Friday, May 27, 2011

How to synchronize your calendar and contacts everywhere

Frankly, I'm surprised I didn't do it sooner.  But i've just started using google to synchronize all my calendars and contacts into one place.  This can be difficult since I have a BlackBerry, an iPad, and a couple PCs at home.  Luckily, both my PCs at home are running Outlook, my personal pc running Outlook 2010 on Win7 and my company laptop running Outlook 2003 on WinXP.  I figured i'd share my method with anyone else in case anyone knows of an easier way of doing this.

First, let me define my requirements:
  1. I want to sync my calendar and contacts across all four places.
  2. I want the sync to be automatic.
  3. I want the sync to be fairly regular, although it's not crucial that it synchronized every 10 seconds.  I'm ok with synchronization having a 10 minute lag.  It's just my calendar and contacts, they don't change that often.
  4. I want to do this for free.
I looked into a few options for sharing calendars.  Microsoft has an option called web calendars, but it's not the same as synchronizing to a single calendar.  I finally stumbled upon Google's calendar sync app.  It runs on your desktop and synchronizes your primary calendar in outlook with your calendar on Google's servers.  My BB already synchronizes my calendar from my work PC to my BB, so that's already taken care of.  The only problem left was getting my Google calendar on my iPad.  Turns out, since iOS supports an exchange server connection, Google stepped in and made it so you can access your mail, contacts, and calendar via and exchange connection to m.google.com.  So, that solved it.  I now had one calendar on all my PCs and both my mobile devices.

Now for the contacts.  I've already mentioned that the iPad has an exchange connection to google and automatically synchronizes contacts.

I could synchronize my iPad with iTunes on my desktop and that would synchronize the contacts to outlook on my desktop.  However, I want this to be automatic.  I could probably use MobileMe to synchronize between the iPad and my desktop, but that costs money.  So, I found gcontactsynch.  GCS is a third party app that syncs outlook contacts with gmail contacts.  At first i had problems with Outlook thinking it was an unsecured program trying to access data, which in fact it is.  After allowing it a bunch of times, it started synchonizing without any prompts.  I wonder if i could use an exchange connection using the same settings as my iPad.  That would be more seamless and wouldn't involve a third party app.  Perhaps I'll try that sometime.

Google has a BB app called google sync that synchronizes calendar and contacts with the BB calendar and contacts.  I've already got the calendar synchronizing with my desktop, which synchronizes with my BB (now I'm rethinking that though since the calendar sync app would only run when my laptop is turned on).  So, all that's left is to get the contacts on my BB sync'd.  I could probably use google contact sync just like i did with my other desktop.  That would get the contacts on the desktop which would sync automatically with the contacts on my bb (through regular bb sync).  However, i'd prefer to use a google app over a third party app.  So, i'm using Google sync to synchronize the contacts to my BB which will get sync'd back to my desktop through bb sync.

So that takes care of everything.  I've got the same set of contacts and the same calendar on my phone, my iPad, and both my work and home computers.  I'm going to try uninstalling the calendar sync from my work PC and enable calendar sync'ing on my phone (which should also get the calendar to my desktop).  I'll post the results here.