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The Trick to Adjusting Dates in iPhoto Calendars

Put yourself in my shoes for a moment. You spent a bunch of time in June designing and laying out a calendar in iPhoto as an anniversary present, complete with photos on the blank dates for each month and birthdays and anniversaries imported from iCal for everyone in your family. It’s gorgeous, your wife loves it, and she wants to give copies of it with a few different events to her relatives for holiday presents. That’s a great idea, so you head off into iPhoto to make the changes and… that’s when your troubles begin.

Although iPhoto makes it fairly easy to create a calendar from scratch, making a near-duplicate of a calendar you’ve already created comes with some gotchas, ranging from losing photos you placed on dates to reimported event text coming in with incorrect styles. But with the process I outline here, you should be able to create a near-duplicate calendar with relatively little fuss.

(You might wonder why I have you duplicating the calendar below, rather than just modifying it. My experience is that it’s always best to work on a copy, just in case something gets messed up, since then you can toss the copy and start again on another copy. It’s also useful to keep finished calendars around in case you discover some days later you want to order another copy.)

Duplicate the Calendar — First off, I assume you to want your second calendar to contain different or additional events, and if you made the original calendar with unusual start and end dates (June 2007 to May 2008, in my case), you need to change the date range too. But don’t blithely modify the date range on your existing calendar, because when you do that, iPhoto removes all the photos you’ve placed in date boxes. Curses! So follow these steps to reduce the effort of remembering which photos go where:

  1. Select your calendar in the Source pane’s Projects list, choose File > Print, and in the Print dialog, click Preview. This causes iPhoto to create a PDF and display it in Preview; you’ll need this PDF to refer to as you replace photos in Step 4. Obviously, if you have the paper copy of the calendar handy, you could also just refer to it.
  2. Right-click your calendar in the Source pane, and choose Duplicate from the contextual menu. Rename the new calendar so you can differentiate it from the original.
  3. Click the Settings button, and in the Calendar view, change the dates as desired. Don’t worry about importing new iCal calendars just yet. Click OK.
  4. Now comes the truly tedious step. Referring back to the PDF or paper copy of your original calendar, drag any photos from the available photos list to the desired date boxes on the calendar. I like to fill up all the blank boxes at the start and end of each month’s grid.

Fix Dates — Now is a good time to check your calendar events in iCal and make sure they’re correct and up-to-date. For instance, we welcomed new nephews on either side of the family in November, so I had to add their birthdays. Since we want separate iPhoto calendars for our respective sides of the family, we’ve created two iCal calendars, one for Tonya’s family’s birthdays and anniversaries, and one for mine. Of course, some events are duplicated.

(Even if you don’t normally use iCal as your calendaring software, which I don’t, it makes a lot more sense to create these calendars in iCal than to enter events manually in iPhoto. That way you can use the same iCal calendars next year, and take advantage of iCal’s smarts for events like Thanksgiving, which takes place on the fourth Thursday of November.)

It’s also important to make sure you have the appropriate holidays in iCal, which turns out to be trickier than I had hoped. I was unimpressed with iPhoto’s built-in list of U.S. holidays, so I went looking for a more complete list. The best I found was the U.S. Holidays calendar at iCalShare; you can find lots of other calendars at iCalShare as well. Using it as a base, I copied those events I wanted to a new calendar of my own, and then I added a variety of other events from the Year 2008 Holidays Calendar, from Wikipedia’s List of
Commemorative Days
, from Wikipedia’s International Observances, and by going through a commercial calendar I had around to see which holidays they chose. How else would you find Towel Day, the Chinese New Year (Year of the Rat!), and Wright Brothers Day?

Reimport Events — It would seem straightforward to reimport your updated iCal calendars, but that wasn’t my experience. The problem was that in the Big Dates theme (and possibly others), clicking the Reimport button in the Calendar view of the Settings dialog brought in the events, but at least some of them came in with incorrect styles. This was particularly glaring in the Big Dates theme when the new events and their dates had black text, rather than the red text normally used for special dates. You can manually change the color of text you enter in iPhoto, but not the color of the date numbers.

It’s possible that other themes don’t suffer from this problem, but here’s the workaround I discovered. The downside of this approach is that changing themes may cause you to lose text entered on the photo pages (though I didn’t see that happen in my testing). Perform these steps:

  1. Click the Themes button and switch to another theme.
  2. Click the Settings button, and in the Calendar view, select the desired iCal calendars and click Reimport. This ensures that you have the latest events.
  3. Click the Settings button again, switch to the Styles view, click Restore Defaults, and click OK. This clears any custom formatting you might have done (or that iPhoto may think you’ve done; I suspect this is the culprit when styles aren’t correct upon reimport).
  4. Click the Themes button again, and switch back to the desired theme.
  5. Go through every page and visually verify that all the events came in properly and are styled properly. When I did this, one photo with a description somehow had that description entered as a caption in the calendar, even though I hadn’t set that. And on one occasion, all the events in November and December had the wrong styles even still; running through these steps again fixed the problem.

That’s it! If, like me, you actually want yet another calendar with different events (I wanted another version to give as Christmas presents for my side of the family), duplicate your new calendar again, select different iCal calendars, and, if necessary, run through the Reimport Events steps again.

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