How I Synced my Google Calendars with my iPhone
I was just about to get an early night for my first day back of lectures when I remembered I hadn’t put all my lectures into my calendar. I find it really helps to be able to have them in my pocket with notifications to remind me I’ve got a lecture in 10 mins and I ought best to get my ass over the over side of campus pronto.
So I gave into my love of pointless minor administrative tasks and spent the next hour or so entering in all the lectures and practicals, complete with weird exceptions such as “No lecture on week 8″ and “Only on week 8 and 9″. I like to take my time over this, as I tend to rely solely on my calendar and a slip up could mean missing a practical (which happened a few times last year) which isn’t too great. I also added all the meetings, presentations and interviews I have in the coming weeks to do with my placement year, just so I don’t miss those either.
I find it really helpful to have day to day one-off tasks, lectures and practicals, and placement stuff all in different calendars so they’re visually distinct. Being able to glance and see whether something is just an ordinary meeting, a practical or an interview is really helpful in quickly gauging how important something is.
Trouble was, Google Calendar Sync only allows you to sync your main calendars between Outlook and Google Calendars.
But I’m getting slightly ahead of myself. I never used to have this problem because, before I had a smart phone, I would get Google to SMS me when my lectures were.This was very helpful in lieu of syncing between my phone and my computer. But during the summer hols I was lucky enough to get my hands on an iPhone (courtesy of a very good friend) and so over the holidays enjoyed the benefits of being able to sync my music, contacts and, more relevantly, my calendar events.
Trouble is, in Apples begrudgenly support of Windows, iTunes only syncs calendar events with Outlook. This leads to the Heath Robinson setup of syncing Outlook with Google Calendar, and then having iTunes sync with Outlook. And it’s still not that simple, as Outlook doesn’t natively do 2-way syncing, meaning that if you add an event on you’re phone it will never find it’s way back to your Google Calendar. To solve this you need a plugin for Outlook which adds the 2-way syncing for you.
Fortunately the aforementioned Google Calendar Sync provides just such a service with a simple, clean interface. Problem solved.
That is, until you want to sync more than one calendar. Again, as previously mentioned, Google Calendar Sync only allows you to sync your main Google calendar with your main Outlook calendar and I now have 3 calendars I really must sync, and 2 more that it would be nice to (my Facebook Events calendar and UK Public Holidays).
So off I went searching for something which would let me sync multiple calendars. I eventually came across SyncMyCal, thanks to Scott Hanselman. This did the job of letting me sync multiple Google calendars to multiple Outlook calendars and, after some time trying to figure out Outlooks amazingly complex UI, I got it all set up. Only to find that iTunes only let’s you sync with your primary calendar anyway. Bugger.
Back to the drawing board. Thinking about it I didn’t really need to add events to my university or placements calendar and, on the rare occasion I did need to, I could add them to my main calendar and sort it all out at a later date. So what I needed was something which let me pull down my multiple Google calendars and put them all into one Outlook calendar and then do 2-way syncing between my main calendars.
gSyncit to the rescue! The bullet-pointed blurb promised to do just that – sync multiple Google calendars to a single Outlook calendar and vice-versa (as well as more pedestrian 1-way and 2-way syncing). This was only available in the full version, which cost $10 (a lot to a poor student, that’s like almost three pints!) but if it worked it would be worth it. First I tried out the trial version just to make sure it could even do the 2-way syncing between my main calendars and, when that worked, I took the plunge and forked over three pints worth in dollars.
It started off well – I was able to pull down my multiple Google calendars and they all appeared in my main Outlook calendar. Time to see whether adding an event in Outlook would sync back to Google. It worked! It worked…a little too well. Of course, having added all my lectures and practicals and presentations and interviews to my main Outlook calendar these all promptly synced back to my main Google calendar so now I had hundreds of duplicated items.
After manually deleting all the duplicates and purging my Outlook calendar I set about finding a more sensible solution. That solution, it turns out, is to use Categories. All the events pulled from my secondary Google calendars are marked under the “NoSync” category, and then my main calendar is set to sync any events that aren’t marked under the “NoSync” category. The result – the events from my secondary calendars aren’t pushed back to my primary Google calendar.
Success! Now I can go to bed, sleep through my alarm and miss my first lecture. So much for organisation.