Life on the internet is full of trends. One of the more recent, and more important trends, is sharing and synchronizing data. Apple does it with Address Book and iCal which can be synced to other Macs and your iPhone using MobileMe.
Another trend is Google as the storehouse for our data. Some Mac utilities make it easy to sync data from Mac to Mac to iPhone using Google. BusySync is a neat utility that syncs iCal to Google Calendar. A sister product, BusyCal is actually a replacement for iCal. And it’s a good one.
Sync To Me, Baby
With my decision to forgo a future with Microsoft Office and Entourage, I’m on the lookout for replacement utilities.
To be honest, I’m content with Apple’s basic Mac OS X Snow Leopard offerings in Mail, iCal, Address Book, and MobileMe. While none are what would be termed feature rich, the package works very well together, and syncing is easy.
What about Mac users who have more than one Mac to sync, find iCal to have shortcomings, and don’t opt for the expense and management of MobileMe? Fortunately, a few Mac utilities are available that work in concert with Apple’s apps, and extend the capabilities.
Sync On A Budget
There are three aspects to managing and synchronizing contacts and calendars. Features, ease of use, price tag. BusySync is a Mac utility that lets multiple users edit and share iCal calendars. And, it syncs with Google Calendar.
Think about it. There’s no MobileMe annual fee. There’s the backup and ubiquitous access of Google Calendar, yet there’s Mac to Mac sync for multiple users of iCal. What you edit here is synced with all others on the network.
BusySync provides password protection to your calendars so data is kept private, even when syncing on the network or with Google, yet you still have offline access to your calendars on your Mac.
Need More Features?
While iCal is fine for most of us, and Google Calendar is a great way to sync between Macs, what if you need more than what iCal provides, such as a SOHO, home network, small business?
BusyCal extends the feature set of iCal and includes all the syncability of BusySync. If there were an advanced version of iCal, it would be BusyCal.
BusyCal looks like iCal so the interface is familiar, but it does more, including seamless calendar sharing for individuals and groups. It’s not unlike having a mini Microsoft Exchange Server without the expense, complexity, or server. It’s sharing that’s Mac to Mac to iPhone to Google.
BusyCal makes it easier to enter and view event details than iCal. To-do items can recur, of course, and auto-forward until completed. All the basic iCal views are available—List, Month, Week. Sticky notes, weather feeds, graphics, custom fonts, and floating alarms make it easy to know what’s going on with a single glance.
Calendars can sync with Google, sync with other Macs on your network, even sync with MobileMe, and sync to your iPhone via iTunes. Multiple users can both share and edit calendars online or offline.
This is one very capable utility that does well what iCal doesn’t do at all. Seamless, multi-user, online or offline calendar management. A small office on a budget will love BusyCal.
In my tests in my home office and with co-workers, all of whom use Macs, we found BusyCal an added bonus to BusySync’s sync capability. The only drawbacks are cost and management. The cost of BusyCal is $40 per Mac, and $25 per Mac for BusySync, yet that’s less expensive than MobileMe.
Management of multiple users and multiple calendars can get tricky, too, especially when syncing with Google Calendar. Our approach was to start with one user, then add another, set up some editing procedures, then add another user and so on.
Still, the effects are remarkable; synchronization between calendars and users, online and offline, Mac to Mac to iPhone. Sweet. And no calendar server required. Google supplies the back up and go between.