I’ve discussed my vision of calendar nirvana in previous posts, and tried to get closer to it using Microsoft Outlook’s inbuilt ability to publish calendars to the internet. As I discovered this feature is rather limited and couldn’t publish to Google Calendar (despite Microsoft’s assurances otherwise).
Google has recently released a Google Calendar Sync application to perform uni- or bi-directional synchronisation of your Outlook and Google Calendars. Its time to test if this will help me publish my up-to-date master calendar to the web.
Testing 1-way: Microsoft Outlook calendar to Google Calendar
My calendar data is pretty important to me so I’ll be testing a one-way sync from my master calendar (in Outlook) to Google Calendar before I’ll consider enabling the 2 way option. As a seasoned beta tester of PIM software I know how painful duplicate or corrupted calendars can be so there was no way I’d risk giving an unproven tool write access to my master calendar if I have any other option. I also backed up my Outlook calendar (zipped a copy of my .pst file) and exported my current calendar from Google Calendar, using the private iCal link, before installing the software. Did I mention that I’ve been burnt before when testing PIM software?
The Google Calendar Sync application is quite small (version 0.9.3.0 was 662 kb to download and 1.3 Mb to install) and the UI to configure it is fairly spartan. A summary of my key installation and configuration steps are included below:
- Backup your Outlook calendar before testing the software. The Outlook calendar can be backed up by closing Outlook and creating a copy of your main calendar’s .pst file, or by taking a copy of your main calendar folder within the Outlook UI.
- Backup your primary Google Calendar. This can be done via a right click\Save As on the private iCal link within the Google Calendar’s Manage Calendars options panel.
- Navigate to Google’s Manage Accounts facility and make use of the Edit personal information option. At the bottom of this page should be the following section:
Associate email addresses with your account
Adding email addresses helps Google associate useful information with your Google Account. For example, Google Calendar can show invitations sent to any of your addresses.
If you haven’t previously done so add email addresses for your default Outlook account, and any other email accounts that would have been used to invite you to the calendar appointments. This is required to address one of the known limitations of the sync software that would otherwise prevent certain calendar entries from syncing.
- Complete the previous step by opening the emails sent by Google and clicking on the verification links.
- Download a copy of the Google Calendar Sync application and install it, accepting all of the default options.
- Select the 1 way sync from Outlook to Google Calendar option, and enter your Google Calendar account settings.
- Save the configuration and your calendar will begin syncing to Google Calendar.
The Verdict: Most events synchronise, but not all
Google Calendar Sync did a pretty good job of publishing my calendar, but refused to synchronise certain events despite attempts to force them to be published.
Most of my recurring appointments didn’t make it across. The most difficult example to synchronise was a meeting scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Friday most weeks (with specific instances cancelled on public holidays etc.), but there were many simple recurring appointments (e.g. weekly and monthly meetings) that also refused to synchronise.
A quick look at the log file (C:\Documents and Settings\<user name>\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Google Calendar Sync\logs\20080317T114410Z.log) found a number of entries similar to:
Loading outlook event 00000000539C5B9F3396574893319BF96A8E727024512600
SEVERE: Unable to load tz label
SEVERE: Load failed (see details above)
sync to right -> import right event to left calendar
Loading outlook event 00000000539C5B9F3396574893319BF96A8E7270A4452700
SEVERE: Load failed (see details above)
Unfortunately I haven’t worked out how to resolve these (or even how to identify the problem events) and the issue isn’t covered by the current version of the FAQ or known limitations resources provided by Google. So the application appears to have a lot of potential but the current version can’t be relied upon due to issues with synchronisation quality.