Last week I talked about how I had come up with a better solution for syncing my calendar and contacts information across a variety of devices, including my windows based computers, iPhone and iPad. But I didn’t go into the actual mechanics. So without further ado, here’s the how to do it.
Windows (on the desktop and on the netbook)
To get my Google contacts automatically synced with the Thunderbird email client that I use, I downloaded the free Zindus “Google and Zimbra contact sync” for Thunderbird. Its simplicity itself to install. Inside Thunderbird you click tools, add-ons then install then select the downloaded file. You then configure it inside Thunderbird, by selecting Tools | Zindus (its a new option that has appeared), and adding your Google Mail account and password. The two systems then keep themselves sync’ed without any interference.
Two points to note.
1. I discovered whilst writing this that Zindus was written by a friend of mine in Richmond (well done Leni!)
2. Double ups of information generally occur as people switch jobs, and email addresses. Google Mail has a lovely tool to find the “double-ups” and fix them up for you.
The second area where I want to Sync with Google is with my calendar. I use a product called Lighting, which integrates with Thunderbird. I downloaded the free Google Calendar Provider and installed it the same way I installed Zindus above. By selecting Tools | Add Ons | Install inside Thunderbird.
When you run Lighting, click the calendar icon in Thunderbird, you can then create a Google Calendar “feed” to be displayed. To create the Calendar feed select File | New | Calendar. You then select Google Calendar and enter the Calendar location. The Calendar location can be found by going to your Google Calendar in a web browser, selecting Settings | Calendar Details and pressing the XML button for the private address. Cut and past this address into Lighting and Voila! Your Google Calendar and Lightning Calendar will automatically sync with each other.
The lovely thing is I can repeat this same setup on every device I may touch, and they will all automatically sync without getting confused as Google is always the “source”.
I can also go to my Google account and see my up-to-date calendar, contacts and send email if I drop into an internet cafe.
Although I don’t use Microsoft Outlook, the same principle works there as well. There is a great article here on how to set it up with links to the free software.
On the iPhone and iPad
Both the iPhone and iPad are pretty much identical to setup. Its a two step process. The first step is to add your Google Account, the second step is to tell the device which calendars you want synced – I have 9.
To setup your Google account you go to settings on the device and add, here’s a tricky bit, a Microsoft Exchange Account (not the listed Google Mail account). This means you will access Google via an exchange server Google has licensed, which gives you the functionality you need to sync lots of accounts. The process is explained in detail, with pictures, here. With this one stroke you can setup eMail, Contacts and Calendar. Its also likely that you will delete any existing contacts you have on the device, but that’s pretty much a good thing at this stage. Just take a backup of your contacts first in a basic format such as csv (a comma delimited text file) and import these into your Google Contacts when you are done.
Miraculously, Contacts will start appearing on your iPhone in batches. In my case downloading the 2,500 or so contacts normally takes a number of hours. I don’t know why it takes this long, but I don’t care. All I know is that it works.
The second thing you will want to do is add additional calendars to Sync. On the iPhone and iPad, each calendar comes in its own colour and I can turn them on or off, depending on whether I want to see the big picture or just focus on one thing. Why I have multiple calendars, is something I have written about before, but won’t go into here.
Instructions for setting up multiple calendars to Sync are published here by Google. Basically you just goto http://m.google.com/sync , login and select the calendars. The trick is to use the web browser on the device you want to sync as the Google Sync website recognises which device you are using to access it, and configures the available options automatically.
This doesn’t just work for the iPhone and iPad, the Google Sync website also has instructions on how to make the hole thing happen with Android, Blackberry, iPhone’s Nokia’s and others.
There was only a tiny bit of fiddling to get the whole kit and kaboodle working, but now that its done, it just works. So much so that I regularly find myself surprised when other people mention that they are having issues. Hope you find it useful too.