Its time!! Your appointment Sir!

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I thought I would write a little about calendars and sync’ing of your calendars as I have had a few clients ask about this and it is not as straightforward as you phone manufacturer might like you to believe!

Basically, the requirement is that a user has his/her email at home, usually on Outlook, and they utilise the calendar function within Outlook. All very good so far. They then get their shiny new iPhone or Android smartphone and it too has a calendar. Now wouldn’t it be great if you could update you calendar ‘on the move’ and when you get back home, your Outlook calendar has been updated with all the appointments you have entered while you were out! but they don’t talk very well together.

So this is how you do it…

Firstly, a bit about Outlook. Outlook was first intended to be used in a Corporate environment. What I mean by that is that it was intended to be use in conjunction with other users in the same corporate network and usually had a beast of a server behind it to manage all of the interaction between those users. And calendering worked great in that environment because all the appointments were stored on the server, you could see other peoples appointments, you could see their free time when setting up a meeting, and you could even these all of this remotely if you dialed-in to the server. All great.
But then people started using Outlook at home, mainly because that’s what they were used and also because that is what you need to read emails. Wrong! There are many, many programs out that there can do emails like Outlook. But the big mistake is that they also thought Outlook worked at home like it did in the office! Wrong again! Outlook at home is really just a local version of everything (unless you use something like IMAP). But all of your calendar appointments are stored locally on your computer and therefore are not accessible to a wider audience. If you wanted to see those appointments while you were out, you would have to dial-in to your computer to see them. If you wanted to add something to that calendar you would have to submit it to your computer. Not very practical.

So, here are the 4 basic steps to linking and sync’ing your calendars.

  1. Get a centralised calendar to store your appointments.
  2. Get a sync’ing tool/program to sync your local computer appointments with the calendar in step 1.
  3. Include the calendar in step 1 on your phone calendar.
  4. Add, edit and delete appointments from both Outlook and your phone and they will sync!

Here’s the detail.

Step 1
The best and most widely recognised online calendaring system is Google Calendar. For this you need a Gmail account – don’t worry, you will never even need to use it once it is setup. You are merely using this as a central store for your calendar. So setup  a Gmail account and remember your username and password. It doesn’t even need to be a user friendly name as you will never use it to give out to people.

Step 2
So now what you need is a tool that will take your local calendar appointments in Outlook and sync them with your new Google Calendar. Once you get a decent tool, it should just sit running in the background on your computer and sync your appointments at specified intervals. Say once every 30 mins or so.
The best tool out there I think is gSyncit. There is a free version of this tool but the paid-for version is $20. The free version is really all you need as it will allow you to sync with one Google calendar, and that’s all you want. So use the link above and download the tool and install it. It will ask you for your Google Calendar login details and should just sit there running in the background. This will sync your Outlook calendar and your Google calendar.

Step 3
Now that your Outlook calendar is syncing with your Google calendar, you need to get your phone to sync with your Google calendar now. And this can be slightly different for different phones, but is generally split between iOS (iPhones) and Android.
On an iPhone, what you need to do is add your Google account and then activate ONLY the calendar of that account.
So, go to Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Add an Account and add your Google account. One of the options you will get once your account is setup is the sync all the different types of events such as Mail, Tasks, Contacts, Documents and Calendars. Just make sure that Calendar is switched on. You can leave all the others off if you like.
No go to your iPhone Calendar and at the bottom of the screen is Calendars option. Select that and ensure you have your Google calendar selected, and make it the default calender. That’s it. Should all be done on the iPhone now.
Just a note that you can ALSO do this on your iPad too so you could have 3 devices all talking calendar-ish!
On my HTC Android phone, I use the Google Calendar app, which I feel is better than the stock calendar. So, firstly you need to add your Google account. In Settings -> Accounts & Sync, add an account and add your Google account. In the configuration of that account, ensure you have the Calendar sync option checked. In the Google calendar settings (go into the Calendar App, click on the menu and select Settings), ensure you have your Google Calendar listed here. If not, add it.

Step 4
Now, when you add or delete appointments on either your Outlook calendar or your phone calendar, this should by sync’d with the other.

Just a note on Google sync’ing. Google used to have a tool called Google Calendar Sync, and in fact they still do. But the newest version will only sync with the business apps rather than their free apps. So if you have a personal Gmail account, this is free and the sync tool Google provide will not allow you to sync with it. If you have their business apps (their paid-for option), the sync tool is a good option.
If you can get a copy of the old version of Google Calendar Sync (and I have it!), like version 0.9.x or similar, it will still work and can be used as an alternative to gSyncit in step 2 above.