Entourage and Google Calendar, (still) all sync’ed up

Spanning Sync 3Back in late 2008 I wrote a post about how I kept my Entourage and Google calendar in sync using a utility called Calgoo Connect. The process worked really well and the post generated quite a bit of interest from people who were in the same boat. A year and a half later and things have moved on, the most notable change being that Calgoo Connect for the Mac is no longer available. Not to worry though, if you still use Entourage and Google Calendar and you want to keep the two in step, then there s another way to do it using a neat utility called Spanning Sync.

Now the important thing to note here is that what we are doing here is taking your Entourage calendar and your Google calendar and effectively combining them into a single unified calendar. Unlike BusyCal (another great app I use) which lets you publish and subscribe to calendars so you can update them in multiple places, Spanning Sync keeps things neat by letting you ‘merge’ your Google and Entourage calendars into one. It’s actually a lot more powerful than that, but we’ll keep it simple for now. Like before, this method actually uses iCal on your Mac as a ‘conduit’ for the sync process, however you don’t need to be an iCal user of even open it up, except perhaps initially to check that everything is working ok. So, an overview of what  we’re looking at is as follows:

Calendar Sync Workflow

Keeping Entourage and Google Calendar in sync

Basically you keep Entourage and iCal in sync using functionality built in to Entourage itself, then you keep iCal and Google Calendar in sync using Spanning Sync. So how do we do that?

Well the fist step is to configure Entourage to talk to iCal by going in to the Preferences in Entourage and under General Preferences select the Sync Services heading just like in the picture below. Then it’s as simple as ticking the box that says ‘Synchronize events and tasks with iCal and MobileMe’. Don’t worry about MobileMe for now, if you don’t have a MobileMe account it will just be ignored.

Entourage Preferences

Getting Entourage and iCal to talk to each other

Ok at this point your Entourage calendar should be visible within iCal and you can check by launching iCal and under the Calendars heading on the left, make sure there is a check mark against the entry labeled Entourage. You should actually see any entries from your Entourage calendar showing up in your iCal calendar in whatever colour you’ve chosen (mine seems to default to purple). At this point you can forget about iCal and close it down again as the next step is to configure Spanning Sync.

Ok you’ve downloaded and installed Spanning Sync so at this point you need to tell it how to sync the Entourage calendar on your Mac with whichever calendar in Google you have chosen to sync with. Let’s assume you have already set up a Google calendar which you’ve called ‘Entourage’. Open Spanning Sync by going to the Apple menu and choosing System Preferences and then under the Other heading at the bottom of your System Preferences window choosing Spanning Sync. The first thing you need to do is tell Spanning Sync about your Google account by giving it your Google user name and password. Once you’ve done that it will go off and find your Google calendar(s). Now click on the Calendars tab in Spanning Sync and you should see a list of your iCal calendars on the left and your Google calendars on the right.You will see from my example below that I’ve got multiple calendars on both sides, and that my Entourage calendar in Google is actually called ‘Entourage (2)’.

Spanning Sync 1

Specifying which calendars to synchronize in Spanning Sync

Tick the box that says Sync Calendars then choose your Entourage calendar under the iCal Calendars heading. Now you can choose which Google calendar you want to synchronize with, so look for your Entourage calendar under the Google Calendars heading and choose that one. You should end up with something like the entry highlighted in blue in the picture above. Remember, because the two calendars you choose to will be synchronized, they effectively become a single calendar (which is actually what you want). Obviously you need to think about any entries you already have in the two calendars.

Spanning Sync gives you a lot of control over how the synchronization takes place. You can sync from your local calendar to Google, from Google to your local calendar or both ways (which is probably what you want). Here you also choose whether you want to sync alarms and items in the past. Once you’ve entered the settings you want, just click the Sync Now button and let Spanning Sync do its stuff. The final step is then to go back to the Account & Schedule tab in Spanning Sync and choose how often you want the calendars to sync, and that’s pretty much it. There are other options in Spanning Sync which you can explore, for example under the Advanced Settings tab you can elect to start over or overwrite one of your calendars if you’re having a problem. Personally I’ve never had to do this as Spanning Sync has just quietly got on with things, but if you do get stuck you can get help from Spanning Sync themselves or on the forum, or even just by Googling your problem.

Ok, the one thing you need to know is that unlike the old Calgoo Connect solution, Spanning Sync is shareware and so needs to be paid for. Essentially it works by registering your Gmail address as being enabled for synchronization and you have a choice of paying $25 annually or making a one-off payment of $65 for life which is what I chose to do (I’m not planning to ditch my Mac or Google calendar any time soon).

