Keeping your data organized is hard. Keeping your data organized across many devices is harder.
Today, I’m going to show you how to keep your calendar, contacts and email in sync across devices using Google as the glue. As a bonus, I’ll even tell you how to have your files and notes everywhere too. Be advised that some of the puzzle pieces here are subscription based and cost money — things that work well usually do.
My data is stored across three applications on OS X: Mail, iCal and Address Book. They’re simple, fast and to the point. Email is painless to access across devices because of IMAP and its quick using IDLE, but calendar and contacts get tricky. Address Book is unique insofar as it has built-in support for Google syncing out of the box. It does, however, have a knack for forgetting to continue syncing after a while. iCal is the big one for most people and there are ways to rig syncing for free using CalDAV and tools like Calaboration. It quickly becomes a mess and is beyond most people; be sure you have backups of your data before trying.
With your Gmail or Google Apps email account, you’ve already got Google Calendar and Google Contacts. With these, you’ll be able to access contacts and calendar using any web browser, as well as push syncing on Android smartphones and iPhone.
Getting your data into Google’s cloud services is simple with the help of Spanning Sync. It installs on your Mac(s) as a preference pane that coordinates hourly syncs to Google of your iCal and Address Book data. Pricing is fair at $25/year or $65 for a lifetime subscription. Their pricing model is per Google account rather than per device which is a plus if you have more than one Mac.
Prior to starting your first sync with this, it’s always a good idea to backup your data. You can do this in both iCal and Address Book easily by going to File > Export > Archive in each program. Syncing can get messy and having backup takes a few seconds and saves hours of headaches.
Go ahead and start your first sync, it’ll take a while depending on how much data you have. Upon completion, explore iCal and Google Calendar and make sure events are linked to the correct calendars and that any recurring events are as they should be. For your contacts, compare the number of contacts in Google Contacts to the status bar’s count in Address Book. Everything matches up? Great. We’re half way done.