As of yesterday's announcement of CalDAV support in Google Calendar, you can now sync your Google Calendar with virtually any popular desktop calendar for free. Not only can you enjoy your favourite desktop calendar software and still get the benefit of the web interface, you can also sync any desktop calendar with any other across platforms using GCal as a go-between. Let's take a comprehensive look at how to set up bidirectional syncing between Google Calendar and your favourite desktop calendar—from Outlook and iCal to Sunbird and Thunderbird—for free.
Remember, this doesn't mean that you can sync Google Calendar with just one desktop calendar. It means that no matter what you're using—Outlook at work and iCal at home, for example—you can always stick to desktop calendars if that's what you prefer. Google Calendar now works as both a great web application and a dedicated syncing tool. It's the cloud, and once it's set up, you don't ever have to access your calendar through the web again if you don't feel like it. But when you're not at a desktop, you can fire up GCal from any web browser, make changes, and still be confident your desktop is completely in sync next time you fire it up. Let's get started.
Sync Microsoft Outlook with Google Calendar
Syncing calendar events between Outlook and Google Calendar has been a cinch ever since Google came out with Google Calendar Sync, a free application that provides bidirectional syncing between the two. (It also supports one-way sync in either direction, if for some reason you don't want two-way syncing.) Assuming you're using a supported setup (Outlook 2003 or 2007 and either Vista or XP), here's how to get it working.
- Download and install Google Calendar Sync.
- Enter your Google account email address and password.
- Select your sync method (most likely you want two-way syncing) and the sync frequency you prefer. It defaults to syncing every 120 minutes, which seems a little long for most.
- Hit Save and you're done. Easy, right?
If you've added a new item to your calendar and you want to force a new sync rather than waiting for Google Calendar Sync to run its next sync, just right-click the system tray app and choose Sync. It doesn't get much simpler than that.
Sync iCal with Google Calendar
As of yesterday, Google Calendar supports two-way synchronisation with iCal through the CalDAV remote calendar standard. Setting up iCal with GCal varies slightly based on whether or not you're using your default GCal calendar or a secondary calendar. First, here's how to set up your Google Calendar default with iCal:
- Open iCal, then fire up your iCal Preferences (iCal -> Preferences or Cmd-,).
- Click on the Accounts tab, and then click the '+' button to add a new remote calendar to iCal.
- Call the calendar whatever you want (I went with 'Personal' for my main calendar), then enter the Google account username (which is normally your Gmail address) and password.
- Click on Server options to display the Account URL text box. For your default calendar, enter the following URL:
[email protected]with your actual email address.
- Once you've done that, just hit Add and you're finished. Give iCal a few minutes to download all your events and you're good to go.
If you want to add a secondary calendar, the steps are exactly the same as above with one small difference. Instead of inserting your email address in the Account URL as described in step 4, you need to grab the calendar ID for that specific calendar. You can find it by opening GCal, clicking the arrow next to the calendar you want to sync, and selecting Calendar settings. In the settings, find the Calendar Address section near the bottom of the window, then just copy and paste the Calendar ID (which is formatted like an email address) in place of
[email protected] in the URL above.
You can refresh iCal to make sure you've synced the latest-and-greatest at any time by selecting Calendar -> Refresh or hitting Cmd-R. (Original post)
Sync Mozilla Sunbird or Thunderbird with Google Calendar
Whether your using Mozilla's standalone calendar application Sunbird or Thunderbird with the Lightning extension installed (Lightning integrates Sunbird into Thunderbird), bidirectional calendar syncing between either application and Google Calendar is a breeze. The special sauce in this sync is the Provider for Google Calendar extension. Installing Provider in either Sunbird or Thunderbird is basically the same procedure, and here's how it works:
- Download and install the Provider extension by saving it to your desktop, opening the Add-ons dialog in either Sunbird or Thunderbird, and dragging the file you just downloaded into the Add-ons dialog. Once installed, make sure to restart the application.
- Now that Provider is installed, you have to add your new Google Calendar. In Sunbird, go to File -> New Calendar; in Thunderbird, it's File -> New -> Calendar when you're in the calendar view.
- You're now looking at the Create new calendar wizard. Select "On the Network" and hit Continue.
- Choose Google Calendar as the calendar type. The Location field requires the XML flavor of your calendar's Private Address, which you can get by opening GCal and choosing Calendar settings from the drop-down next to the calendar you want to access. At the bottom of the settings page you'll see the Private Address section. Copy the XML link and paste it into the Location field in Sunbird or T-bird.
- When you hit Continue, you'll be asked for your Google Calendar username (again, your Gmail address) and password. Enter it, give your new calendar a name, and hit Continue. You're done.
From now on, any event you add to that calendar will automatically sync to GCal and vice versa. You can reload the calendar to get the most up-to-date information at any time by clicking the Reload button in your toolbar. (The button is installed in the toolbar by default in Thunderbird, but you may have to customise your Sunbird calendar to add it to the toolbar.)
Sync Your Mobile Device with Google Calendar
If you're interested in syncing your mobile device with Google Calendar, you've also got a ton of great and free options. BlackBerry users can check out Google Sync, a BlackBerry app made by Google specifically for Gcal-to-BlackBerry syncing.
Finally, if your phone supports SyncML, web application GooSync can handle Gcal syncing without installing anything.
If you're not happy with the methods detailed above—which I selected because each represents the easiest and cheapest (read: free) option—there are still tons of other tools to sync Google Calendar with your desktop calendar. First, we've covered how to sync Google Calendar and Gmail contacts with the more technical GCALDaemon. Also, the cross-platform Calgoo just went free, with both Outlook and iCal syncing capabilities.
On a somewhat unrelated but still useful note, you can also now sync Google contacts with your Mac OS X Address Book.
How do you like to get your GCal on your desktop? Let us know in the comments.
Adam Pash is a senior editor for Lifehacker who isn't happy until everything syncs. His special feature Hack Attack appears every week on Lifehacker.