never get back to the time zone agnostic "all times are local" configuration."

First, there is no "all times are local" configuration. It's either 'all times are in sync with the system clock' or 'time zone support', and you can turn TZS on and off at will and it will not change the way dates are stored or displayed when it is off.


"Of course the downside of this is that, say if you need to conference call your colleagues back home during one of their meetings and need to know when that meeting is relative to what time it is in Singapore, it won't work."

Actually it will work. In the iCal window, select the Singapore time zone, note the time, then select the home time zone and note that time. Takes 3 seconds.

One last note, as discussed here previously, iCal stores events using the system clock which is set to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). When you specify your location in the system preferences your mac determines the time zone, calculates the time difference between you and GMT and uses that to display the time in all the various places time is used on the Mac.

When you use TMS in iCal, it calculates the correct time for the time zone selected, no matter what time zone the mac is set to display.

It's not intuitive, it could be documented better, but once you get used to it, it works really well.

Hope this helps.

item.92741

Mike Kobb

If you're creating your own appointments in iCal, you can set their time zone to "floating", which means that they'll show up at (say) 9:00 no matter what time zone you're in.

Be warned, though: MobileMe does not support floating time zone events, and the behavior when syncing a floating event to MobileMe is seemingly undefined.

May. 25, 2009

item.92762

Colleen Thompson

Re:

"Be warned, though: MobileMe does not support floating time zone events, and the behavior when syncing a floating event to MobileMe is seemingly undefined."

So if you're cloud syncing to your iPhone (not using a USB cable), what happens on the phone?

item.92804

Kunio Mitsuma

I just returned from a 2-week stay in Tokyo.

During my trip, I used iCal's Time Zone Support extensively along with the "floating" option in creating some events. As I travel to various parts of the world, the Time Zone Support is a god-send to me.

I want to thank Mike Kobb for pointing out the shortcoming of MobileMe. I did not know its handling (or lack thereof) of "floating".

May. 26, 2009

item.92790

MacInTouch Reader

Keep a couple things straight and this should all make sense.

1) The time on your Mac is always relative to a time zone as set in system preferences.

2) The time of an event on iCal can be relative to one of two things a) The time on your system clock (a "floating" time zone) or b) The time in a specified time zone.

3) Without turning on the "Enable Time Zone Support" option all events will be relative to your system clock. (ie "floating").

4) Events can be of 2 types a) Occur at an absolute time (eg a meeting at 8 AM in Tokyo) or b) Occur at a time of day no matter where you are.

If you create an event for 8 AM with a floating time zone it will "occur" at when your system clock reads 8 AM. That's fine for something like "wake up" but probably not for a meeting planned to occur in a different time zone from where you were when you created the event.

Consider these scenarios:
A) You set a meeting to occur at 8 AM with a floating time zone. You get on a plane and go to the new time zone. When you get there you change the time zone of your computer. 8 AM rolls around and the meeting alert pops up. - Great - it worked.

B) Repeat A but forget to change the time & zone of your system clock when you arrive. Now the alert will pop up at 8 AM in the old (wrong) time zone - oops.

C) Repeat A but this time you enable time zone support in iCal and set the meeting time zone to the one where it's going to happen. You get to the new time zone, set the new time for your system clock and the alert will pop up at 8 AM in the local time zone - correct.

D) Repeat C but forget to set the time zone when you arrive and you'll get the same result as B - another oops.

So why enable time zone support?

Because the only thing you have to remember is to set the time zone wherever you are. All events will then occur at the correct time. For example - you have a meeting set to occur at 8 AM Tokyo time which you plan to attend. At the last minute plans change and you can't travel but you want to telecon in to the meeting. The alert for the meeting will show at the right time no matter where you are (as long as you set the time zone of your system clock)

On the other hand if you only travel to one place and always remember to set the time zone when you arrive floating events will appear at the correct time.

The only thing I don't know is what happens to events that were originally created with time zone support and then you turn that off in iCal.

item.92824

Julian Miller [Script Software]

A surprisingly simple but useful piece of shareware for seeing time zones at a glance is iClock Pro, which replaces Apple's menubar clock with something much more powerful.

