Duplicates on your Mac? Check Outlook!

They have been the bane of my life. Duplicate calendar entries and duplicated fields in my Contacts, all because I wanted to sync my important data between Outlook and my Mac. Things have certainly improved since I embarked on this quest, but a few stubborn calendar and contact items just kept coming back over and over again. No matter how much I ‘went back to square one’ or manually removed duplicate items in Google, iCal or Address Book, sure enough after the next sync they’d be back!

I just couldn’t figure it out. Everything in Outlook was exactly as it should be, yet Google and the Mac were seeing double. So, I went exploring again and to my surprise I finally found the culprit… Outlook!!

Outlook - All Appointments

Outlook - All Appointments

Now I’m using Outlook 2007 but I’m guessing that the same thing can happen in earlier versions. Let’s start with the calendar. When I’m in Outlook I always use one of three views – Day, Week or Month, and there’s not a duplicate in sight. However, when setting up a ‘work’ calendar in Outlook yesterday I started looking around for a way to change the default colour Outlook had chosen for the calendar. I went to the View menu, chose Current View then looked at my options. All Appointments caught my eye for some reason so I had a look. Great, a long list of everything that’s in my calendar and I mean everything! But – I could see duplicates. I flipped back to Month view and the duplicates disappeared, returned to All Appointments and there they were again, large as life.

In some cases I could see minor differences between entries, like ‘all day’ events that had different start/end times, other entries were identical as far as I could tell.  Even so, I didn’t figure out why my Outlook Month view was hiding these duplicates from me. Anyway, I deleted every duplicate I could find, sync’ed across to gCal and hey presto – the few duplicates that had persisted all along were finally gone!

I did the same for my Contacts. I found a view that showed ‘all fields’ for a contact and sure enough, the person had the same address stored in FOUR different places, all of which had been faithfully replicated across to Address Book on the Mac. Once I cleaned up this hidden data in Outlook, everything was fine.

What I haven’t managed to figure out is how calendar items and address book items got duplicated in the first place. Perhaps it was a result of my early attempts to sync my data with Google? Perhaps there’s something about how Outlook handles certain changes. In any case I’m just relieved that I’m finally seeing light at the end of my sync tunnel.

So my message is – don’t take it for granted that what you see using the standard views in Outlook is actually a true picture of what is there. If you’re suffering from duplicate entries in Google, on your Mac or even MobileMe after sync’ing with your PC, there’s a good chance that Outlook is hiding the truth!


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