Monday, March 3, 2008

Wirelessly sync iCal calendars to your BlackBerry

I like my technology best when I have to deal with it least. For the last year, I had been swimming nicely with a v360 that would automatically sync with iCal and Address Book on my Mac. But then I threw caution to the wind and upgraded to a BlackBerry Pearl. I loved the bigger screen, push email, internet access, blah blah blah... but there was zero iSync support for the Mac. Zero bluetooth sync support period. I was crushed.

"You mean I'm going to actually have to plug in to the computer to sync my calendar?!" I thought in a burst of geekalicious self-pity. I mucked about with PocketMac, but I was absolutely opposed to paying for the Missing Sync software. There is no way in hell I'm going to pay that much for software that gives me the ability to do something other people can already to for free--and won't even do it wirelessly.

I'm a busy guy. And when I say busy, I mean lazy. I usually forgot to plug in to sync my calendar, and as a result often had a lot of scheduling conflicts when I relied on my BlackBerry for info. I googled far and wide for a solution, but came up with nada. So I finally got around to doing something about it myself, and I came up with a solution that works well for me. Maybe it'll work for you, too.

(A few caveats before we begin: This only works for calendar info, not contacts. You'll still need PocketMac for that. And as far as I know, this only works one way, from iCal to the BB. I haven't worked out a way to sync back from the BB to iCal. I personally don't need this ability, but I know many others will. Also, because we're jumping through a few different hoops here, the transfer isn't instantaneous. I haven't actually timed it out, but any changes I've made in iCal seem to take anywhere from several minutes to an hour or so to make it onto the BB. You can force Google Sync to re-sync whenever you wish, which sometimes helps, but the delay seems to lay in the iCalx > Google connection. For me, an hour or so delay is better than no transfer at all, but of course YMMV. If you have any better solutions or ways to improve this process, please leave a comment below.)

Still with me? Okay, for this process, you'll need:

- iCal (free)
- an iCal Exchange account (free)
- a Google account (free)
- Google Sync for BlackBerry (free)
- a BlackBerry (not so free)

Step 1 - Sync iCal with iCalx

Once you set up your iCalx account, grab the link to publish a public calendar from iCal to iCalx. It'll look something like:

http://icalx.com/public/[yourusername]/

Open up iCal and select the calendar you want to publish. Choose "Calendar > Publish..."



Enter the info as shown above. Make sure to choose the private server option and click "Publish changes automatically." Click "Publish" and head on over to iCalx.

Step 2 - Sync iCalx with Google Calendar


Go to your account page, and control-click (or right click, if you can) on the .ics link next to the calendar you just uploaded and select "Copy Link". Now it's time to head over to Google Calendar.


Just below the mini-month calendar on the left, click "Add" and select "Add by URL." Plug in the calendar address you copied from iCalx, and click "Add."

If it worked, the name of the new caledar on the sidebar will change from the long address you pasted to the name you gave the calendar in iCal. This could take anywhere from a few seconds two a minute or so. Any longer than that, and something may have gone wrong along the way. It's happened to me a couple of times, and simply repeating the last step usually clears it up for me.

Repeat this entire process for each calendar in iCal you want to sync to your BlackBerry. After that, the hard part's over. Time to pick up the BlackBerry.

Step 3 - Sync Google Calendar with the BlackBerry

If you haven't already, point your BB browser to google.com and download Google Sync. Enter your account information, and then select the calendars you want to sync to the BlackBerry. Tell it to sync, which could take a few minutes, depending on how many calendar entries there are to transfer. I don't have a screenshot, but my settings look something like this:

When to sync: Automatic
On Conflicts: Server Wins

That's it! Now whenever you make a change in your iCal account, it will automatically update the iCalx account, which will automatically update the Google account, which will then automatically sync to your BlackBerry. Best of all, you don't have to plug anything in, and you don't have to spend any more money. Huzzah!

28 comments:

Grant said...

I'd suggest you take a look at Plaxo, which provides a free sync service that connects both Google Calendar and iCal. It's a bit convoluted in execution, but the net effect is that Plaxo uploads changes to your calendar to their servers, then distributes them to each place you've specified. Add the free Google Sync client for your BlackBerry, and you've got everything you need for bi-directional sync between your BlackBerry calendar and iCal, with a good web-viewable version thrown in for good measure.

[cosmoknot] said...

