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QuickBase: The Missing Manual by Nancy Conner

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Using vCard and iCalendar with QuickBase

You’ve probably wished from time to time that there was an easy way to get contact info and appointment details out of QuickBase records and into an email, address book, or calendar program. In the past, your options were either copying and pasting, or typing until your fingertips got sore. Now, QuickBase works with vCard and iCalendar, two industry-standard formats that let you exchange data with other programs: vCard is for exchanging contact information (think of it as an electronic business card), and iCalendar works with calendar data, letting users easily download appointments, meeting invitations, and task information. Once you’ve set up a vCard or iCalendar field in your application, users can download, store, or send contact and calendar information as easily as clicking a button.

Here’s how vCard and iCalendar work: When an application has a vCard field (for contact info) or an iCalendar field (for tasks and appointment info), QuickBase displays an icon with the records in that application, as shown in Figure 4-13. A user who sees that icon can click it to download the fields you’ve associated with the vCard or the iCalendar field. For example, Sharon Choe might click the vCard icon to download information about a sales lead—name, phone number, email (whatever fields you’ve chosen). Once she’s downloaded the info, Sharon can open it in Outlook (and many other email programs) and then email or store it. iCalendar works the same way, except it bundles information that you might find on a calendar: start date, end date, appointment time, and so on.

When users view a record, they can easily download certain information stored with that record by clicking the vCard or iCalendar icon (circled). vCard stores contact information; iCalendar holds time-related information.

Figure 4-13. When users view a record, they can easily download certain information stored with that record by clicking the vCard or iCalendar icon (circled). vCard stores contact information; iCalendar holds time-related information.

Sound good? Here’s how to add vCard and iCalendar fields to an application:

  1. Open the application to which you want to add a vCard or iCalendar field. If you’re adding vCard, choose a table that holds contact information, like Sales Leads or Customers. If you’re adding iCalendar, choose a table that holds time-related records, like Tasks or Projects. Then select Customize→Create a New→Field. (Or, you can click your way to the Fields tab of the Tables page: Customize→Tables→Fields, and then click the upper-right Create New Fields button; for more on using the Tables page to add fields, see Add a field.)

    The Add Fields page opens.

  2. Type in a name for your new field. For vCard, you might name the field Contact Info; for iCalendar, something like Calendar works well. From the Type drop-down menu to the right of the name, choose either vCard or iCalendar as the field type. Click Add Fields.

    QuickBase creates the new field and asks whether you’d like to add it to any custom forms in the application.

  3. Choose either Yes or “Not right now.” You can always add the field to custom forms later, but it’s a good idea to do it now, to give your users wide access to this feature.

    QuickBase returns you to the Fields tab of the Tables page, where your new field appears in the list of fields with a black arrow pointing to it. But you’re not done yet, as QuickBase reminds you. In the Fields table’s Info column, your new field shows Incomplete Settings, marked in red to get your attention. What QuickBase is telling you is that you need to let the vCard or iCalendar field know which fields to bundle up in its info packet for users to download.

  4. To complete the settings for your vCard or iCalendar field, click its name.

    The Field Properties page opens. On this page, adjust the properties—like the name of the field or how it displays its contents—of whatever field you choose. The Field Properties page relates to the specific field you chose. vCard and iCalendar fields have a special section all their own, as Figure 4-14 shows.

  5. In the vCard Options or iCalendar Options section, select the fields you want your vCard or iCalendar field to hold.

    Because these two field types hold different information, there are some differences in what you’ll select here:

    • vCard. For a vCard field, you must specify a Name field—contact info at its most basic—and in some cases an email field. You can also include job title, business and cell phone numbers, fax number, address, notes, and company.

    • iCalendar. For an iCalendar field, you need to select a Subject field (the field whose contents will serve as the subject for the iCalendar event, like Task), Starting Time and End Time fields, and an Organizer field (a User field, like Task Creator, that indicates who’s setting up the meeting or event). The Location and Description fields are optional.

    Note

    The Starting Time and End Time fields must be of the field type Date/Time, Date, or Work Date for iCalendar to work with them. (If you use a Date or a Work Date field here, their values show up in Outlook as all-day events, because these fields have no time of day info.) Time of Day fields won’t cut it here, because iCalendar needs to know the date—not just the time—of the scheduled event.

  6. When you’ve chosen your fields, click Save.

    QuickBase saves your settings and returns you to the Tables page.

    When you create a vCard or iCalendar field, you have to specify which fields’ information the new field will hold. This example is for an iCalendar field. Fields marked with an asterisk are necessary for iCalendar to work; other fields are optional.

    Figure 4-14. When you create a vCard or iCalendar field, you have to specify which fields’ information the new field will hold. This example is for an iCalendar field. Fields marked with an asterisk are necessary for iCalendar to work; other fields are optional.

Now, when someone opens a record in your application, they’ll see the vCard or iCalendar icon (as you saw back in Figure 4-13). When they click the icon, they download the information in the vCard or iCalendar field (which contains the fields you just selected) for that record. They can store it on their computer or open it with a program like Outlook—from there, they can store contact info in their address book or add meeting details to a Calendar program.

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