Downloading the ALA Annual Meeting Planner to Your Mac iCal

First, kudos to the vendor that runs the ALA Meeting Planner website. They listened to suggestions and now include a way to download your event planner information to your desktop/handheld device using the iCalendar standard. It is available from the “Downloads and Printing” page of your meeting planner homepage. (You’ll need to sign in using the e-mail address listed on your ALA Annual Registration form plus the password “ala”.) Jump down to the end and select the “iCAL” button next to “Personal Itinerary” to download the iCalendar file.

Now comes the unfortunate part — it doesn’t import into Mac iCal. Because of a structural error in the file, it may not import into other applications, either. The problem stems from the fact that the unique identifier (“UID”) for each event is not in fact unique — it is the same for all events. The fix is pretty simple, though: open the .ics iCalendar file in a text editor (“TextEdit” on the Mac, “Notepad” on the PC) and make each UID unique. In my case, the UID line for each event was:

UID:EC9439B1-FF65-11D6-9973-003065F99D04

The text file is somewhat confusing to read (it was meant for a machine to read, after all, not you), but you just have to look for each line that starts with UID. I changed the last number of each entry to a sequential number, so in the end my file looked something like this:

BEGIN:VCALENDAR
PRODID:ALA Personal Itinerary
[...]
BEGIN:VEVENT
CLASS:PUBLIC
CREATED:20080514T021306Z
PRIORITY:5
SEQUENCE:5
DTSTART;TZID=US/Pacific:20080628T103000
DTEND;TZID=US/Pacific:20080628T120000
SUMMARY:Building and Supporting Koha , an open-source ILS
DESCRIPTION: Unit: LITA, Location: Hyatt Regency Orange County, Room: Grand A
UID:EC9439B1-FF65-11D6-9973-003065F99D01
TRANSP:OPAQUE
X-MICROSOFT-CDO-BUSYSTATUS:BUSY
X-MICROSOFT-CDO-IMPORTANCE:1
END:VEVENT
BEGIN:VEVENT
CLASS:PUBLIC
CREATED:20080514T021306Z
PRIORITY:5
SEQUENCE:5
DTSTART;TZID=US/Pacific:20080628T133000
DTEND;TZID=US/Pacific:20080628T153000
SUMMARY:There’s No Catalog Like No Catalog: The Ultimate Debate on the future of the Library Catalog
DESCRIPTION: Unit: LITA, Location: Hyatt Regency Orange County, Room: Grand A
UID:EC9439B1-FF65-11D6-9973-003065F99D02
TRANSP:OPAQUE
X-MICROSOFT-CDO-BUSYSTATUS:BUSY
X-MICROSOFT-CDO-IMPORTANCE:1
END:VEVENT
CLASS:PUBLIC
CREATED:20080514T021306Z
PRIORITY:5
SEQUENCE:5
DTSTART;TZID=US/Pacific:20080629T080000
DTEND;TZID=US/Pacific:20080629T100000
SUMMARY:Archiving in Practice with JPEG2000
DESCRIPTION: Unit: LITA, Location: Anaheim Convention Center, Room: Ballroom E
UID:EC9439B1-FF65-11D6-9973-003065F99D03
TRANSP:OPAQUE
X-MICROSOFT-CDO-BUSYSTATUS:BUSY
X-MICROSOFT-CDO-IMPORTANCE:1
END:VEVENT
END:VCALENDAR

See the differences in the bolded lines? The changes are done; save the file and import it into the Mac iCal program. All of your entries will show up. When you do this, also take note of this advice in the site’s documentation:

Warning IconDates are relative to the event’s location, not the device’s.
A meeting at 10am to 11am Pacific Standard Time (PST) will show up in the calendar of an attendee in Washington DC as 1pm to 2pm. When the device’s clock is changed from Eastern Standard Time (EST) to PST, the calendar will automatically shift the appointment to the correct local time of 10am to 11am.

Hope to see you in Anaheim!

(This post was updated on 10-Sep-2011.)