@grant:

Thanks for the suggestion. After playing around with it for a bit, Plaxo looks like a great way to get info from the BB back onto the Mac. I still need the method I've described to get info from iCal to my BB, as I manage multiple calendars, and Plaxo doesn't seem to be able to handle multiple calendars with Google. Still, the BB>>iCal capability gives me one more thing to check off my wish list. Thanks!

cm134 said...

I just download google sync for blackberry and sync with busy sync(cost $25).

Works pretty awesome, from ical to BB, or the otherway thru internet

Miriam said...

I'd just avoid iCal and use Google Calendar, which is terrific. Transfer all your iCal events to Google calendar once, then use it with Google Sync for BB (which is automatic and wireless. Yes!).

sam said...

So this is pretty brilliant, but I don't like that I've got to make all my calendars public in order for this to work? There's no way to subscribe to a private calendar in Google calendars?

Complex said...

Thank you so much!

Olivia said...

I did everything you said exactly and it still wont update my blackberry. Is there anything i could do to fix it that you know of?

Olivia said...

i have a curve 8330 maybe thats why its not working...

章昊博 said...

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to confirm that these calendars will be private right? As in, when I post this, nobody else will be able to see/search up my calendars?

Please advise,

Thanks!

-Rich

章昊博 said...

P.s. Also, when I update iCal, I can't seem to get Google Calendar to reflect that update either.

Please advise!

Thanks!

-Rich

章昊博 said...

nvm...it's all good. It just takes a loooong time.

Thanks!

Jonathan said...

http://lifehacker.com/399407/how-to-sync-any-desktop-calendar-with-google-calendar

This is a much more elegant way to do it - 2 way sync by way of simply "logging in" to your Gcal using iCal!

Susan said...

I read all of this and being very untechnical I just got confused on the the best of all these comments.

If anyone is bored enough to tell me the bottom line consensus on what you all decided was the easiest I would sooo appreciate it!

I have a macbook and a blackberry storm. I just would love to type calendar stuff on computer and and have it go on calendar on phone.

Thanks guys!!

King Jake said...

so it is not syncing the calendars under the "other calendars" list. It is only syncing the other calendar in the list above that in google calendar. Any ideas?

bitterswt02 said...

you don't have to use ical exchange. just import your iCal into Google Calendar instead of "Add URL", you just go under "Add" and scroll down to "import calendar".

On your mac desktop, open up iCal, and go to File->Export, and export any one calendar you like.

Then import that calendar into Google Cal.

You can then import as many of your calendars as you like, for free.

Nina said...

hey bitter - importing the calendar directly from iCal to Google...will that then be dynamic or a static version of the cal?

chasadia said...

I love it. I'm in the process of syncing everything and seeing everything just effortlessly flow from one screen to another is just beautiful. You think someone sould come up with something that took a little less time though, but I'm not complaining. Thanks for taking the time to come up with this

Robyn Baird said...

yay, great! Thanks! Easy as pie worked great. Quick, fast & easy.

Tmf said...

when i sync the BB with google cal it only gives me max 24 wks ahead & 4 weeks back - any ideas how to sync it for longer ahead ( &back)?

imums said...

@Grant @cosmoknot can you walk me through the plaxo install for BB->ical uploading?

thanks!

Ajai said...

You can also create the google calendar first and then sync it with the BB and also with iCal.

This works great in case you want the calendar private/

williamsfamily said...

does the gcalsync still remove items -7 days off the bberry ?

Ilana said...

worked perfectly! thanks!

Samuel said...

You're the fucking MAN! Way to easy.

Steve said...

Or, you could just bite the bullet and buy an iPhone which I'll finally be doing later this summer. EVERYTHING syncs flawlessly via Mobile Me. Can't wait.

Grey Girl 86 said...

Thanks, helped me out alot

Charles said...

My calendars never showed up on Google Calendar. They were rather sizeable...please advise!

Sylvie Tas said...

heard that Google will no longer support Blackberry sync as from September 12. :(
I'm looking for an alternative as I really like Google Calendar a lot.
I am trying to work out a solution with Windows Live.
I am able to sync Google Calendar with Windows Live (on my laptop) and Windows live with Blackberry (with cable).
I'm still working on setting up the sync from Windows Live to BB with multiple calendars (still having a problem with that).

Has anyone tried another solution