With over 100 million people having access to handheld calendars on a daily bases, it’s a wonder that less than 1% of those users regularly attend to them. Even more so, calendar users routinely navigate to a web based calendar without ever giving a second thought to the highly efficient subscribe buttons.

Today’s your chance to learn what that ‘subscribe’ button does, how to subscribe to our calendars, and how to alleviate the failure from loading a desktop built subscribe button!

Subscribe vs. Import

Let’s be clear, there is a big difference between subscribing and importing a calendar feed or list of events. When you subscribe to a calendar, your device should stay up to date with a dynamic list of all the events on that calendar. If a user changes a date, time or detail, the event shown in a subscription should get that update on your device too.  Similarly, if an event is added or remove, the changes should show also appear on your device. Don’t worry, on most mobile devices you’re provided the option to create a new calendar for adding the events to, just in case you decide you want to remove them, you won’t have to worry about removing your personal events too!

Now if you were to import that same calendar, you’ll instead get a one time list of events with their static details. If an event changes, is deleted, or is added to that calendar, you’ll still be stuck with the original details from the time of the import. This can mean you’ll be attending events that don’t exist, or missing events that you would like to have attended.

In short, an import is static, while a subscription is dynamic.

Imports can be useful, time-period scenarios may occur where you want the events currently loaded to the calendar and you don’t want the next push of events (next year, month, season, etc). You can simply import events to a calendar on your device and not worry about removing as no more events will be added, nor have to bother with managing a new calendar. Note: Android utilizes the URL of the import feature to setup Google Calendar subscriptions.

Subscribing To Calendars

Now’s a great time to load up your favorite web calendar and give a subscription a shot. Depending on the site you choose, the subscribe button will either let you choose from a list of calendars to subscribe to, or more commonly directly attempt to subscribe you to a single calendar.

Here come’s the nitty gritty, skip to the next paragraph if you’re not wanting technical jargon: depending on the intended use of the calendar, the developer may have chosen to provide either a button to a “https://” link, a button to a “webcal://” link or the URL for you to copy with manual instructions for you to subscribe.

  • WEBCAL links, while not supported by Android, prompt you to launch a calendar client, then attempts to add the calendar as a subscription for you.
  • HTTPs links will generally download an ICS file that users can open, or import, with a Calendar client. This will import events to your calendar.
  • URLs to the calendar’s originating ICS can be used to manually subscribe to a calendar on a device or operating system does not support WEBCAL (Android). They’re typically the same as the HTTPs link. Android users can subscribe by copying the link, adding it to your Google Account via the Google Calendar web page.

The First Academy Subscription page has conveniently added all methods. If we think your device supports the click to add method (webcal) you’ll see subscriptions; whereas, if we think your device will flop on subscriptions you’ll see the import, with instructions for how to add it manually.

Not Loading? Try these steps.

If you’re experiencing a calendar that finishes loading to a white screen or a message about not being able to handle the request. Try going back to the previous page with the link. ‘Right click’ or hold your finger over the link for a prompt that allows you to ‘Copy Link As’. Then, ‘Right click’ and ‘Paste’ what you’ve just copied into a textbox or program such as word that will allow you to read the results.

If you’re seeing an address starting with ‘webcal://’, replace the ‘webcal://’ with ‘https://’, then copy your new text, launch your favorite calendar client or viewer (Outlook/Calendar/Thunderbird, etc.), and select ‘File’ then ‘Add Calendar’ or the ‘Add Account’ prompt. For Android, login to your Google Account from the Google Calendar page and add it to your list of calendars there. Likewise, if the original address was ‘https://’ attempt to swap it to ‘webcal://’ and simply paste it into the URL bar of your favorite modern web browser. Still no success? It’s probable that the calendar URL has been changed or deleted. Try contacting their webmaster, they probably don’t realize the link is broken.

Let us know other troubleshooting steps that have helped you achieve calendaring success in the comments below.