The question of calendar syncing has been quite a big one on the forums on the net. I was also one that has a problem figuring out how to sync all my calendars, and I kept doing more research and experimentation until I finally found perfect solution that seems to work across the board. That is what you’re here for right?

Alright, in this blog entry, I’m going to try to give as much detail as I can based on the scenario that I have in my calendars, as I think my situation covers in part or in all, most other people’s situations. From these different steps, you can take any part you want, and apply it to your particular setup to get what you need.

So let’s get started. I’m going to describe everything based on the setup that I currently have running. This involves: iCal, gCAL, Outlook, and 3rd party calendars, including shared Google calendars, and Tungle meeting organizer.  Now before we continue, let me put in a warning before starting:

The process you’re about to see requires performing major surgery on your calendars. There is no scripting, or crazy techy stuff involved, but you have to be methodical to make this whole thing work.

My Setup before this solution:

iCal on MacBook Pro: Contains 3 calendars: Primary Calendar, My Business calendar, and my Employer’s calendar

The Primary calendar had iCal as its primary source, my business calendar also iCal, and my Employer’s calendar was being pulled in from my Outlook through a published feed. Of course, that only made that calendar read-only so it wasn’t too useful for making changes while I’m out of the office.

gCal on Google: that one was being synced with iCal, via the built in iCal syncing functionality to Google. That seemed to work, apparently, only for the first time, and was quite buggy, as it wouldn’t make changes to existing calendar entries, and invitations were quirky, etc …  but overall, it synced all the calendars, and I was able to see them in Google. Editing still had to be made on iCal though, and then cross my fingers that the changes will get reflected on Google Calendar.

Outlook had the same setup, and I had my calendars from iCal published and subscribed to from Outlook. Again, iCal was still the only location where I can make changes to the calendars

The problem with this setup is that it isn’t flexible, and honestly, was too cumbersome to even manage, as there were too many sources, and it became confusing as to which one had write privileges, and which one is subscribed to which through what channel… you get the drift of this. That’s a bad method.

My setup as i have it today:

If you’re looking to just setup your calendar, you can come straight to this section. The basic idea involves moving all your calendars to Google as the primary calendar. Functionally, at the end of the setup, you will be in the same exact boat, and you wouldn’t know the difference on whether iCal, or any other calendar is primary, so stay with me.

Before making any changes, it is imperative that you make a backup of all your calendars as they are. All of the calendars have an easy way to export all their data into XML, or CSV, or specific to the calendar you’re using. Make the backup, put them all in a safe place, and get to work.

One exception to what I mentioned about is Outlook, reason being: Most people who use outlook, usually have it as the work calendar, provided by their employer, which means, that it would be kind of hard to switch that one to Google. no problem there though, there’s a solution to this one also.

Now, if you do want to use Outlook as one of the calendars synced up with everything you need to consider one step that a regular user would otherwise not need: Make your Google PRIMARY calendar the one to sync up with your work calendar. The reason for this, is the fact that the little utility that you use on your machine to sync up your calendars only syncs with the Primary Google calendar. So, here’s step 1, for those who need to sync their work calendars:

Stage 1:

  1. Download the Google Calendar Sync application. There is help on the page linked as to how to install it. It’s very simple, just double click on setup, and click next.
  2. After having backed up all your Gmail calendars, go ahead and delete them.
  3. Launch the Google Calendar Sync application, and it will ask for your google credentials. Enter those, and then set it up to do 2 way Syncing. do make sure that your primary calendar in google is empty, otherwise, your work calendar will end up getting populated with your personal appointments. you don’t want that!
  4. Once the application launches, you’re done with Stage 1. At this point, your Google Calendar is fully synced with your work calendar. If you edit your outlook appointment, it will show up in Google, and vice versa.
  5. Go to your Google Calendar, and change the settings of your Primary Google calendar, and rename it to something that refers to your work calendar.

Now that the initial calendar is setup, it’s time to setup additional calendars. We’re going to do this in Google Calendar.

