Friday, February 22, 2008

Bi-Directional iCal/GoogleCal Sync with BusySync!

Over the last couple of years my uses for Google Calendar have increased exponentially. It's an amazing web-app that mimics the looks and functionality of iCal. Personally Google Calendar was god-sent and I've been using it since the initial release back in March of 2006. I store everything in my Google Calendar; school assignments and test dates, work appointments, family gatherings, birthdays, or just things I need to remind me self to do. Even when I got my Macbook in the Fall of 2006 I continued using Google Calendar over iCal because of it's convenience. If I'm ever away from my Macbook and yet I need to know the date and time of a particular appointment, I just pop open a web-browser at a friends house, and log into my Google Calendar. I've done this countless times and can't even start to think of how many times this has saved my butt.

Although I prefer Google Calendar over iCal, there are a few very cool things that you can do thanks to the integration of iCal in Mac OS X. For example, you can schedule events to run tasks, scripts, or even open certain apps. You can also use such apps as Anxiety to create and check off to-do lists extremely easy. Another big reason that I wanted iCal/Google Cal synchronization was for the iPod support. Some day, if I ever get an iPod, I can sync up all of my iCal events on my iPod. This would make things such as looking up appointments on the go so much easier. But even when I do get an iPod I won't ditch my Google Calendar. I highly doubt I'll carry my iPod everywhere I go so having Google Calendar is still an excellent fall-back option. On the other hand there are a lot of Google Calendar-exclusive features that I've grown to love, such as the SMS alerts. With Google Calendar you can setup your Calendar to notify you of events coming up via: SMS (Text Messages)! A practical example of this is for my Birthdays Calendar I have it set to text message me 12 hours in advance of anyone's birthday so I can make arrangements accordingly since I am terrible at remembering birthdays. So clearly, there are pros and cons to both iCal and Google Calendar, and I wanted so badly, to figure out a way to have the best of both worlds. My quest for a good iCal/Google Calendar Sync app started.

The first app that I stumbled upon was Spanning Sync. When I first found it I was so incredibly happy. I had no idea that apps like this even existed, but turns out there's a pretty big demand for such a service. I loved everything about it, loved the icon, I liked the website, but then I saw the price. $25 bucks for a 1 year license, and $65 bucks for a Full Lifetime License. Now personally, I'm the kind of person that hates buying "subscription" licenses. If I'm going to spend money on a piece of software, I want it for the lifetime of the product! However, after reading a little bit more into it, I do understand why the high price. Turns out Spanning Sync uses a Middle Man server to do the communications between your computer (the client) and Google's servers. At first I didn't think this was too bad of an idea, but then I started to wonder about privacy issues of having my personal data on this 3rd party server.

Time went on and I kept putting off Spanning Sync. The price was a little discouraging and the Middle man server was a bummer. I then found gSync. I'm not sure exactly when gSync came out, but I can only assume that with it's lower price tag (about $20 U.S. Dollars) it released solely to compete with Spanning Sync. The cheaper price was much welcomed but I started hearing issues of duplicate events and also Leopard compatibility issues. That was enough to make me hold off even longer.

I then heard about BusySync joining the iCal/Google Cal bi-directional synchronization game. After seeing a very user-friendly video of BusySync being demonstrated at Macworld 2008, I started to get very excited. The first Beta of BusySync 2.0 (first version to integrate Google Cal synchronization) was released on February 8th, 2008. About a week later I went to their site to investigate and learn more about the people behind BusyMac and their product BusySync. I was very surprised to see that the developers (only two of them) had actually made a syncing calendar app back in the days of Mac OS 7. I was impressed! Also two developers meant that this could result in a higher quality finished product. I figure that the less people, the easier the two could collaborate and there wouldn't be as much confusion as their could be in a large development team. Lastly what I liked about BusySync was the fact that, not only was it an iCal/Google Calendar synchronization app, but it also syncs up iCal's across a LAN. This was very exciting, for if someday I get a second Mac, I know I'll want the calendars synced up! I was sold, I finally bit the bullet and purchased a (lifetime!) license and proceeded to download the latest beta.

After now having used BusySync for the past week, I love it! It just seems to work. Setup was so incredibly simple. I like how it's just a little icon that sits in your System Preferences Pane, and not some obnoxious dock or menu icon. It's one of those things that you can just set and forget, and with the icon residing in the Preference Pane, that is exactly what you can do.

Setting up Google Calendar synchronization was super easy as well. All you have to do is go to the BusySync settings in the Preference Pane, and then click on the "Google" tab.

