Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Syncing Android Contacts / Addresses With Your PC (MS Outlook)

This post describes a method for keeping Android contacts and MS Outlook/ PC contacts in sync that works for most Android smartphones.

In a previous post, I described the method I use for keeping my Android phone calendar in sync with my PC (Microsoft Office - Outlook). In this post, I'll describe how I keep the two address books in synch using a similar approach. (I cover both Jelly Bean and ICS)

Synchronizing PC (MS Outlook) and Android Smartphone Contacts (Address Books)

Synchronizing Android smartphone & PC (MS Office) contacts & addresses
Syncing Android & PC Contacts

As before, the key to this approach is to use my Google account as an intermediary. First I'll describe how I sync my Google Gmail contacts with my PC, then how I sync my Google Gmail contacts with my Motorola Droid RAZR smartphone.

Set Up Your Google Contacts (in your Gmail account)

First, I clicked on the down arrow in the upper left hand corner of my Gmail screen and switched from "Gmail" to "Contacts." This displayed an empty contact file that I would subsequently use to coordinate my phone and PC contacts.  (Note: If you do not already have one, you will first need to open a Gmail account; they're free.)

Sync Microsoft Office (Outlook) and Google Gmail Contacts

Before going ahead, I backed up my Microsoft Outlook file by copying it do a flash drive (always a good idea when making major changes). To be extra safe, I also exported a separate file of only the Outlook contacts (File-Import and Export-Export to a file-Comma separated values-Contacts-specify destination file name).

Next, I downloaded GO Contact Sync Mod. This software is free and is compatible with Microsoft Office 2003 and later, and Windows XP and later. Similar to the calendar sync, you can choose a one-way sync from Outlook to Gmail, one-way from Gmail to Outlook, or a full two-way sync. Users who want to "auto sync" can specify how frequently they want the files synchronized; the two files will be synchronized every n minutes per your specifications. Or, you can sync the files manually on demand by right clicking on the GO Contact Sync icon in the system tray, and choosing "sync."

Since all of my contacts were initially in Outlook, I first did a one-way sync from Outlook to Gmail; I changed to the two-way sync once I had completed the initial sync/load. If you have multiple Outlook contact files, as I do, you can choose which of the contact files you want to sync with Gmail.

Synch Android Smartphone and Gmail Contacts

Setting up the sync between Gmail and my phone is straightforward. The sequence below was executed on a Motorola Droid RAZR running Jelly Bean. It's slightly different from the ICS sequence (see the appendix).  I went to the "Sync" page via Home-menu-System settings-Accounts/Google-choose the appropriate gmail account.  That takes you to the sync page for that gmail account; make sure to put a check in the box after contacts.

As with the calendars, there is no place to specify how often you would like this sync to happen. It happens immediately if you make a change to the phone contacts; in addition, I assume updates are downloaded from Gmail every 15-20 minutes along with the calendar entries. There is no "sync now" button; you can accomplish that by unchecking the box and then rechecking it.

Remember, to get a contact from Outlook to your phone will require a sync between Outlook and Gmail, followed by another sync between Gmail and your phone. To get a contact from your phone to your PC will require a sync between your phone and Gmail, followed by another sync between Gmail and Outlook. Keep this in mind when you are deciding how frequently you want to sync.

Syncing Your Android Address Book with Social Media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Skype...

You can choose which of your social media contacts, if any, are shown in your phone's address book (via People-Contacts in custom view-contacts to display-Customize). For example, you could show LinkedIn and Facebook contacts, but not Twitter and Skype contacts. Information from the multiple address books will be combined for display purposes only to form a consolidated entry for each contact.

Contacts listed under different names in different sources can be joined for display purposes (but later separated if appropriate). This is especially useful for handling situations where the same person has different names in different sources because of nicknames, maiden vs married names, etc.

In Jelly Bean, the process for setting up the sync for each account is similar to the process for setting up the gmail sync -- settings-accounts/facebook, etc.

Observations & Caveats

While the most critical fields are compatible across platforms, the last time I checked there were still minor differences in the fields supported as you go from platform to platform. For that reason, if a contact's info goes much beyond basic name, address, phone number, email, I prefer to enter it in Outlook -- which seems to have the most robust set of fields.

Initially, I noticed some problems with groups/categories carrying over from one platform to another; these problems seem to be remedied, or at least dramatically reduced.

The basic processes described in this post should work not only for Motorola phones, but for most Android phones -- at least those running ICS or later. Give it a try.

Related Materials:

Syncing Android Calendars With PCs (MS Office) : Same idea as this post, but for calendars.
GO Contact Sync Mod :To download the software to sync Microsoft Office with Gmail.
Using Android Phone GPS to Find Friends in a Crowd
Getting Started With Windows 8: The Start Screen
Intro to Windows 8 Charms: Search, Share, Start, ...
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Copyright © 2012                  Last modified: 3/17/2013

Appendix: Syncing Android & Gmail/Google Contacts using ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Setting up the sync under ICS was slightly different from the Jelly Bean process above.

(The sequences below were executed on a Motorola Droid RAZR running Ice Cream Sandwich. The sequence on your phone may be slightly different.) I went to the "Sync settings/ Data & Synchronization" page via MyAccounts-Contacts-Google Contacts- your account, and made sure "Synch Contacts" was checked. (An alternate way to get there is via Home-menu-System settings-Accounts & Sync-your account.)

As with the calendars, there is no place to specify how often you would like this sync to happen. It appears to happen immediately if you make a change to the phone contacts; in addition, I assume updates are downloaded from Gmail every 15-20 minutes along with the calendar entries. Also, as before, if you click on the menu icon you can "sync now." In my case, a "sync now" took the contacts I had moved earlier from Outlook to Gmail and moved them from the Google account to my smartphone.

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