August 25th, 2008 One Comment

Utilities for getting the most out of Google Apps

Last week I wrote about Google Apps and what a great tool it can be for small to mid-size companies.  Today I’ll give you a list of add-ons to help integrate your Google calendar and contacts with your computer and phone.

It’s really ridiculous that these utilities are even necessary, but the fact is that two of the most common applications of computers and cell phones, that is the humble calendar and address book, are the most difficult applications to share between different devices.  Every device and application has its own calendar and rarely do applications want to share.

Fortunately, Google provides a convenient way to connect from a variety of devices.  So using Google as the "hub" or main repository finally gives us some nice flexibility.

Microsoft Outlook

Let’s start with Windows and Microsoft Outlook because that’s what most people seem to use.  A program called OggSync works in the background to sync my Outlook 2007 calendar and contacts with Google.  The newest beta release (ver. 4.20) appears to be very stable.  It syncs multiple Google calendars, such as a company/group calendar and a private/personal calendar.  And it does a very intelligent job of syncing the different contact fields in Google and Outlook.

Thunderbird

If you already use the Firefox web browser and want to get away from Outlook you should try the excellent Thunderbird e-mail client.  Thunderbird doesn’t come with an integrated calendar, but it was designed to support extensions that are easy to install and manage.  One of these add-ons is called Lightning which will add an integrated calendar.  To make Lightning work with Google you also have to get another add-on called the Provider for Google Calendar .  This allows Lightning to sync automatically with Google Calendar.  The last add-on to consider is called Zindus .  Zindus is a new utility that syncs the Thunderbird address book with Google’s contacts.  It sounds complicated, but Thunderbird makes it easy to install these add-ons, and a benefit to Thunderbird is that it’s almost identical on both Windows and Apple Mac (and Linux) computers so if you switch computers you’ll feel right at home.

Windows Mobile phones

If you use a Windows Mobile phone there is an easy way to sync your phone contacts and calendar with Google.  The software we like best right now is called GooSync .  This is actually a combination of software and an online service.  You start by setting up an account (they offer both free and paid accounts) and specifying exactly what you want to sync and how often it should sync to Google.  Once you install the software on the phone you can forget about it.  Mine is set to sync automatically every hour, which saves battery life on my phone.  I pay for their Premium account, but you might not need that if you just want a simple calendar sync.

Apple Mac

Finally, if you use an Apple computer and want to sync your standard Mac iCal calendar with Google you can get a program called Spanning Sync which has been working flawlessly for us during the past few weeks.  Version 2.0 will be released any day now and will include native Address Book syncing.

It takes a few minutes to install and configure these programs, but it’s well worth the effort.

One Response to “Utilities for getting the most out of Google Apps”

Eric Lee

August 25th, 2008 - 10:35 pm

I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

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