Like a lot of people if there is one application that I use an awful lot it is Microsoft Outlook. Not only is it my email program, but I use it as my calendar application as well as my contacts and my to do list. With 2 Windows laptops and a desktop that I use trying to keep all the information up to date on my machines can be tough. What makes it even tougher is that I have two different email services (other than web mail) that I use. I have my main domain email that is set up with my hosting provider and my MS Small Business Server Exchange email which is the primary email address for my Blackberry.
Email has never been much of an issue to keep synced up. If access my primary email account from one of the laptops, it downloads the messages but leaves a copy on the server. When I download the messages on my main desktop it actually removes all of the messages from the server. In addition each laptop or PC has it’s own email address (including my MacBook Pro and Mac Mini) that I can use to forward important emails too, as well as a few distribution lists that send to all machines if needed. I usually just forward contact information via email (vCards) too if I need it on my other machines.
Using the calendar features are a little trickier. If I forward a meeting request to my Blackberry from my primary email, the request shows up sent on a behalf of the original person by myself. This creates a few confusing items. This past fall I started using Google Calendar as well for a home calendar as well as a personal calendar and one for my soccer team. Using Google Calendar was easy as I could copy events between calendars easily, since it was online it was very accessible by all machines. In addition I could overlay the calendars over my calendar in Outlook 2007.
Shortly after that I found a program that would allow for syncing of the Google Calendar with my Outlook Calendar SyncMyCal, available at http://www.syncmycal.com, brought things together because I could sync two ways between my Outlook Calendar and my Google calendar in both of my Outlook profiles (pop and Exchange), although I had to open each profile to do so. The software was a reasonably priced 25.00 although it is not the easiest software I have ever tried to install as I needed to install several components and it was not always successful on the first install.
Fast forward to last December when Google added a sync tool for Blackberry that allowed syncing of the Google calendar with your Blackberry calendar over the air. This meant that if I added a calendar event to my primary Outlook Calendar, syncmycal would sync it to Google Calendar and then the Google Sync tool would sync it to my Blackberry and then to my exchange server and vice versa. All of my calendars were synced up.
Just yesterday Google announced their own sync tool that allows you to Sync your Google Calendar with Outlook. As usual the Google tool is free. If you are a Google Calendar user, sign into your account and you will see the link to get the software in the upper right portion of the screen.
The download is very small (667KB) and the install is a piece of cake. When it starts it asks for the Outlook profile that you want to use, whether you want full two way sync or just one way, Google to Outlook or Outlook to Google, and the interval of the sync (every 10 minutes is the shortest). The program resides in your task bar and you can toggle it to sync anytime. It does not start automatically with Outlook but it the icon is in the PCs startup folder so it will start with a reboot or login. It can create a shortcut on your desktop to your Google Calendar if you want.
So far limitations I have found are that it will only sync your primary Google Calendar, so if you use more than one calendar it won’t sync those. There are no options for the amount of events (2 weeks worth etc) you want to sync, and no indication of conflict handling. But it is a first generation product and I am sure will get better. Also the only program it supports is Outlook which means Windows only. It works fine with Vista and Outlook 2007.
Syncmycal has two versions, the lite which is free but limited use and the Pro version which can sync multiple calendars and allows for more control may be a better solution for some people now. The software is not expensive and allows for installation on 2 PCs. Installation though can be difficult although it is much better in the latest version and online support isn’t too helpful. Once you get it installed and working it works very, very well.
If you are a Google Calendar and Outlook user and want to keep things in sync, then the new Google Calendar Sync tool is what you need. The price is also right!