MacMost Now 365: Birthdays with Address Book and iCal

If you add birthdays to your contacts in Address Book, it will create a special Birthdays calendar in iCal. You can use this to keep track of your friends' birthdays, although functionality is very limited.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary from MacMost Now. Today let's look at using address book and iCal to create birthday lists on your Mac. So this marks about three years since MacMost started and recently I've been getting a lot of e-mails from people asking how they can help out, and, in fact, I rely on word of mouth to spread the word about MacMost so anything you do is greatly appreciated. I have some ideas at You can do things like blog about MacMost, you can tweet about it, you can review it at iTunes, things like that. Anything you can do would be great, and in return, I'm going to do five episodes this week instead of my usual three. So, keeping track of people's birthdays is one of those things that you used to in pen and paper address books but of course, you can do it using address book on the Mac. Not only that, but it coordinates with iCal to make it even better. Let's take a look. So here I am in address book and I just added a new entry. Now, once I've done that, of course, I can add some default information like work and mobile phone numbers, things like that. I could also go to "Card" and "Add Field," and there I can see a whole bunch of non-standard fields like "Birthday". I can add that and add a birthday, so let's add that and put their birth date. So now I go over to iCal and in iCal, I can go to "iCal Preferences" and I can select "Show Birthdays calendar," so this calendar was already automatically created, I just needed to subscribe to it and it appears under subscriptions here. And I can see there on July 1st is my sample birthday. I can do various things here: I can control or right click on the Calendar over on the left, get info and I can change its color, change its name; I can open up address book from there. I can also double-click on the actual event here and I can click on "Show in Address Book," and it goes right to that person so if you see somebody's birthday is today or tomorrow, you can quickly get there and then if you have their e-mail address or phone number, call or e-mail them. Now, what's disappointing is there is no way to set an alarm for these events, so you can't get reminders as to when people's birthdays are coming. You have to check your calendar. Now there's been some work-arounds. There's some Automator scripts that will go ahead and take these and create some sort of reminders from them. There's also the ability to select the birthdays calendar, export it completely and then import it back in, of course, and then it'll be a regular iCal calendar, and then you can set reminders for those events. So you can set, say, for a week in advance for people you need to buy presents for or the same day for people that you just want to send a little hello via e-mail or Facebook. I hope Apple continues to improve on this in the future. The ability to have reminders is a must, but also other special dates like anniversaries would be really cool. But until then, if you're already putting people's birthdays in your address book, you may as well have this extra calendar in iCal as well. Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig, with MacMost Now.

Comments: 15 Responses to “MacMost Now 365: Birthdays with Address Book and iCal”

    3/3/10 @ 12:24 pm


    My biggest complaint about iCal is the lack of the ability to offer reminders about birthdays and anniversaries. It is a missing functionality that really is inexcusable in my opinion (my 8 year old Palm PDA allowed me to do such – come on Apple!)

    But you sort-of demonstrate a work around that involves exporting the birthday calendar and then what? Re-importing it? Could you possible give us some more specific information on how this is done?

    And, in doing such would I wind up with duplicate entries for birthdays and anniversaries? I guess I could always turn off the birthday calendar then, right?


      3/3/10 @ 12:47 pm

      You just export the Birthdays calendar, then re-import it as a different calendar. Not much to it. Yes, you could then just turn off the automatic Birthday calendar.

    3/4/10 @ 3:14 pm

    Thanks Gary. I didn’t envision it being quite so simple and straight-forward.

    Leslie Millones
    7/20/10 @ 7:06 am

    Is a way to print out the address book as a list with everyone on it and their information? Sort of like a spreadsheet? I’d really appreciate knowing this. I’ve looked EVERYWHERE and can’t find out how to do this. Thank you.

      7/20/10 @ 7:17 am

      Choose All Contacts, or a group, or select several (or all) individual contacts. Then choose File, Print. If you get a small Print dialog, then expand it by clicking on the triangle button on the right side.
      Then you can choose “Style” which would include a List or Pocket Address Book. You can also choose which fields to print below it.

    11/19/10 @ 11:34 pm

    I have an iPhone 3GS and when I tried to sync the iCal on the Mac to the iCal on the phone through iTunes, it moved ALL of my birthdays on the birthday calendar to 1 day (Dec 13) for some reason. The birthdays are till correct in iCal and Contacts on the Mac and in the Contacts on the phone, but when you open iCal on the phone, all birthdays are listed on Dec 13. I tried exporting the birthday calendar, then importing it into the main calendar on the Mac, but when I synced again, it showed up as a separate birthdays calendar again, and did the same thing. HELP!!

      11/19/10 @ 11:56 pm

      That’s very odd. I think you should have someone look at it first hand. Or, turn off the birthday calendar. Hard to know what else to suggest.

    Kathy Crocker
    2/21/11 @ 11:04 am

    When sync’g contacts between iPhone and iCal I notice that not all fields transfer over. For example, in iCal I added the field ‘work email’ but that field and its contents did not transfer over to iPhone upon sync’g. When I had a blackberry there was a screen in which you could match up the fields – is there any such tool for iPhone. thanks for any help

      2/21/11 @ 11:10 am

      I don’t believe that custom fields in Address Book are supported on the iPhone’s Contacts app.

    1/26/12 @ 10:27 pm

    I want to leave the birthday calendar on my iCal. However, somehow, for every birthday there is an 8am alert. I turned off the alerts on my MacBook, but they also go in the iCloud and an alert goes onto my iPhone every birthday at 8am. This is not fun of weekends! I cannot edit these birthdays on my iPhone. How do I turn off the alerts for all birthdays, but leave the birthdays themselves on the iCal?

      1/26/12 @ 11:22 pm

      There is a setting in iCal for “Days start at.” Change this from 8 a.m. a later time and you can keep the alerts, but have them go off later in the day.

        1/26/12 @ 11:27 pm

        Thank you, but is there any way to not have the alerts go off at all? My weekdays start at 7:30, but not weekends…

          1/26/12 @ 11:29 pm

          Oh, yes. You can completely disable them. In iCal on your Mac, control+click on the Birthdays calendar. Get Info on it. Check “Ignore Alerts.”

            1/26/12 @ 11:46 pm

            Yes, I ignore the alerts on my Mac, but they go to my iPhone through iCloud. I even turned that calendar off on the iPhone but it turns back on automatically

              1/27/12 @ 1:41 am

              Until there is a fix I set my calendar alerts on the iPhone to have no sound and will use reminders for reminders that need a sound.

Comments Closed.