Stage 2:

  1. Go to Google Calendar, then Create a new Calendar or more than one. I have a personal calendar, my personal business calendar, and a couple of subscribed calendars as well. After creating them, you can import whatever calendar you want from your iCal, or other calendars…
    Feel free to get creative with whatever calendars you want. everything will be flexible to get it back to iCal (and your mobile device), so have at it.
    (i.e:
    My work calendar, which is coming from outlook is full read/write –> Shared as Read Only with my fiancée
    My personal calendar is full read/write –> Shared as Read Only with my fiancée

    My work calendar is full read/write –> Shared as Read Only with my fiancée
    My fiancée’s calendar is a subscribed calendar, and I only have Read Only access to it.
  2. Label all the calendars like you want them, and give them distinct colors if you want, so that you can tell the events apart from each other.

That’s pretty much it for the Google calendar. Now, in Google calendar, you have a fully synced work calendar, and some additional Google calendars.

Until now, I still haven’t resolved your problem. However, Stage 3, is where all the magic comes together. So read on.

Stage 3:

This stage involves configuring iCal correctly to sync up with Google Calendar (and implicitly, your work calendar as well.

  1. Open iCal and make sure that all your calendars are backed up.
  2. Go ahead and delete all your calendars from iCal. (Trust me, it’s ok !! 🙂
  3. Now, open up the iCal Preferences, and go to the Accounts tab.
  4. Now you have to create a new gCAL CalDav connection. Click on the ‘+’ sign, and create the new CalDav connection. Screen shot 2009-10-31 at 7.12.42 PMIn the Account information, fill in the information: Description: Anything descriptive of the connection
    Username:
    user@gmail.com
    Password: <your password>
    Full Name: Your name.

  5. Click on Server Settings Screen shot 2009-10-31 at 7.12.58 PMServer Address: www.google.com
    Server Path:
    /calendar/dave/username@gmail.com/user
    (Replace ‘username’ with your username and do not put a forward slash after user)
  6. Click on Delegation</ strong>

Screen shot 2009-10-31 at 7.13.07 PM

You will notice that your calendars that are in google will sync up to your iCal, and will show the privileges that they have on them. The ones that show up as Read Only are the ones that are subscribed calendars. Note that if the person sharing the calendar with you gives you modify privileges, you will also be able to modify that calendar through iCal, without any problems.

In the screenshot above, you can see the following:
– The first calendar is my fiancée’s calendar
– The second one is created in Google, and we both have read/write access to it.
– The third one is my personal calendar, shared as Read Only with my fiancée
– The fourth one is my personal business calendar, shared as Read Only with my fiancée
– The fifth one is a public holiday calendar, which is Read Only

you may be wondering where my work calendar is… don’t worry, it’s there, just not  showing up in the delegation screen, because it is the primary calendar, and by establishing a CalDav connection, it is automatically added as a primary calendar on iCal, you can see it in the left pane below:

Screen shot 2009-10-31 at 7.32.27 PM

The one under “GCAL” is the work calendar.

Now that you have all of this setup. Do some testing. Change an entry on any of the calendars, and watch it sync up almost immediately to your iCal, and your GCAL, depending where you made the change. Similarly, create an appointment on your work calendar, either on iCal, or on your gCal, and watch it get synced at the refresh time (which you setup when setting up the Google Calendar Sync Application.

That’s really it. It’s the Zen of calendar syncing!

There’s one more item to add, since in the title, I mentioned syncing to Mobile devices. I didn’t forget about that… This will work with pretty much any smart phone. You can see a small video, and some more information about devices support here: http://www.google.com/mobile/products/sync.html#p=default

So In order to configure your phone, go to the following page from your phone:

http://m.google.com/sync

Once on that page, you will have to login to Google, and then you will see a list of your calendars that are available on Google, including your secondary calendars, and subscribed calendars. You can sync up to 25 calendars to your phone!!!!!  just click them all, and select save.

And now, have fun. Anything you change on ANY of the calendars will automatically show up on ALL the other calendars! It is truly awesome!

I hope this article will help people who are having some problems with this, and get to them to finally be able to get their calendar syncing working properly.

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