Tuesday, 4 August 2009

GTD: Staying Connected with Google Sync

I am a massive user/lover of the Google Products especially Mail, Google Reader and Calendar. As with most online services, I am always looking for ways to get them connected to my Xda.

The last time I looked however (which was pretty much when I got the device), there was no great way to sync with my Google Calendar. I ended up going with a third party application called OggSync, which up until now has served me very well. The only downside was that there was not decent scheduling option. So I ended up having a daily reminder to fire off a sync.

Then it all changed..

Introducing Google Sync

Now, this may have been out a while, but I never heard anything about it (is it just me or are Google terrible at marketing their products?). But anyway, I was listening to an episode of the StartupDaddy podcast (which is a great podcast by the way – thanks Ian!) where Google Sync was mentioned. Now, I almost dismissed it straight away, but then Ian said something like (can’t remember the exact words):

it works via the Exchange protocol

And that got my attention – last time I looked, it did not.

So It Uses Exchange? Big Whoop, Wanna Fight About It?

Well, the reason why it’s important that it uses Exchange is because ActiveSync (which syncs the device tasks, contacts, calendar etc with Exchange) is baked in to the Windows Mobile system, making the whole sync process a LOT easier. So, I headed over to the Google Sync page to check it out..

Limitation

Thought I should cover this before you run off and download it. From what I can see, there is only one limitation to Google Sync – it only syncs your primary calendar. I thought this was a limitation at first, but to be honest, I had no real benefit to keeping my work and personal calendar separate (I am either doing one or the other at the same time) so I merged the two and got on with it.

However, I don’t know your circumstances, so do with it what you will.

Setup

Ironically, the setup instructions appear to actually be out of sync with the process on my Windows Mobile 6.1 device. If I remember correctly, the “server settings” page actually comes last. But to be honest, it’s not rocket science.. :)

Setup was completed in under 3 minutes, then a couple of mins to sync everything for the first time. Now my calendar and contacts (yeah, a little Brucie there) are all in sync with Google! ActiveSync comes with some great configuration too (such as syncing more often during definable “peak” times).

Wrap Up

While I am sorry to see OggSync go, as it really was the best out there when I got it. This feature from Google is really great, not only is it quick to setup, but just having a third party system appear to be a lot more native to my device is really nice.

I have no idea what work was involved for them in getting their calendar system to work with the Exchange protocol, but the usability increase in doing so is second to none. I am wondering if people like Remember The Milk will perhaps do something similar so I don’t need to run a separate application for tasks?

Again, thanks to OggSync, Google Sync and StartupDaddy!

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