Calendar sharing. Nirvana found?

30 08 2007

What is seemingly the bane of existence for most non-Microsoft users is the constant problem of “How can we share calendars?” Exchange does this extremely well, and there are many a Linux zealot, when confronted with the “Okay, we’ll try Linux. How do we share calendars?” has had to hide in shame.

For me, the problem has been “how do I sync my Treo 650 so I can see my family and friends’ calendars, without having to manually do some rigamarole involving synchronizing through some Windows based custom tool?

My savior may have arrived in the form of a tool called GooSync.

The concept is simple. The world in general has failed to come up with a standard calendaring system that actually makes sense, and allows multiple people to share, view, and update each others’ calendars. iCalendar, while very good for publishing calendars and allowing people to subscribe to them for viewing, does a poor job of allowing others to update someone else’s calendar.

Along comes Google Calendar. Ahh, a good, interactive, free calendaring service that allows multiple users to share, update, and publish calendars interactively. Not only that, Google Calendar has a published API specification that allows users to write programs that interact with it.

I had been using CompanionLink to hotsync my Google Calendar down to my Treo, but after months of complaints to their tech support and sales department, explaining that without multiple calendar support, their tool had only limited functionality, and after they even said to me “If you can figure out a way to keep the calendars synchronized without duplicating entries, feel free to tell us how” (and I did), and still not getting an update, it was time to look elsewhere.

GooSync has a number of very strong advantages over CompanionLink and, frankly, any other tool I’ve seen so far.

  • The base version is free. It allows you to sync one personal calendar to and from the Treo to a single Google Calendar
  • For a small fee (about $20 a year), it supports multiple calendars, with read and write access.
  • It keeps all the calendar entries separate on the Treo, either via a text tag in the entry, or using categories.
  • It syncs wirelessly. That means it’ll use the Treo data network (whichever one you have) to talk to their servers to get updates and to post changes. This means you do NOT have to cradle-hotsync your Treo and run some Windows app to synchronize your calendars

That last item bears closer scrutiny. Once the GooSync client is installed on your phone, all subscriptions and maintenance to your calendar list is done via Goosync’s website. Want to add a new calendar to your phone? Go to the website, say “show me all my Google calendars” (and it does), and click the checkbox next to the one you want to show up on your Treo. On the phone, run the Synchronize function in the GooSync client, and 30 seconds later, your Treo is updated with all the new entries.

I’ve tried this with my own calendar, and shared calendars I have write access to, and it works perfectly. No duplicate records, nothing showing up in calendars that I didn’t have there before, it just plain works. I now have full control and view into all my Google Calendars from my phone.

With all the gloom and doom about the PalmOS platform (both from me, and also from very well known tech blogs like Engadget), this is a small ray of sunshine. Note that GooSync supports a ton of different devices, so even if you don’t have a ‘smartphone’ per se, you can probably sync your Google Calendar to your device.

Yay technology, and thank you Google for making it possible, and thank you GooSync!

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6 responses

31 08 2007
Doctor Memory

Sigh, I was all excited until I saw this. I guess I’d consider giving goosync the keys to my personal calendar, but what I really need is a reliable way to sync my palm to my corporate gcal, and I suspect the powers that be would not look kindly on this solution.

31 08 2007
Doctor Memory

Dave, your CSS makes already-travelled links look indistinguishable from any other text until you scrub over it with the cursor…

31 08 2007
dbs

Re: How GooSync Works…
I don’t know how else they could do it, really, unless the client on the Treo actually talked directly to the Google Calendar API and synced that way.
I’d be curious to hear Corporate’s spin on this system – it seems like this is exactly what the API was put in place for.
And re: the CSS, I’ll see if I can munge it a bit. It only happens in the comments :-/

31 08 2007
dbs

There, fixed up the CSS a bit. Thanks for the nudge!

31 08 2007
ceo

I looked at this a while back, but it didn’t have support for syncing contacts. They’ve announced it’s coming soon, and if they also have support for syncing contacts to Thunderbird I might just subscribe.
I’m currently using Scheduleworld for syncing my calendar between Google and my phone, and contacts between Thunderbird and my phone. I haven’t yet found a way to do the latter over USB. Unfortunately, Scheduleworld has an annoying tendency to duplicate my contacts, and the contact-management UI is the single worst-designed Web application I’ve ever seen.

6 09 2007
Lisa

So… if you look in your calendar, further out than 3 or 4 months ago, are all of your old appointments still there? Or have they vanished?
One of the programs I tried ate my old appointments so I’m nervous now.

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