Friday, June 15, 2012

Syncing Android Calendars with PCs (MS Outlook)

This post describes a method for keeping Android calendars and MS Outlook PC calendars in sync that works for most Android smartphones. {Note: The Google Calendar Sync software described in this post has been discontinued.  Instead, consider the software described in the contact sync post. Please leave a comment if you have found an even better alternative.}

My Motorola Droid RAZR has been a valuable addition to my computing capabilities. However, my desktop PC is still the center of my computing world.  With the advantages of multiple computing platforms comes the burden of keeping Microsoft Office in sync with my phone. This post describes how I synchronize my calendars/ appointments.  (procedures are included for Jelly Bean, ICS (ice cream sandwich), and Gingerbread)

Synchronizing PC (MS Outlook) and Smartphone Appointments: Using Google Calendar as an Intermediary

synchronizing Android smartphone appointments & calendars with PC (MS Outlook) calendars / appointments
Syncing Android Smartphone & PC Calendars

The key to this approach was to use my Google calendar as an intermediary. Since all Android phones can communicate with Google/Gmail accounts, and Google accounts can communicate with Microsoft Outlook, all Android phones should be able to communicate with MS Outlook. First we'll look at syncing the Google calendar with the Outlook calendar, then syncing the Google calendar with the phone calendar.

Create a Google Calendar

From my Gmail account, I clicked on "Calendar" in the menu bar at the top of the page, and did the initial calendar set-up. This created an empty calendar that I could use to coordinate updates to my Outlook and phone calendars.  (Note: If you do not already have one, you will need to open a Gmail account first.)

Sync Microsoft Office (Outlook) and Google Calendar Appointments

(Note: Before going ahead I recommend you backup your Outlook file -- just in case.)  Next, I downloaded Google Calendar Sync; it's free.  It works for Microsoft Outlook 2003 and later, and most versions of Windows starting with XP. One can choose a one-way sync from Outlook to your Google Calendar, one-way from your Google calendar to Outlook, or a full two-way sync. You can also specify how frequently you'd like the files synchronized. The two files will be synchronized every n minutes, per your specifications. In addition, you can sync the files on demand by right clicking on the Google Calendar icon in the system tray, and choosing "sync."

Since initially all of my appointments were in Outlook, after first backing up my Outlook file --just in case-- I did a one-way sync from Outlook to Google calendar; I changed to the two-way sync once I had completed the process below.

Sync Android Smartphone and Google Calendar Appointments

The following process is for Jelly Bean (see the appendix at the end for the ICS & Gingerbread sequences).  On your phone, go to the "Sync" page for your Gmail account via Home-menu-System settings-Accounts/Gmail-choose the appropriate Gmail account. That takes you to the sync page for your gmail account; be sure to put a check in the box after calendar.

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 calendar; in addition, updates are downloaded from Google every 15-20 minutes.  There is no "sync now" button.  To sync manually, uncheck the box, then recheck it.

There is also no place to specify what date range you want synced.  As best I can tell, it only syncs "point-forward;" previous appointments are not added (except for recurring events like birthdays).

Two-Way Appointment Synchronization in Action

Remember, to get an event from Outlook to my phone requires a sync between Outlook and Google Calendar, followed by another sync between Google Calendar and my phone. To get an event from my phone to my PC requires a sync between my phone and Google Calendar, followed by another sync between Google Calendar and Outlook. With this in mind I scheduled the sync between Outlook and Google calendar for every 60 minutes.

So far, I have been able to schedule meetings on my PC then view them on my phone, and vice versa. Deletions have been successfully transmitted from one platform to the other as well. However, it seems that, at least in some cases, changes made to existing events do not get communicated; it's safer to delete and re-enter. Somewhere I need to mention that you are not limited to one PC and one phone.  You can have multiple phones and PCs; each will sync independently with Gmail.

The basic process described in this post should work not only for Motorola phones, but for most android phones. Some of the specifics may vary for other phones.

Give it a try. Let me know if it works for you.

Related Materials

Getting Started With Google Calendar Sync : Link to download Google Calendar Sync, with instructions.
How To Sync Android With Microsoft Outlook: some additional options, via PC Magazine.
Using Your Android Phone's GPS to Locate Friends in a Crowd
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Introduction to Windows 8 Charms: Search, Share, Start, ...
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Copyright © 2012               Last modified: 2/13/2015

Appendix: Syncing Android & Google Calendars with ICS

Syncing the calendars under Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) is much simpler than in was under Gingerbread (see below for the Gingerbread sequence).  Go to the "Sync settings/Data & Synchronization" page via My Accounts-Email & Calendars-Google(Gmail)-your account, and make sure "Sync Calendar" is checked.  You can also get to this page via Home-menu-System settings-Accounts & Sync-your account.

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 calendar; in addition, updates are downloaded from Google every 15-20 minutes.  To sync manually, click on the menu icon and click "sync now."

Appendix: Syncing Android & Google Calendars with Gingerbread

Setting up the sync with my Motorola Droid RAZR when it was still running Gingerbread was more complicated.

First, in Calendar-Menu-Settings-Default Calendar (in the "Calendar settings" section), I chose the gmail account that contained my calendar as my "default calendar."

Next, I went to Calendar-Menu-Calendars (the "Calendars" menu page). Here, for various options, you specify whether you want them synced or not synced, and whether you want them visible or not visible (note: clicking the icons will toggle you through the three alternatives). For my Google Calendar I specified:
  • Gmail account: synced and visible
  • Contacts' birthdays and events: not synced and not visible (in an attempt to avoid "double booking" birthday reminders that Outlook had already scheduled.)
  • US Holidays: synced and visible

For the phone calendar, I specified not synced, not visible.

Next, I went to the "data & synchronization" page, via MyAccounts-gmail account.  (An alternate way to get there was via (Home-)Menu-Settings-Accounts-gmail account.)   Here one can specify which of the following you want synchronized with your phone:
  • Google Play Books
  • Contacts
  • Gmail
  • Google Play Music
  • Calendar

I checked the box saying the calendar should be synced. (I also synced gmail and contacts, but not the Google Play accounts.) Note that there is no place to specify how often you would like this sync to happen. I'm told it happens immediately if you make a change to the phone calendar, and updates are downloaded from Google calendar every 15-20 minutes. In addition, if you click on menu you can "sync now." In my case, a "sync now" took the appointments I had moved earlier from Outlook to Google calendar, and moved them from the Google calendar to my phone.

Finally, to be extra safe, I went to the "Accounts & sync settings" page (Gmail-Menu-Accounts-Menu-Account Settings) and made sure that Auto-sync was toggled "on."  I suspect that gets toggled on automatically, but, again, just in case.....

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  1. Excellent article, after being bombarded by third party applications to do this, I was pleasantly surprised by the useful information contained here - clear and concise - Thank You ! This worked well on my Samsung 10.1 Note tablet with ICS

    1. Thanks for the feedback. Glad to hear it works for Samsung Note 10.1. And, thanks for stopping by.

    2. Also, if anyone has tested this with a Samsung Galaxy Nexus or any of the HTC phones, please let me know.


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