How to customize YouCanBook.me to replace Google Calendar Appointment slots or Tungle scheduling tool

Updated from original Dec 2012 post:
In case your end-of-semester meeting calendar was so busy that you didn’t notice, Google recently announced that it will shut down the ability to create new Google Calendar Appointment slots on January 4, 2013. Like me, many faculty may have first learned about online scheduling tools that enable students and colleagues to automatically book appointments from Heather Whitney’s ProfHacker post (July 2011) and follow ups in (November 2011) and December 2012). Publicly displaying selected blocks of time from my Google Calendar made life much easier for me, and those trying to connect with me, while avoiding those annoying “When are you free?” or “Monday doesn’t work, how about Tuesday?” email exchanges. Many students told me they actually liked the Appointment slots feature as an automated way of making time for in-depth conversation, rather than catching me for a haphazard hallway chat. But what the Google gave, the Google hath taken away, with great disappointment to many disciples. Another popular online appointment scheduler, Tungle, also shut down in December 2012.

Looking around for alternative tools helped clarify which features were most valuable to me. Organizing group meetings is great with Doodle, but its MeetMe personal scheduler  did not allow for automatic appointment booking, meaning that I’d need to confirm each individual. Another service, TouchBase.it, integrates a personal scheduling assistant into Google Mail (great for many students), but I could not customize the default 1-hour appointment blocks into smaller units (20-minute blocks seem best for most of my student meetings.) A more sophisticated tool, ScheduleOnce.com, offered the date- and time-specific appointment flexibility I desired, and tempted me with its free 14-day trial offer, but my real cost for automatic booking would be $9 per month. Maybe one of these tools works for you (or your budget), but none satisfied me.

Then I looked back at YouCanBook.Me, a free service that I had initially dismissed as too inflexible, and discovered that it offered all of the features I desired, after I deciphered an obscure phrase in the user interface. Here’s instructions and screenshots on how I’ve customized the settings (with one suggested revision for the developer).

1) Create a YouCanBook.Me account (using your Google login) and walk through the setup pages (accepting defaults, for now) to link to your Google Calendar.

2) Launch the Settings Editor, and under the Basic tab, design your header page.

 

3) Under the Times tab, click ALL days of the week and hours when you might PLAUSIBLY be available to meet (such as Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm, which we’ll modify soon). On the right side, designate a booking time (mine is 20 minutes). Now for the hidden step: pretend that the field labeled “on duty events” says something more useful, such as “Customize my times to match available Google Calendar events with this phrase.” Insert your exact phrase into the text box (mine is “office hours”).

4) In your Google Calendar, create an event that matches your phrase (“office hours”). Near the bottom, change its default display from show me as “busy” to “available.”

 

5) In the YouCanBookMe dashboard, publish your booking page online, and share the link and/or embed on your website. Appointment-seekers will see only the available slots that you have designated in your settings.

6) When appointment-seekers select a slot and enter their email address, they receive a confirmation message in their inbox. Fortunately, YouCanBook.Me does NOT require other users to have a Google Calendar in order to book a slot with you (which is a clear advantage over the old system), but a great feature is that their confirmation email includes a handy link to add the appointment to their Google Calendar if they happen to have one.

7) Here’s the magic: when users book appointments during my office hours slots, it automatically appears in my Google Calendar. Furthermore, if I manually schedule an appointment for another student during my office hours, it automatically removes that slot from the display of available times (which is a huge improvement over the old Google Calendar Appointment slots).

8) iOS Cal users: watch out for accidental overrides. If you create an “all-day” event on your calendar and the default setting is “busy,” it will accidentally block out any appointments that you have available to fill. This issue stumped me until I figured out the underlying problem. When I create all-day events in Google Calendar, the default is “available,” so that worked just fine. But when I create all-day events in my iPhone’s Calendar application (which is linked to my Google Calendar data), the default is “busy,” which overrides all appointment slot availability that day for my students. Oops. Gotta remember to switch those all-day iOS Cal entries from “busy” to “free.”

9) Back inside your YouCanBookMe dashboard, you can manage information fields to be collected in the automatic booking form (I added a spot for appointment-seekers to add the topic they’d like to discuss), along with more advanced display settings. For example, to move the calendar grid from the center of the web page to the left margin, under the “appearance” tab, I inserted this bit of CSS code to override the default.

I discovered these steps after reading the YouCanBookMe’s online help tool on non-standard start & end times (the “stencil” feature). If the company makes the interface and documentation clearer to newcomers, their tool is likely to be adopted by many former Google Calendar Appointment slots users. I hope that YCBM enjoys a longer life span on the web.

38 Responses to How to customize YouCanBook.me to replace Google Calendar Appointment slots or Tungle scheduling tool

  1. Nisha Anand says:

    Thank you so much – this was really helpful. I am ready to make the switch to youcanbookme now. I will let you know how it works out when I finally phase out all my google appointment slots.

