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Using Outlook to plan your Edinburgh festivals

If you love drama, comedy or music then you’d love Edinburgh, Scotland during August.  It’s a busy, busy time with so much going on that you’ll need your online calendar and Outlook to keep track of everything.

In this and other articles, we’ll give you a practical guide to managing a complex schedule using Outlook and other tools now available.

So what?

Even if you have no intention of visiting Scotland in August – this is a chance to learn more about what Outlook and other services can do.  It’s a great example of how you can setup your events and appointment on a computer to later make use of that information on your smartphone or tablet.  Also sharing your events or calendar with others.

Planning a ‘Festival Run’ in Edinburgh is more complicated than most people expect.  There are so many events, a wide range of venues, a largely unknown city and different booking systems to contend with.

We touched on this subject last year  here’s more general advice plus specific help for Festival goers.

More than one Festival

What people call ‘the Edinburgh Festival’ is really hundreds of shows under many different ‘festival’ organizations plus some non-festival events.

It’s not just comedy, far from it.  The huge number of comedy gigs overwhelms the Edinburgh calendar, hiding the many cabaret, theatre, children’s, dance and music events also available.

International Festival – the original festival with a great range of mainstream theatre, music, dance and the arts.

Festival Fringe – what most people think of when they talk about the ‘Edinburgh Festival’. The Fringe is the biggest and their comedy shows get the most attention.

Underbelly – a Fringe-like umbrella group with yet more acts.

Free Fringe – many free shows from enterprising acts.  They usually ask for coin donations at the end of their show. No advance bookings just turn up.

International Book Festival – tucked away, almost unnoticed, something for us voracious readers.

Art Festival – another gem for lovers of visual arts or just people trying to get away from the noise and hubbub of the other festivals.

There’s other ‘non-festival’ events on during August.  Some big-name acts do their own gigs outside the festival arrangements.

The famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo isn’t officially part of any ‘Festival’. The Tattoo is well worth seeing, it’s a lot shorter and more entertaining than the long, boring TV event from the 60’s and 70’s.  Rug up warmly, it gets cold up in those stands!

Organizing your Edinburgh visit

It’s a jumble, so many shows, so little time.  It’s hard to choose, organize and ‘keep straight’ all the gigs you’re seeing, would like to see, heard of or just seen a poster.

Unlike many other large events, you must manage your own calendar rather than using a specialized online tool. There’s no single booking system.

With so much on, it’s easy to double-book or book events without enough time to get between them.

If you’re part of a group, trying to keep everyone informed of where to meet and when can also be ‘interesting’.  Using a shared calendar and some modern technology can help you all.

The Edinburgh Fringe has a good online calendar linked to each customers account.  Use it to see what you’ve booked, your ‘Favorites’ etc.  It would be great IF you’re only seeing Fringe shows.  Since most people are seeing other non-Fringe things, their service isn’t that practical.

The only way is to manage your own Edinburgh calendar bringing in all the shows and events you are seeing, or would like to see.

One Calendar – many devices

It’s a great advantage to have a single calendar you can manage from any device; Outlook for Windows or Mac, your tablet, smartphone or even a browser.

Adding a calendar item is better on a desktop because you can copy/paste from a web page or email more easily.  But it doesn’t matter which device you use, the same calendar items are synchronized everywhere.  The synchronization should happen in a minute or two, if not seconds.

The main ways to get this multi-device support is with Office 365 / Exchange Server hosting, and Google (need Outlook add-in)

Make a separate Edinburgh calendar

Separate your festival planning from the rest of your life by making a new Edinburgh calendar.

Right-click in ‘My Calendars’, choose ‘New Calendar’ then give it a name.

You can view this calendar separately from your main calendar or merge into a single calendar view.

Depending on your mail host, you can share the entire calendar with others.  However, sharing an entire calendar doesn’t work well for a group of people with different mail setups.

Sharing events

The easier option is to share single events with others, Microsoft calls this ‘invitations’.  Outlook sends an email to each person with the appointment details attached.  They respond ‘Yes’ which adds the event to their calendar.  If you, as the appointment organizer, changes the details, each invitee is notified and their copy of the appointment automatically updated.

If you’ve booked a show for other people, let them know from Outlook.  For many versions, Outlook has been able to send invitations for events, open an appointment and look for the invitation option.

See Send and Receive appointments via Outlook and Easy Invitations in Outlook.

Post show notes

Keeping track of what you’ve seen is essential.  After a few days and many shows, it’s easy to forget what you liked, what was awful or even what you’ve seen!


That’s where the notes section of each appointment is useful.  Type in a few comments to remind yourself later.

It’s not a review, just some personal thoughts or reminders.

These notes are helpful even years later when you try to remember about a particular show.  Peter is using his Outlook notes from last year to plan some of his 2018 bookings, some performers he’ll skip while others he’ll make a point of seeing.

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