It's good for world travelers, world internet surfing, business people and those who have family in different parts of the world.

iClock Pro displays time zones, cities that you choose, alarms, timers, time and date in menubar, moon phases, app menu, countdown or countup to events, calendars, to do lists, and many other things that help you with time.

Very handy and absolutely essential Mac utility.

[This software is published by Julian's company, Script Software. -MacInTouch]

May. 27, 2009

item.92847

Adam Rice

While iCal does support time zones, I've found a disappointing quirk with the iPhone's support for time zone-specific events.

I recently took an airplane trip that crossed time zones, and entered my flight information into iCal on my Mac, giving the times and time zones local to each departure (I'll overlook the fact that start and end times for an event, such as a flight, cannot be specified in different time zones the way airlines do, as that's really an edge case). I then sync'd my iPhone to my Mac. Somewhat to my dismay, I discovered that the times for my return trip were off by the difference between my home time zone and destination time zone. It was as if the time zone information did not carry over when I sync'd.

item.92864

MacInTouch Reader

Regarding Julian Miller's enthusiastic recommendation of iClock Pro; it should be noted that Mr. Miller is the founder of Script Software, the maker of the aforementioned iClock Pro. It's important that this connection is made clear.

I have no connection to Script Software or any other software companies. In fact, in the past I have been a happy user of CopyPaste Pro, another Script Software offering.

item.92875

MacInTouch Reader

Adam Rice mentions that entering an event that spans time zones, such as an airline flight, is an edge case. It's not an edge case at all. Millions of people fly every single day and usually on trips that span time zones, since shorter trips are not worth the hassles at airports anymore.

May. 28, 2009

item.92906

David Ballenger

Re MacInTouch Reader's point 1 and examples C & D:

1) The time on your Mac is always relative to a time zone as set in system preferences.

First, time is "displayed" relative to the time zone set in system preferences, but it is stored and tracked in UTC / GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) regardless of the time zone setting. I think this misunderstanding leads to the confusion about D below:

C) Repeat A but this time you enable time zone support in iCal and set the meeting time zone to the one where it's going to happen. You get to the new time zone, set the new time for your system clock and the alert will pop up at 8 AM in the local time zone - correct.

D) Repeat C but forget to set the time zone when you arrive and you'll get the same result as B - another oops.

With time zone support enabled if you specify an event to occur at 8AM in, say PST, and have a alert for it set to occur at that time, then the alert will pop up when it is 8AM PST, regardless of what time zone you tell the computer it is in. So D would not be an "oops". If your computer is currently set for EST, then the alert will pop up when your computer says 11AM (EST), but that is also 8AM PST.

item.92912

Mark B

Floating Timezones (per rfc2445) would fit the bill nicely. Set an event for 08:00am, and it's 08:00am no matter which time zone one happens to be in. iCal has some floating TZ bugs (print a monthly calendar and events with floating TZ show with a start time of "[...]"). Floating TZ's also don't play well with MobileMe/iPhones:

http://support.apple.com/kb/TS2583

item.92913

Paul Mireault

As I mentioned some time ago, dealing with time zones is never easy. Occasional travelers don't have the same needs as frequent travelers. The key to understanding what to do is to understand that all "moments" are stored as a UTC time (formerly called GMT). Then, the display is adjusted to the desired time zone. This is the most flexible way to handle dates and times. To do this, iCal needs to know the time zone you are using when you enter a moment, and it then calculates what it is in UTC. Later, when you change your time zone, it can easily display that moment in your current time zone.

Last year, I travelled from Delhi to Montreal via Amsterdam. Since iCal does not have a different time zone setting for the beginning time and the ending time, this is how I entered my itinerary. While in India, I entered the departure time in IST (India Standard Time) and did not bother with the arrival time. I then changed iCal's time zone to Amsterdam and modified the arrival time to the time shown on my ticket. I also entered the Amsterdam departure time for the second leg of my trip, not bothering with the arrival time. Finally, I changed iCal's time zone to Montreal and modified the arrival time to what was shown on my ticket. Doing this, the "duration" of each flight was correct. During the trip, I changed my time zone twice and saw the events at the proper local time.

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