  2. Amee says:

    Thanks – this is helpful

    Is there away to cancel appointments for a particular day or week (e.g. if you’re on vacation)?

    • Amee – here are two ways to cancel appointments on the calendar system described above:
      1) Delete your designated slots (in my example, the “Office Hours” block) for those days/weeks
      or
      2) Insert an all-day event in your calendar (such as “Vacation”) and change settings to “show me as: busy”

  3. Eric says:

    I also had to take some time figuring out what at first seemed like an inflexible calendar. I do have a question, though, that doesn’t seem to be explicitly answered anywhere.

    Can I make more than one calendar with a free account, or no? I keep reading about people having multiple calendars on YouCanBook.me.

  4. Hi Eric

    the answer is yes – but this is a premium + feature. More details here: http://youcanbook.me/feature/multicals

    Hope this is helps – the full list of features is here: https://youcanbook.me/features.jsp

    Happy to answer any questions you have!

    Thanks

    Bridget

  5. Drew Loewe says:

    Thank you!

  6. Jim Jackson says:

    Thanks for writing this up. I found it very useful, just what I was looking for.

    I now have my schedule set up ready for bookings.

    Cheers

  7. Joanna Bryson says:

    This *was* working for me but hasn’t been for some months & I can’t figure out why. Anyone else having problems?

    • Joanna, everything’s been working fine for me and several other people. Feel free to describe your problem in more detail or directly contact YouCanBookMe for support (as I’m not an employee of their company).

    • Russ says:

      Hi All, great post and comments.

      I ran into an issue that matches the description above. It seemed YouCanBook.Me was working great, and then stopped showing available appointment times… What gives? Why isn’t this working?!

      I had blocked out my next open office hours, and this set my available status to ‘BUSY’ for those time. Back in YouCanBook.Me, I would specify those hours manually as available (repeatedly), and no available slots would appear… Arghh.

      Oh, right. Referencing the Google Calendar, it was just seeing those times as busy. So, if you do block out ‘Office Hours’ in Google Calendar, just be sure to set status to ‘Available’, and all will be well in YouCanBook.Me.

      Step 4) in the original post above addresses this point right-on, but, for anyone who goes through without these, or goes back to make updates in the same way, it’s easy to miss, and could explain the feeling of ‘Why isn’t this working!’.

      As I read through the comments on this page, I think the ‘Show Me as Available’ comes up here and there. A Hint or Reminder on the YouCanBook.Me scheduling page might be a way to help the frustrated?

      Hope this is helpful!

  8. Aaron says:

    This is a fantastic guide – just what I needed! I think this is much better than the Google appointment method. With Google, students would cancel but the appointment would stay on my calendar. Plus, if they weren’t regular Google calendar users, they would sometimes see my available times in a different time zone and show up hours after their scheduled appointment. Thanks for posting this.

  9. Kim Melanson says:

    Has anyone had parents complain about the following message when booking?
    Sorry – the owner of this configuration does not have write permissions on the target calender.

    I can’t figure out why it’s happening.

  10. Hi Kim!

    Seeing this out of context makes me think this is the most obscure way to describe what’s happening – so sorry – no wonder it makes no sense!

    What is happening is the person you are trying to book (a teacher?) has stopped sharing their calendar with the relevant YCBM account (some accounts will handle more than one teacher)

    If you email team@youcanbook.me with the details of which YCBM profile you were trying to book with we can see if we can troubleshoot it.

    Thanks, Jack, for drawing this to our attention.

    Bridget @youcanbookme

  11. Tom says:

    Hi Jack,

    I had checked out youcanbook.me and given up, deciding it couldn’t do what I needed it to do. But then I found this post! Thanks so much, very clear and helpful instructions. I am no longer depressed by the impending loss of Google appointment slots.

    Thanks again! – Tom Kelley

  12. Beth says:

    I just set up my youcanbookme calendar with my gmail account. I followed all the instructions but I still cannot see any appointment times when I go to the live link. Can you help? (I set this up with the on duty events feature and made sure that my “phrase” is exactly the same in my Google calendar and youcanbookme.)
    Thank you!

    • Beth says:

      I meant to clarify: I do see the appointments page when I click on the live link, but it has a grey box in the middle saying “no availability,” even in the times that I indicated I was available.

  13. Hi Beth, Jack has asked me to respond – the things to check if you are not seeing the times you should are things like ‘all day events’ (like birthdays / public holidays ) which could be blocking your day – if you have you have to have them ticked ‘show me as available’. There are a few other possibilities that could be blocking it – if you email us, team@youcanbook.me we can have a look at your settings.

    Look forward to hearing from you!

    best

    Bridget

  14. Sam says:

    Is there a way to modify how the booking looks in Google Calendars? I would like it to show the name of the person, rather than the email. Thanks.

    • Hi Sam,

      Yes – you can add whatever you like to go automatically into the title or description of the Google event (assuming you collect the information in the booking form).

