Editor’s note: While this blog contains relevant information for customizing your SharePoint calendar, we know the platform has undergone upgrades in the past few years. Take a look at our new 2020 blog for updated instructions and key information for setting up your color-coded calendar overlays with SharePoint.
Looking for a way to customize your SharePoint 2010 or SharePoint 2013 for a friendlier user experience? Color-coding events categories can help users easily identify and prioritize information, increase adoption and usage, and can also help SharePoint administrators indicate which events are assigned to certain groups. And, best of all, it’s not difficult to do. (Prefer a video walk-through instead?)
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To get this done efficiently, SharePoint’s built-in calendar overlays are the way to go. There is a small amount of configuration up front, but the process doesn’t require a great deal of time or expert knowledge – all you need is a basic understanding of lists, columns, and custom views.
Detailed instructions follow, but more or less the color coding process just takes four steps.
- Establish your basic information structure – decide on your event categories, then customize the category column in the calendar list.
- Filter the events and create views filtered by those category values.
- Create a blank view where the category filters for a NULL value, set this as the default view.
- Add the calendar overlays.
If you run into any problems, see the troubleshooting tips at the end.
Step 1: Customize category column in the calendar list
First, make sure to set up your event categories correctly. By default, SharePoint provides you with standard categories such as meeting, work hours, business, holiday, etc. You can edit these, adding your own categories and removing unnecessary ones.
- Navigate to the site where the calendar is located.
- Choose “list settings” from the “calendar” tab in the ribbon at the top of the page – you’ll see the standard list setting options, currently in-use content types, columns, and views.
- Find the category column and click. You’ll see the default options above listed in the field entry box, with each value on its own line.
- Add, edit, and delete as necessary to set up your calendar category values.
- Click the save button at the bottom of the page.
Step 2. Create views filtered by category column
Once you have created and saved your event categories, the next step is using them to create custom calendar views. You carry out this step for each category, and you complete it from the same list settings location that you used to access the category column. Scroll down to see the list of existing views for the calendar you’re editing – by default, SharePoint will give you All Items, Calendar and Upcoming Events. (For the purposes of color-coding the calendar, you’ll want to create new views using the calendar view. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often a different starting view is used.)
- When you click the link to create a view, select “calendar” option from “start from an existing view” list.
- Give your new view a name – naming them by event category is typically the best approach.
- Leave the default settings as they are, but in the filter section add a filter to show items when “category” is equal to those you have created.
- Show items when column “category” is equal to “enter your category value here.”
- Click “save” to create the view. If you have calendar events entered already, you’ll see them filtered on the calendar after clicking save.
- Repeat process for each category you’ve created.
If you want to be sure your filters are set up correctly, make sure you’ve created one event for each category. It makes the testing as simple as a quick visual check on the displayed events.
Step 3. Create blank view where the category filters for NULL value
Because of how calendar overlays work in SharePoint, before you can start color coding, you must create one more calendar view.
- Follow the same process for creating your filtered category views, but for this one, leave the category blank.
- Name this view something similar to “All Events,” as you’ll use this view when applying the overlays. (The end result includes all categories.)
- For the filter section, set it up to read “Category – is equal to – “, where the final field is simply left empty.
- Make sure this view is set to be the “default” view. Alternately, you could just modify the original default calendar view with the category settings.
Step 4. Add the calendar overlays
Now you have all your categories established and all your views set up, including an “All Events” view that filters for a null value. To add the calendar overlays, first open the view you just created, where the category filter is empty. (Ultimately, you will create an overlay for each calendar view).
- In the “calendar” tab of the ribbon, click on the button that says “calendar overlays.”
- Click the link for “new calendar” and fill out the available fields. Give your overlay a name (most likely the category) and description, and choose the color.
- Click the “resolve” button – this action searches for calendar views on the site you choose to be used for overlays.
- After clicking the button to resolve the URL, you should see your calendar list and also your newly-created calendar views.
- Repeat these steps to create an overlay for each calendar view.
Each time you create an overlay, you’ll see those events added in the selected color to the calendar. Once you’ve created all the overlays, you should see a nicely color-coded calendar.
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Yes, color-coding a calendar is easy – but you still might run into some issues. Here are a few common scenarios:
- Too many event categories: SharePoint only allows you to create, apply, and color-code 10 calendar overlays.
- URL won’t resolve: If you receive an error message when clicking the “resolve” button during overlay creation, it’s likely related to a missing list on the site, most often the Discussion Board list. The solution is to delete the nonexistent list, but this can’t be done through the normal SharePoint web interface. Instead, open up the site in SharePoint Designer and delete the list. (SPD is free – download here.)
- Duplicate events on your calendar. This happens when you don’t create a calendar view with a filter where the category is blank (see Step Three). If you don’t use this blank calendar view, you are just adding the color-coded events on top of existing calendar events.
Have any questions or issues with the implementation? Leave a note in the comments.
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