Skip to main content

An Alternative To Google Calendar's Appointment Slots

You might not know but Google are dropping the Appointment Slots feature from Google Calendar. The academic community has been pretty miffed about this decision because it's one of the features they've really taken to their hearts and were actively using. Appointment Slots are a great way of making any number of tutorial slots available for tutorials and letting students pick which times suit them.

Google responded to the academic outcry with a list of alternatives. This list included paid for services with no clear pricing model for enterprise, downloadable open source software and, rather desperately, a few web2.0 tools that weren't even relevant. Few of these tools integrated with Google Calendars or Contacts, none would have worked with our log ins, and of course, none would be embedded in your Google Calendar making it easy to create overlapping or clashing appointments.

So, I wondered how useful a tool I could create using Apps Script. Of course I couldn't embed it Google Calendar but it could work with our York single sign-on, and add details to Google Calendar. The Apps Script environment is limited in many ways - making it difficult to create an elegant solution, but its integration abilities might make it "good enough" for booking tutorial slots.

The Demo

But before you get too excited. There are a few caveats about this version of Appointment Slots.  

The first caveat is that you shouldn't expect bug fixes. This is a proof-of-concept / stop gap project. 

The first screen you and your users will see are these.

These two hideous screens are there to warn you ( and your students ) that I have access to your Calendar ( to create and delete events ), to send email and other things. There's nothing I can do about these screens. In a better designed world, Google would design Apps Script so that I, as coder, maybe only had access to a sandboxed area, or calendars I made myself that you then subscribe to - which would prevent me doing anything nasty or stupid. 

Another caveat is that I can't embed this app in your Calendar. It's a separate application.

The last caveat is that it all sort of works backwards. What I mean by this is that when you, for example, create a Tutorials Appointment Slots, the times are blocked out in your calendar. When a student books one of the tutorial slots, I have to create the booking event in the student's calendar and invite you to it.  

This is a side-effect of Google's permissions model. Because a student can't directly add items to your calendar, they have to add items to their own. You can see what it looks like in your calendar below.

It's also a bit slow. 

Using The Demo

There are really only two screens. The Home screen, shown below, lets you create an Appointment Slot in any calendars you own. 

When you have created your Appointment Slots, you are shown a screen similar to the one below that has a "Share this URL" link in it, which you can send to students. You also receive an email with these details in so that you can create a number of Appointment Slots on different days and collect them into one email that you send to students.

The student would then see a screen like this one. They can click the "Book this slot" and an event is added to their Calendar - and an invite sent to the lecturer who made the Appointment Slots ( see what I mean about backwards? ).  

A student can release an appointment booking by clicking the release link. 

All the data for this application is stored in what's called a ScriptDB. I did look at updating the ScriptDB when a student deletes a booking from their Calendar. That may be a version 2.0 feature, if I have any more time for development.

Top Tip: Create a Separate Calendar Just for Appointments Before You Start

If you create a calendar just for Appointments, and then create your appointments in that calendar then there is a way for students to browse lots of different options. If you have made your calendar public you can then let people browse your calendar (go to January 10th 2013 ) like this. Students could then use the link in the event description ( yes, I know, I know ) to be able to book onto that particular day.

If you are happy with all of the above then to see the demo go here.

p.s Thanks to +Martin Hawksey for his help along the way.


  1. How about appointments with a structured agenda / tasks / topics to collaborate on? try this:

  2. I keep getting not found, etc. errors when I click a link from this page. Hoping...


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Writing a Simple QR Code Stock Control Spreadsheet

At Theatre, Film & TV they have lots of equipment they loan to students, cameras, microphone, tripod etc. Keeping track of what goes out and what comes back is a difficult job. I have seen a few other departments struggling with the similar "equipment inventory" problems. A solution I have prototyped uses QR codes, a Google Spreadsheet and a small web application written in Apps Script. The idea is, that each piece of equipment ( or maybe collection of items ) has a QR code on it. Using a standard and free smartphone application to read QR codes, the technician swipes the item and is shown a screen that lets them either check the item out or return it. The QR app looks like this. The spreadsheet contains a list of cameras. It has links to images and uses Google Visualisation tools to generate its QR codes. The spreadsheet looks like this. The Web Application The web application, which only checks items in or out and should be used on a phone in conjunctio

Inserting A Google Doc link into a Google Spreadsheet (UPDATED 6/12/2017)

This article looks at using Apps Script to add new features to a Google Spreadsheet. At the University of York, various people have been using Google spreadsheets to collect together various project related information. We've found that when collecting lots of different collaborative information from lots of different people that a spreadsheet can work much better than a regular Google Form. Spreadsheets can be better than Forms for data collection because: The spreadsheet data saves as you are editing. If you want to fill in half the data and come back later, your data will still be there. The data in a spreadsheet is versioned, so you can see who added what and when and undo it if necessary The commenting features are brilliant - especially the "Resolve" button in comments. One feature we needed was to be able to "attach" Google Docs to certain cells in a spreadsheet. It's easy to just paste in a URL into a spreadsheet cell, but they can often

A Working Booking System In Google Sheets

Working with Andras Sztrokay we had another go at a booking system. This time it was to enable staff to book out a number of iPads over a number of days. You select the days you want, then select the Booking menu. Andras did an amazing job. It even creates a daily bookings sheet so you can see who has which iPads. To see this in action, go  here  and  File > Make a Copy (I won't be able to support you this is just provided to maybe give someone else a leg up, good luck!)