Subscribe to online calendars and access them in Outlook for Mac

Online calendars are a popular way to share schedules with many people across different platforms and applications. However, Outlook for Mac doesn’t support directly subscribing to online calendars because it doesn’t support iCalendar, the protocol needed for subscribing to these calendars.

Exchange and Office 365 do support calendar subscriptions to some online services using a webcal:// URI (similar to http://or ftp://) to access online iCalendar files. And they can act as a proxy to connect to shared calendars, feeding those into Outlook for Mac.

Locate an online calendar

Major league, minor league, college and other sports institutions make heavy use of online calendars to publish their schedules. Note that while most may provide a webcal URL, those don’t all work with Exchange or Office 365. Finding a team schedule that’s compatible may take some trial and error.

The official National Hockey League (NHL) website offers schedules in multiple formats when searching Google for “subscribe Minnesota Wild calendar”. While it does offer a webcal link for the Wild’s 2014-2015 season, the link doesn’t work when added to Office 365. Further down in the Google search result is a link for the Wild schedule on iCalShare.com. This does offer Office 365 compatible calendars.

Minnesota Wild schedule on iCalShare.com

The Google search goes directly to the subscribe page. Hovering the cursor over the Subscribe To Calendar button displays a webcal URI provided by Yahoo! Sports: webcal://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/teams/min/ical.ics. Right-click or Control-click the Subscribe To Calendar button and choose Copy Link.

Add the online calendar to Office 365

Office 365 mail services use Microsoft Exchange. The web version of Exchange is called Outlook Web Apps (OWA). (This is not Outlook.com, which doesn’t support syncing calendars with Outlook 15.)

Log in to OWA at https://outlook.office365.com and click the Calendar button at the top of the screen.

OWA Calendar button

Locate and right-click or Control-click Other Calendars in the navigation pane on the left. Choose Open Calendar.

OWA Open Calendar

In the Open Calendar dialog, paste the webcal address into the Internet Calendar field and click the Open button.

OWA Open Internet Calendar

Within a few seconds the team’s schedule appears as its own calendar. The events on the new calendar overlay with existing events.

Existing calendar

New calendar

View the subscribed calendar in Outlook for Mac

In Outlook for Mac, open the Calendar view for the Office 365 account. The new calendar with its sports events appears there too. The new calendar actually appears on any device accessing the Office 365 calendar such as mobile phones and tablets (e.g. iPhones and iPads).

Outlook for Mac Wild calendar

Remove the subscribed calendar

This calendar is its own calendar separate from the primary and other calendars. To delete the events just delete the calendar.

In Outlook for Mac, locate and right-click or Control-click the subscribed calendar in the navigation pane on the left. Choose Delete.

Delete subscribed calendar

This removes if from the Exchange account itself and therefore removes it when viewing the account in OWA too.

Good to know

Subscribing to online calendars has some advantages and drawbacks.

Anyone can publish an online calendar that’s accessible using webcal, however, OWA doesn’t read all online calendars. For example, anyone using a free Outlook.com account can create a calendar and publish a weblcal link online and Office 365 users can subscribe to it. Anyone using Apple’s Calendar application with iCloud can also publish a calendar online but Office 365 doesn’t read those. The subscription feature is not 100% implemented in Office 365.

Subscribed calendars are read-only. Changes to a subscribed calendar won’t sync back to the shared calendar. That makes sense for publicly available sports calendars but means an individual cannot share his own calendar and let others modify it.

And changes made to the original calendar aren’t synchronized after subscribing. Subscribing through Office 365 is currently akin to importing a static copy of the events. Ideally, the subscribed calendar would periodically update with changes made to the shared calendar, but again subscriptions are still not fully implemented in Office 365. To update events, delete the subscribed calendar and subscribe again.

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