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I keep my phone on silent most of the time but would like audible reminders for critical calendar reminders. Short of silencing everything else manually, is there a way to acheive this?

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Check out CyanogenMod. It's a custom rom that has a profiles feature built in where you can define which apps should have audible notifications.

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Its somewhat tricky..

Don't go in Silent mode using stock settings. Use Quick Profiles app to silent everything except Notifications. Then, hunt down all apps which are generating audible notifications. You will found Gmail, Facebook, Astrid etc. Check settings of all those apps. Generally, they all allow users to set notification ringtone. Access this option & choose Silent ringtone for all apps except calendar. Done!

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