iCal and Google Calendar getting snug… again

Mail, calendars and ToDo lists on the Mac seem to be becoming a hobby of mine, and thanks to the latest release of Calaboration (their spelling not mine!), there’s yet another way for Mac users to spread around some calendar goodness. Calaboration is the latest way for iCal users to view and edit one or more of their Google calendars from within iCal itself. Unfortunately Entourage is left whimpering outside in the cold in this episode (but for that there are other solutions).

Downloading and installing Calaboration is a simple affair, just go to the Google website, download it, unzip it and drag it into your Applications or Applications/Utilities folder. Something you’ll notice is that every time you run Calaboration you’ll be prompted for your Google username and password because unlike other utilities such as Google’s Gmail Notifier, Calaboration doesn’t seem to cache your credentials. Not really a problem as this is pretty much a ‘set it & forget it’ application anyway.

picture-12Once you’ve entered your details you’ll be presented with a list of your Google calandars and it’s simply a matter of ticking the ones you want to be accessible in iCal. Given that I’ve already been using Calgoo Connect to sync iCal with Google calendar I decided it was safest to create a new calendar in Google specifically for the purposes of trying this out. So I created a Google calendar called ‘Google Only’ and selected it in Calaboration as the calendar I was to access from iCal. One final step you need to do is to open Calaboration’s Preferences and tick the box that says Enable read-only calendars. It’s a way of getting round the permissions set in gCal thereby allowing you to add, edit and delete gCal entries in iCal. If you don’t tick the box then any changes made in iCal will generate an error.

Creating an event in Google calendar

When is a meeting not a meeting?

When is a meeting not a meeting?

So let’s try it out… I’ve run Calaboration and told iCal which Google calendar I want access to and now I have a Google heading in the iCal sidebar with ‘Google Only’ in it. I pop over to Google and create a new all day event in my ‘Google Only’ calendar. Going back to iCal I right-click on the ‘Google Only’ calendar heading and select Refresh and sure enough the new event is visible in iCal. So far so good. Next test is to edit the event in iCal and see what Google makes of it so I select the all day Google calendar event and decide to give it a start and finish time then save it. That goes off without a hitch but on syncing the event back to Google, it now decides that it’s a meeting invitation, putting a little question mark icon to the left of the event heading. It’s simple enough to get rid of this by opening the event in iCal and where it says ‘Are you coming‘ over on the right, just click Yes and save the event.

Creating a new gCal event in iCal
Creating a new event in iCal to go in your Google calendar is again pretty straightforward except you need select your Google calendar first in iCal’s sidebar before creating the event. This is because your Google calendar won’t show up in the pick-list of calendars when actually editing the event – that’s just the way it works. Again, once you’ve created the event in iCal and have let it sync, the event pops up in Google complete with the correct start time if you specified one. If you edit the event in iCal and change it from an all day event to one with a start time, then the quirk of it turning into a meeting invite happens again. The work around is the same as before, open the event in gCal and edit it to say you’re attending.

I tried creating, editing and deleting events in either iCal or gCal and apart from the quirk mentioned above, it all seemed to work well. If for example you add text to the Notes field in iCal, this will appear in the description field in Google. It also looks like you could add a location to the event in iCal and have it appear in Google Maps when you open it in Google calendar, although I didn’t investigate this option fully. One thing that doesn’t seem to get carried across is alarms. Despite setting a reminder in Google, or setting an alarm in iCal, that feature wouldn’t make it through to the other platform. Not a showstopper but a pain if like me you’re incredibly forgetful!

So, does Calaboration replace what Calgoo Connect does? Well no not really. You see Calaboration is a way of pulling one or more of your Google calendars through in to iCal and allowing you to edit those calendars on either platform. This means that your Google calendars appear in iCal in addition to any existing iCal calendars you might already have. So if all you have when you start is your default iCal calendar and your default Google calendar, then after setting up Calaboration you’ll still only see your default calendar in Google, but you’ll see both calendars in iCal.

Calgoo Connect on the other hand is about pairing calendars between iCal and Google, so in the same scenario you would choose to pair your default calendar on each platform meaning you have just one intergrated calendar that you can update in either location.

Which option is better? Well both are free and it’s horses for courses really, so it depends on whether you want multiple calendars or not. You might for example already use Google calendar for work and have iCal at home keeping track of your social life. If you want to keep these as two discrete calendars and to be able to see and edit your work calendar at home, then Calaboration will do that for you. If however you wanted just one combined work/social calendar that you update using either Google at work or iCal at home, then Calgoo Connect would be the way to go. Similarly, if you’re an Entourage user then Calaboration isn’t going to be much help because the Google calendars you add to iCal with it aren’t visible in Entourage – for that we need a patch from Microsoft that allows syncing of more than one calendar between Entourage and iCal. Another downside of Calaboration is that calendars it adds to iCal aren’t visible on the iPhone if you’re using MobileMe.

Now if only Apple would update iCal with some of Entourage’s features (categories in calendars, a decent ToDo List function… that syncs with the iPhone) then I’d be a happy man.


One Response

  1. here is a gmail notifier http://gmailnotifier.net/

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