There you have it – your Entourage calendar should now be in perfect harmony whether your using it locally in Entourage on your Mac or via a browser in Google calendar. Spanning Sync will do other things, like sync calendars between multiple Macs as well as syncing contacts (although I figure Google knows enough about me already without knowing who all my contacts are as well). Yes there are other tools that may be free or that go about things differently, but Spanning Sync does what it does nicely and has been pretty much ‘set & forget’ for me. I have to admit that I don’t use Entourage 2008 much these days as I’ve gone back to using Mail.app (because of its unified inbox) and BusyCal (which gives you nice features over and above what iCal does), but Spanning Sync still fits in nicely with my BusyCal usage. I’ve also got MobileMe Sync running in the background, so my calendars are everywhere. I can even access my Entourage calendar via CalenGoo on my iPhone 3G!

I’m also hoping for great things when Microsoft release Outlook for the Mac as part of Office 2011 – could that be what makes me switch back to using a Microsoft mail client?

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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.

Entourage and Google Calendar, all sync’ed up

UPDATE 25/May/10 – Unfortunately since I wrote this article, Calgoo no longer offer the Calgoo Connect utility. I have now written a new article on how to use Spanning Sync to keep Entourage and Google in sync. You can find the new article HERE.

UPDATE 19/Oct/09 – To all the people who have upgraded to Snow Leopard, which causes Calgoo Connect to break. The problem appears to relate to a difference between the version of Java that ships with Snow Leopard and the version of Java that Calgoo Connect expects. Calgoo have not yet responded with a Snow Leopard compatible version of Connect, but there does appear to be a workaround which is to install an earlier version of Java. I will investigate this and post a ‘how to’ in a separate article (if I can make it work!)

In the meantime, there’s a very good article here that tells you how to install the Leopard version of Java if you want to give it a try.

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The following is a short walkthrough I’ve made in response to a question someone raised about being able to sync Entourage with Google calendar, the idea being that if you use Entourage at work you can post a calendar entry there and then view it on gCal when you get home (and vice versa).

The short answer is ‘yes’ and all you need is Calgoo Connect (currently v2.1.3) which you can download from the Calgoo website (you’ll need to register for the download, but it’s FREE). The long and boring answer is as follows…

Ok, we’ll assume you’ve already downloaded and installed Calgoo Connect on the Mac where you’ve got Entourage installed. Now the thing to remember here is that you’ll actually be using iCal on the same Mac as a ‘conduit’ for getting Entourage and gCal to talk with each other. Doesn’t mean you need to be an iCal user, just so long as it’s in the background doing it’s thing. This is what you need to do.

  1. Open Entourage and go to Preferences. From the preferences list choose Sync Services and make sure you have the option to ‘Synchronize events and tasks with iCal and .Mac‘ ticked. This will automatically create an Entourage calendar inside iCal. You can easily test this bit by creating a calendar entry in Entourage then opening iCal and checking that your new entry appears in the Entourage calendar under iCal. (Don’t worry if you don’t have a .Mac account, that bit is ignored if you don’t have one).
  2. Next, you need to decide which of your gCal calendars you want to sync Entourage with (that’s if you have more than one gCal calendar). For the purposes of making this article clearer, I created a gCal calendar called Entourage, alongside my default calendar.
  3. Ok, launch CalGoo Connect and click on the little icon bottom left that looks like a purple and an orange arrow on top of a calendar.
  4. Chose what sort of connector you want to create, in this case it’ll be ‘Sync an Apple iCal Calendar with a Google Calendar‘.
  5. Give your new connector a name. I called mine ‘iCal <-> gCal’ but beware that special characters like ‘<‘ aren’t actually a good idea as they get mangled when Calgoo displays them back to you. (Bug?). A better name might be ‘iCal – gCal’.
  6. Now you’ll be prompted for which iCal calendar you want to sync. This is where you’ll want to specify your Entourage calendar in iCal.
  7. Then you’re asked to supply your Google Mail credentials so that Calgoo Connect can access your calendar(s) to see what’s there (and do the sync’ing).
  8. Once you’ve done that you should see a window asking you which Google calendar you want to sync with. Again in my case I chose the calendar in Google that I’d specially created for sync’ing with Entourage, but you could just as easily use your default Google calendar for example.
  9. Now you’ll get a confirmation window that summarizes what you’ve chosen. If you’re happy just click the ‘Next’ button.
  10. The last step lets you do a sync straight away or just save the connector for later use (or modify the connector).

And that is pretty much that. As you’ll see from the gallery below, I tested this out by creating a new calendar entry in Entourage which, after sync’ing using Calgoo Connect, appeared in Google calendar – and it works both ways so you can create something in gCal and it’ll sync across to Entourage. Of course you can set Calgoo Connect to sync automatically at a particular interval, e.g. every hour.

So next time you need to need to type something into Entourage and see it appear in gCal, this will do the trick. Alternatively, if the other half nags you to book a day off so you can go shopping for shoes with her, you can create a reminder for yourself in gCal at home and it’ll pop up in your Entourage calendar at work (or wherever) so that you can then plead with your boss for some time off… or not, as the case may be! 😉