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Fetching and caching Google Calendar data in Rails

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Recently we had a requirement to show Google Calendar data for a client on a Rails intranet project. The requirements were a bit outside what’s offered by the embedded iFrame option so we needed a better solution to retrieve Google calendar data.

Options for getting data from Google Calendar

The simplest option is just to use the iFrame that Google provide that is accessible from your Google Calendar under Settings > Calendars > Name of your Calendar > Embed This Calendar. You don’t really get to customise this though so what you see is what you get

If you want the raw data so you can do things with it Google publish the gdata-ruby-util Ruby library which provides an interface into Google’s Data APIs. This is a very useful gem, providing full access to lots of data across Google services. From a Ruby perspective it seemed like you need to write a lot of code for a simple API call.

Better for our requirments was the GCal4Ruby gem that provides a clean interface to Google Calendar data. It works for both Google and Hosted Accounts and with just six lines of ruby you can get event data for a particular calendar:

service = GCal4Ruby::Service.new

service.authenticate("USERNAME", "PASSWORD")
cal = GCal4Ruby::Calendar.find(
    service,
    'YOUR_CALENDAR',
    {:scope => :first}
)
events = GCal4Ruby::Event.find(
    cal,
    "",
    {
     :range => {:start => Time.parse("08/04/2000"),
     :end => Time.parse("09/04/2010")}
    }
)

Once you’ve got the data you can iterate over it as you want

for event in events
    #do stuff here
    puts event.title
end

Caching

The API call takes a while to come back so we don’t really want the user experience to be impacted by slow load times. We can use Rails caching to store the response and only fetch it when we need to. We put this into a rake task so that we could call it using a cron script to keep the calendar up to date

task :gcal_update  => :environment do
    Rails.cache.delete('gcal_events')
    Rails.cache.fetch('gcal_events') {
    gservice = GCal4Ruby::Service.new
    gservice.authenticate("USERNAME", "PASSWORD")
    calendar = GCal4Ruby::Calendar.find(gservice, 'your calendar',  {:scope => :first})
    events = GCal4Ruby::Event.find(calendar, "", {
        :range => {:start => Time.now.beginning_of_day, :end => Time.now.advance(:days => 7)},
        :singleevents => true,
        :max_results => 1000,
        :sortorder => "ascending" })
        upcoming_events = {}
        # We're saving the next 7 days of events
        days = Date.today..Date.today.advance(:days => 7)
        # initialize the hash
        days.each{ |day| upcoming_events["#{day.to_s}"] = []
    }
    events.each do |e|
        # should find out if its an all day event or a recurring event.
        event = Hash.from_xml(e.to_xml)["entry"]
        days.each do |day|
            current_event = {}
            if (event["when"]["startTime"].to_date <= day) and (event["when"]["endTime"].to_date >= day)
                # save useful data into a hash
                current_event["all_day"] ||= event["when"]["startTime"].to_time.to_date < event["when"]["endTime"].to_time.to_date ? true : false
                current_event["title"] = event["title"]
                current_event["uri"] = event["link"][0]["href"]
                current_event["time"] = event["when"]["startTime"].to_time.strftime('%H:%M') if event["when"]["startTime"].to_date == event["when"]["endTime"].to_date
                upcoming_events["#{day.to_s}"].push(current_event)
            end
        end
    end
  upcoming_events
}
end

Showing the calendar

Now in our controller we have an easy way to get the latest calendar data and we can then loop over it in our view

@calendar = Rails.cache.read('gcal_events')

Have an update or suggestion for this article? You can edit it here and send me a pull request.

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