My calendar sync solution for Mac & iCal

calsynccollageCalendar syncing is an issue for anyone who works on a team, has multiple computers, or even just has a computer and a phone. It seems like it should be easy to keep appointments and events in sync among all of your devices, but so far there hasn’t been one solid solution to rise to the top of this market and woo the masses. However, that doesn’t mean the calendar syncing landscape is barren. There are a lot of good solutions available that each solve one piece of the puzzle. By putting the right pieces together anyone can create their taylor-made calendar syncing masterpiece. When I started looking for a solution I wanted something that would:  

  • Sync multiple iCal calendars from my Mac with multiple Google calendars (belonging to multiple Gmail and Google Apps accounts).
  • Allow others to subscribe to any of my calendars (if I give them permission).
  • Two-way sync over the air with my iPhone (I’m too lazy to have to plug in my iPhone every day).
  • Not cost too much money.

I already used Google Calendars for different parts of my personal and professional life with different Gmail and Google Apps accounts. Another option would have been to use MobileMe, but I prefer Google Calendar because of its feature set and price point–free. One of Google Calendar’s great features is the ability to share calendars with other Google Calendar users. The first thing I did to get setup with a good syncing solution was to choose one Gmail account to have complete control over all of my Google Calendars. This same feature also lets me share calendars with other people allowing them to see the information but not make any changes to it.

Now that I had everything in Google under one account I just needed to find a way to sync that account with iCal on my Mac. There are a few options out there that do this, but the one I prefer is SpanningSync.

Some people don’t like the fact that all information runs through SpanningSync’s servers (as a privacy issue), but I actually like the fact that they operate as a service because they notice when things break and are very quick to respond. Also, I don’t really mind my calendar data passing through SpanningSync on its way to Google–if my data were too sensitive for SpanningSync I wouldn’t be sending it to Google in the fist place.

SpanningSync allows one Google account (Gmail or Google Apps) to sync any of its calendars with any calendars in iCal. It runs as a preference pane and includes a little menubar icon to show you when a sync is in process or if there has been a sync error. SpanningSync is a service so it is not free. But you get continuous support for that fee. Users choose to either pay an annual fee of $25 the first year then $15 each year after that, or a one-time fee of $65.

With my Mac and “the cloud” all synced up I just needed to throw my iPhone into the mix. The first solution I tried was the standard iCal sync via iTunes. This solution was quickly thrown out for a couple of reasons. First of all, the note field. For one of my jobs I use the note field in iCal to contain long lists of information about each event that I create. This fields syncs perfectly up to Google so I can view all of these notes online. However, for some reason iTunes cuts off the note field when it syncs iCal events to the iPhone. Since this information is critical to my job, I cannot use iTunes calendar syncing for my calendars.

Besides, who wants to have to use a cable to sync your phone and your computer these days anyway?!

So I started looking into alternate solutions for iCal/iPhone/Google Calendar syncing and I found Saisuke. Saisuke is a calendar replacement app on the iPhone. So, instead of opening the default calendar app on my phone I now open Saisuke instead. I first tried the free version of the app which is limited to 1-way sync (Google to iPhone only), 1 calendar only, and a shorter sync period. Once I felt comfortable with this solution I went ahead and paid for the full version ($9.99).

With Saisuke my iPhone and Google Calendars are always in sync. With SpanningSync my iCal and Google Calendars are always in sync. The total calendar sync cost of this solution: $65 + $9.99 = $74.99 (less than one year of MobileMe). Of course, MobileMe offers a lot of other features for that fee, but they are features I didn’t need so this solution was the one for me.

How do you keep your schedules in sync?