Sunday, May 25, 2008

Keeping it all in sync

This article is written for iPhone users on Windows who want to sync their Google services (Calendar, Contacts) but have found no easy solutions. It's not 100%, but pretty damn close.

I'll admit it: I'm addicted to Google and its plethora of services. I use its search engine every day, rely on its calendar to keep me abreast of my happenings, and who doesn't use Gmail? (If you don't, why not?)

I also own an iPhone, which doesn't directly sync with any of Google's services. True, I can access all of Google's services on my iPhone, but let's be real: it's still too slow over EDGE, and what happens if you have no signal when you need the info? You're out of luck. This is why, even though web apps are nice, native apps are still king.

I digress. Anyhow, iPhone *does* sync up with Microsoft Outlook, and with a service called Plaxo (currently in beta, as that seems to be the hot new trend these days), you can achieve 99% syncronization between your iPhone or other Outlook-syncing device and Google. (I'll tell you why it's not 100% in a minute.)

As usual, here are the steps:
  1. First, sign up for a Plaxo account.
  2. Next, set up your sync points from within plaxo. Specifically, set up a Google sync point and an Outlook sync point at a minimum. You'll also want to install the Outlook plugin that Plaxo offers to you during this process.
  3. Once Plaxo syncs these two points, you're ready to plug in your iPhone or other Outlook-syncing device and perform a sync.
At this point, all your data should be synced up, with one exception (this is where it's 99% and not 100%). At the moment, Plaxo has limited support for syncing contacts with Google. Basically it works like this: Anything you do in Google will be updated in Plaxo. Anything you do in Plaxo, however, will NOT be reflected in Google. Ergo, if you make a change on your phone, sync it with Outlook, which then syncs with Plaxo and all the rest of your sync points including Google, poor old Google won't get the change because it's only one way: Google ---> Plaxo.

Not sure when they're going to fix that, but my solution has been to just keep all my contacts organized in Outlook and let it sync up with my phone and Plaxo, which then blasts it out to my other web services like Google, Yahoo, etc.

With this simple setup I've been able to keep most my information in sync with a minimal time investment. If you know of a better solution, please post it in the comments. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out my other tips and tricks!