You then enter your gmail username, your password, check if you want to use SSL or not, and then the interval in which you want BusySync to communicate with the Google Calendar Servers to see if there are updates.

Once you have that done simply check the Calendars that you want to sync with your iCal and it does the rest for you.

One really nice thing about BusySync is their "Log" tab. This shows you all the activity that BusySync is doing. This is a great tool if you're curious on how BusySync works and will be a great troubleshooting tool if I do happen to run into some issues (which I haven't yet!).

Another nice thing is the "Reset" tab. This gives you restoration options and the ability to completely reset all BusySync options and remove all Calendar subscriptions. I have not needed to use these since I've had a very enjoyable experience so far, but definitely a comforting feeling knowing that these features exist.

I had only one issue initially and it's so tiny that you're probably going to laugh. At first I saw no way of just plain registering the app right off the back. I already bought a single license for the app and was all excited to right away register it since I can be rather stingy (see: broke) and tend to lean towards freeware/open-source software. Right after installing the app I was notified that it was a trial and that i had 14 days or whatever and then I'd have to register. I searched a bit and did not see a simple "Register Me!" button. Well anyways, a few days after using BusySync a new beta (2.0b4) released. After installing it I was very excited to see a simple "Register..." button located right on the main page! This was my only issue of BusySync and I'm very happy that this was "fixed" (if you could really call it that) so quickly!

Overall I am more than happy with this app. This was the missing piece to my Google web-apps-loving, Mac OS X-using life. This is incredibly nerdy to say, but I can honestly say that I can now sleep better at night. I've spent a lot of time trying to find comparative reviews of gSync and SpanningSync and could not find much. I took a gamble with this very new to the scene app and I've had such a great experience. If these guys can make an app, that is so early in it's beta stages, work this well, they've got to have some mad programming skills.

Just wanted to write this short little review for anyone who is also wondering which iCal/Google Calendar sync app to use, this one definitely gets my recommendation.

UPDATE: Please note that BusySync is still in Beta and your experiences may not be as painless as mine was, especially if you're migrating from another app such as SpanningSync or gSync. If you know anything about me you know that I constantly backup my important data and some might say it's to an excessive, obsessive level. But anyways just wanted to drop a tip to all of you and show you a post which explains the easiest way that I've stumbled upon to backup your Google Calendars! The post actually explains how to them import these calendars into iCal, but ignore this if you are thinking about setting up a Bi-directional Syncing App since this would just be a redundant and dead (see: static) copy of your calendars since it would lack the actual "Syncing" functionality. Hope this helps some of you out!


Dale said...

Okay, so this has nothing to do with Bi-Directional iCal...yadda yadda...but I thought I'd share.

If you're a command line geek, like me, you may want to spice up your terminal a bit. A couple cool apps to do that: cowsay,figlet,fortune

figlet - words in ascii art
fortune - just some quotes
cowsay - just ascii art cows saying things...

So, in your ~/.bashrc file you can add a line like this:

fortune | cowsay -n

Which will run your fortune quote through cowsay.

or something like:

cowsay Hello `whoami`!

Just thought I'd share. I just set that up on the office'll have to check it out! Oh yeah, and get MacPorts first...all these apps are ported...

InsaneIdiot said...

In regards to my post, "There's Nothing...": Yeah, that was all original. I came back last night and was high on life, if I may call it that, and decided to write something. Glad you liked it though. I didn't even copy edit it. Whoops!

iCal/GCal Sync: OMG, I wish you wrote this blog 2 months earlier. I've used Google Calendar for years and when I got my MacBook, I really wanted it to sync with iCal so I could have something local. I went through all the motions that you did. I looked at SpanningSync and I just couldn't swallow the price tag and then I found GSync, took the plunge and have been utterly disappointed by it since. I've had two instances where I synced my calendars and ALL my "all day events" were duplicated. I had to go into the calendars and manually delete EVERY single duplication. It was not fun, to say the least. Another thing that bugged me about GSync was the customer service from I paid them my full 20 bucks expecting a key to be sent to me immediately. I waited for about a day and I just thought it was ridiculous so I e-mailed them and asked them what was up with my key. They replied lazily after several hours with my key and no apology. What took so long? Flickr only took 5 minutes to check that the purchase went through and to give me my Pro account. Ridiculous. Maybe I should just scrap GSync all together and suck it up and buy BusySync. By the way, do you need to launch BusySync manually every time you want to sync, like GSync, or does it just run in the background after you set it to launch at start up? Love the posts, keep it up!