      Look for edit profile-> Afterwards -> Google -> Title

      Hope this helps – any questions email us at team@youcanbook.me

      best

      Bridget
      @youcanbookme

  15. kg says:

    Is there a way to display a month at a time? I’m trying to book thursday nights only, so showing one week at a time is a little awkward.

  16. Hi KG – yes, under the ‘Times’ Tab in the settings, you can set the grid to show only Thursdays, and then set it to show any number of weeks you like (so you would only see Thursdays).

    Hope this helps – any questions email us at team@youcanbook.me
    best

    Bridget
    @youcanbookme

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  18. I used my picture as my logo. How can I make it smaller in size??

  19. Hi David – Jack asked me to jump in here, hope I can help.

    The image size will depend on what theme you are using (they re-size them differently) so one thing to try is a different theme – for example the corporate theme reduces them quite small.

    Otherwise you can reduce the size of your picture first, before uploading, to get a smaller image.

    But do get in touch with us – team@youcanbook.me if you have any detailed questions – we’re always happy to help :-)

    best

    Bridget
    @youcanbookme

  20. Anne Lemieux says:

    Can I customize the times? In other words I have 45 min slots from 8 to 3:15 but one slot might end at 9:38 and the next might begin at 9:50. Is it possible to customize those times?

    • Keith Harris says:

      Hi Anne,

      I’m one of the technical team at YouCanBook.Me. I hope I can help with this one.

      Technically, yes, this would be possible through our system. The limiting factor would be to do with the range of start times you need to offer. We have a feature called on duty events which would allow you to map out – on the Google side – a stencil of the time slots you would like to offer. This could allow you to fix just the 45 minute periods as available.

      The problem comes in when you fix the unit size of the grid that we build for you. You need to set a basic ‘slot length’ which then determines how we lay out the grid of times. This needs to be a round factor of 45. Ideally, you would use 45 minutes – which would produce a nice neat grid. 15 or 10 minutes would just about work. Technically, you could set up a 1 minute grid, but this would produce a very big and awkward grid. The problem with the bigger number is that you might not be able to show the choice of start times that you need to offer.

      You should be able to see this in action by changing the slot length on your booking profile. Hopefully you can choose a number where all your required start times are shown.

      Or, if you can let me know the precise set of times you would need to offer, I would be happy to work out if there’s any workable solution. Please just email details to team@youcanbook.me (please mention this thread).

      Keith

  21. Chuck Morgan says:

    Is there a way that the client can book more than one slot of time rather then entering a different booking every time

  22. Hi Chuck,

    Jack asked me to answer this one for you.

    You can’t go ahead and pick 2 or 3 different times slots and ‘bank them’ before you compete the booking.

    But you could set up profiles which deal with blocks of bookings (so if you wanted to offer 6 x weekly slots at a certain time every week) or you can streamline profiles so that you can offer pre-populated booking fields (using our https://youcanbook.me/feature/linkfields feature) to make things easier for your bookers.

    If you email us team@youcanbook.me with specific questions and we’d love to help

    best

    Bridget

  23. Alexis says:

    This seems like it could be what I am looking for. However, I am offering art workshops where I would like to allow several people to book a time slot such as four people at ten am. Is there a way to allow more than one person book a slot, and then cap that number?

  24. Hi Alexis,

    the good news is we have a feature exactly to do just that – it’s called ‘Units Per Slot’ and you set it on the https://youcanbook.me/feature/units

    Do shoot us over an email team@youcanbook.me if you have any other questions

    all the best

    Bridget

  25. thong says:

    Can I customize the times? In other words I have 45 min slots from 8 to 3:15 but one slot might end at 9:38 and the next might begin at 9:50. Is it possible to customize those times? – See more at: http://commons.trincoll.edu/jackdougherty/how-to/customize-youcanbookme/#sthash.yg688PqH.dpuf

    • Kate says:

      Hi there! You can customise your times to 45 minute slots but it sounds like you have small breaks in between. This would require very small slots to achieve.

      There is a way to make the grid reflect Period 1, Period 2 etc rather than time slots if that is easier. You can see the instructions on this thread . Take a look and see what you think. And don’t hesitate to get in touch with team@youcanbook.me if you have any questions!

      Kate

  26. Kat Blackwell says:

    Is there a way I can use youcanbook.me to book event venues (auditorium, gym, library, etc.) at my school? Would this automatically post to my Google calendar? I would like to customize a form to let people know the hours of operation, if there is a cost to use the space (for non-school activities), etc.

    • Kate says:

      Hi Kat,
      Yes, you can use the Teams feature for resources like that, as well as for people. Each resource would have its own Google calendar (as subcalendars to your main one if you’d prefer) so they can be booked for simultaneous slots.

      Our education account gives free access to the both the Teams and Services features. Take a look at this help page for details. And please email team@youcanbook.me with any questions!

      Kate

  27. KB says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for the write-up, it was very clear and helpful! Awesome!

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