iCal to HPDA printing

When I moved from Linux back to the Mac, I retained several Unix-y habits: keeping most information in plain text files, using the command line, writing shell or Perl scripts to do most of my repetitive tasks. But I did decide to go with the Mac flow on PIM software, so I use the Address Book and iCal. They look good, work reasonably well, import and export standard text-based formats, integrate with each other and the other built-in Mac applications, and sync effortlessly to my cell phone. And with a bit of experimentation, I’ve gotten iCal to print HPDA-ready calendars that let me carry four months of schedule in a very compact form.

Before explaining how I print my calendar, I want to complain about the stupid way iCal prints lists of appointments. Printing your calendar as a list was added to the new version of iCal that was bundled with Tiger, and when I read about it in the runup to Tiger’s release, I thought it would be a great way to print my schedule onto index cards. I still do, but not the brain-dead way Apple chose to do it. Suppose you select the List view from the first iCal print dialog and tell it to print appointments for the next 60 days. ICal then prints an entry for every single one of those 60 days, regardless of whether that day has an appointment. Entries for days without appointments consist of a bold header with the date and then an “entry” of “No entry” underneath. This is a tremendous waste of paper and makes the printed list nearly useless—your eye is not drawn to the days on which you have appointments because every day is given equal weight. I can’t understand why Apple, which usually does this sort of thing right, did such a poor job on this. Even if the no-event days were eliminated from the printed list, the format is poor because the date headers are printed in big bold text, which detracts from the entries themselves.

(If it turns out I’ve missed some setting in iCal that fixes these problems with list printing, then I will humbly retract the preceding paragraph. But I’ve looked through the preferences and I’ve tried Google, and nothing’s come up.)

One more thing I should mention at the start. You might be wondering why I want a portable paper calendar if I sync my cell phone to iCal. Convenience. It takes time to work my way through the calendar on my phone, and I can’t see a bunch of appointments at once.

OK, so how do I get my schedule into my HPDA? First, I define a new paper size in Page Setup. This will have to be done in another program (Safari, Mail, even iTunes; it doesn’t matter which) as iCal doesn’t have a Page Setup menu item. Fortunately, the new paper size will be available to all programs, and iCal will be able to use it the next time it’s launched.

The new paper size should be 6 inches by 10 inches—two index cards wide by two index cards long. I call the new size “4up index cards,” but the name doesn’t really matter. It also doesn’t matter that I don’t have any paper this size as long as it’s smaller than letter-sized.

New paper size

Now in iCal, when I choose Print and am presented with first Print dialog, I

First Print dialog

  1. Choose Month View and my new “4up index cards” paper.
  2. Choose Starts This Month and Ends After 4 Months.
  3. Turn the All Day Events, Timed Events, and Black and White options on; and the Mini Months and Calendar Keys options off. Choose the Big Text Size.

Clicking Continue brings me to the standard Print dialog. Here I choose a custom preset I call “HPDA Calendar.” It combines four-up, column-major printing from Layout with manual feed from Paper Feed.

Standard Print dialog layout

Standard Print dialog paper feed

I use manual feed because I print my calendars on the backs of other, already-printed sheets. I print out a new HPDA calendar at the end of every day, and printing on the back of sheets headed for the recycler saves paper. It’s a small savings, but it makes me feel virtuous.

When the calendar comes out of the printer, it looks like this.

Unfolded HPDA calendar

The 6 by 10 print area fits easily on a letter-sized sheet, centered in the short direction and pushed to one end in the long direction. I then fold it twice in this order:

First fold of HPDA calendar

Second fold of HPDA calendar

and make two cuts to bring the final product to about 3 inches by 5 inches. I clip it to the back of my HPDA with the current month showing.

HPDA with calendar

The printing and folding sequence I chose puts next month up against the back index card, easily available by flipping the calendar sheet out.

HPDA with calendar flipped out

I only need to unclip and unfold the calendar if I need to check a date further away than next month.

The disadvantage of this technique is that using Big Text Size (which is necessary to survive the four-up reduction) cuts off detail from the entries. So far, I’ve found that first couple of words is enough to remind me of what the appointment is about. And if it isn’t, I can always work my way through the menu system on my cell phone to get the details from it.

3 Responses to “iCal to HPDA printing”

  1. And now it's all this says:

    Still tweaking

    Too much blogging about blogging, but anyway… There are a few permanent links out there on the Internets to my posts on HPDA rulers, temperature conversion charts, calendars and travel cards. With the change of blogging engine, those links…

  2. TR says:

    Excellent! Thanks much! Worked like a charm. I tried it with color printing as well and that seems to be fine, too.

    Thanks again.

    TR Detroit, Michigan

  3. Kelly says:

    If you choose the Save as PDF option you can use Adobe to print it in the corner of the page for easy chopping.