Whatever Happened to Google Sync?


Google used to have a simple solution for this. Remember when you could use this feature to sync your Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts with your Microsoft Exchange account on your computer desktop? You used a tool called Google Sync. Google killed Google Sync off in 2012, but it let you keep existing synced accounts - until August 1, 2014. If your calendar stopped syncing recently, there's a reason why. The problem was paying money to Microsoft in order to keep a competitor's syncing system dominant in the market. 

Google added CardDAV support (an open format for contact syncing) support to the existing IMAP (email)  and CalDAV (calendar) support, which means iPhone users can cobble together a way to keep it all in sync without paying Microsoft a bunch of money to sync through the protocols that Microsoft uses and that dominate in the business world. Speaking of the business world, Google Apps customers can still use Google Sync, but since Google killed off the free Google Apps accounts, Google Apps users are mostly paying for the privilege. (Google Apps has a free educational version of the product, but the strategy there would seem to be to offer Microsoft syncing support in the hopes that schools would be enticed to switch over to a cheaper, fully Google-run email system.)

Syncing also went away for Google Calendar and Google Sync for Nokia S60, and the SyncML (which was used by old mobile devices - maybe it's time to upgrade your phone, guys). 

How do you sync your Outlook and Google Calendars?

Option one: Shift your paradigm. Instead of syncing the world to your desktop, sync it to your phone. If you buy an Android phone, you can generally sync it to your work's Outlook system, even if you do sometimes have to agree to a bunch of perhaps, um, unpleasant terms of services. (Use a third party app to avoid agreeing to terms of service you don't like.)  Syncing with your phone instead of your desktop means you can create an appointment on your desktop version of Outlook or Web version of Google Calendar, and it will still be there - just on your phone only. 

Option two: Third party apps. gSyncit  is $19.99 and offers syncing for Windows (and also Dropbox, Toodled, Simplenote, Nozbe, and Pocket Informant syncing). Other options include OggSync, and Companion Lync. Plenty of other apps offer syncing on your phone, but this is assuming you want everything to sync with the desktop calendar you use for your Outlook schedule. 

Option three: Ditch both Outlook and Google Calendar for your desktop and use a third party calendar app.  Magneto is still in beta, but it's free and offers a lot of the same nifty features you find in Google Calendar, such as automatic maps and directions for events, and it has better integrated to-do features than Google Calendar (although maybe not as nice as those of Microsoft Outlook.) It does not support an Android version yet, but who cares, because your phone is already syncing your Outlook and Google Calendar events. The only real danger (aside from playing with beta software when you want to keep your calendar straight) is that small little startups like this tend to be bought by big players, so you never really know what the support future looks like. But hey, you can always ditch it for the next calendar app, right? 

2012 was a real bummer of a year for Google Calendar fans. Not only did they kill off support for Google Sync (they let you keep syncing established accounts until very recently, but they removed the ability to create new ones) but they killed off my favorite Google Calendar hidden feature, appointment slots. Appointment slots let you schedule a block of time for say, half hour, fifteen minute, one hour or whatever amount of appointments. You could then share the calendar with a group, each individual person could select a time slot, and then the time would become unavailable for everyone else. This feature was awesome, but nobody used it apparently, and it went away. Perhaps it will come back someday.