Monday, February 9, 2009

Google Sync

After I gave up my BlackBerry, I switched back to using my Dell Axim PDA. I'm very happy with it, and I'm having great luck with Windows Mobile 6.1 One thing that I have struggled with is to find a way to synchronize my mobile calendar, contacts, and e-mail with my Google calendar, contacts, and e-mail. Actually, I should not include e-mail, as that was always easy to do. You can synchronize either via POP or IMAP, whichever you prefer.

So next up was calendar synchronization. My goal was to find a solution that would synchronize my work calendar with my google calendar, and both my Google and work calendars onto my PDA. The first app I tried for this was Google Calendar Sync for Mobile Devices (GCSfMD). This is an application that runs on a Windows Mobile 5.0 or later device and synchronizes the calendar data on the PDA with the Google Calendar. The advantage here is that my work calendar would sync to my device, and then GCSfMD would modify the calendar to also include my Google Calendar appointments. Unfortunately GCSfMD is a one way sync. If I change an appointment on my Google Calendar my device is updated, but if I change an appointment on my device, the Google Calendar is unaltered. So my next attempt was to use Google Calendar Sync. Although the two have very similar names, they behave in very different ways. Google Calendar Sync synchronizes your Outlook calendar directly with your Google Calendar. It is a two-way sync, so if you update either your Outlook Calendar or your Google Calendar, the updates are synchronized between both. This is a great app, and I have gotten great use out of it the last few weeks.

This left contact synchronization. There simply is no good solution for synchronizing Outlook Contacts and Google Contacts. Likewise, the only application that I found that will synchronize my mobile contacts with Google Contacts is OggSync.

Fortunately, today Google released Google Sync. Google Sync works with Windows Mobile and iPhone devices to synchronize both the Calendar and Contacts with your Google data. Best of all, it required no installation on my PDA! I simply modified my ActiveSync setup to point to the Google Mobile server, and everything synced up perfectly.

A couple of questions you might have:
  • Why not just use the device web browser to check the Google sites directly?
That would be perfectly acceptable...if my device were a phone. It isn't, and I don't want to pay the extraordinary rates carriers are asking for all you can eat data service. By synchronizing my device, the data is available offline. So even if I'm in the car I still have access to all my calendar, contact, and e-mail data.
  • How do you merge the data?
I still need Google Calendar Sync. Google Sync will sync your device data with your Google data, but it will not merge with your Outlook data. I still use Google Calendar Sync to merge my Google Calendar with my Outlook calendar. There is still no solution for merging my contact data, but I'm okay with this because I can live with only having my personal contacts on my device.
  • Can I sync my device with both Google and Outlook?
At this time, no. Windows Mobile and iPhone both restrict you to a single synchronization source. You'll need to decide how you want to approach it. For me, I've chosen to make Google my primary data provider, and I sync all of the other data with Google. You may prefer to sync with your Outlook data, in which case you will need to find alternative applications to sync up.

In an ideal world, my device would sync and store all of my various calendars, contacts, e-mail, and data from as many sources as I wanted. Until then, the combination of Google Sync and Google Calendar Sync will fill the void.

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