There's no better time to develop your scheduling habit than the start of a new year, and few tools are as easy to pick up and get productive with as Google Calendar. While you can quickly get from beginner to black belt scheduler with just the web interface, the real value in GCal is that it's accessible no matter where you are—work, play, or the grocery store—and can help you decide what happens next.
Whether you're a GCal newcomer or seasoned user, there are a ton of ways to further integrate your calendars into your routine, and I've rounded up Lifehacker's wealth of GCal syncing guides, organizers, and other GCal tools for your desktop, mobile device, Firefox, and even iPod. Read on for advice on staying on top of your schedule this year.
Load up GCal with your existing calendar
First things first: If you've already got an Outlook, iCal, or even Yahoo Calendar already stuffed with events for the upcoming year(s), Google offers a few helpful guides for importing your events. Even if you plan on syncing your desktop calendars to GCal, it's a handy first step.
All Platforms: Two-Way Sync with GCalDaemon, Thunderbird, Plaxo
If you're willing to step into a little text file editing and run a simple server on your system, GCalDaemon is your best bet for setting up continuous two-way, online/offline access to Google Calendar. And with Gina's easy walk-through, setting it up isn't too much of a hassle. Once you're set up, you can sync up GCal to Thunderbird/Lightning, Mac iCal or Rainlendar.
On Windows, Mac, or Linux, Lifehacker favorite email app Thunderbird can be made into a full-fledged GCal interface using two add-ons, Lightning and Provider for Google Calendar. Those who like to keep their email and scheduling separate can also check out the stand-alone Sunbird calendar app, which can also use the Provider add-on for GCal syncing.
Free web app aggregator Plaxo can also provide free synchronization between Google Calendar, Outlook, iCal, mobile devices and lots of other environments, but (usually) requires installation of extra toolbars and feeling comfortable with having all your data stashed at one site.
If you're an Outlook 2007 user, you can already integrate Google Calendar events into your calendar, but you can't publish back to it. For full syncing on 2007 and earlier versions, you've got a few choices in joining the two calendars, or simply keep one within easy reach:
- Show Google Calendar in Outlook's "home page"
- Synchronize Outlook 2003 and later with gSyncit
- Add GCal to Outlook (recommended for those who use only one GCal for separate purposes)
- Two-way syncing with SyncMyCal (Limited free version, full version $25)
- For a robust solution that could sync up home and office Outlooks, Google Calendars, non-Touch iPods and cell phones, check out a detailed guide to using ScheduleWorld.
Not everybody wants to jump onto the behemoth that is Outlook to stay synced up, however. For a lightweight solution that integrates into your desktop, check out Rainlender, which—in the "Pro" version costing 15 EUR—can display GCal (and Outlook) events and to-dos in a handy widget display. There's also free and paid versions for Linux.
OS X's built-in iCal tool can already read from Google Calendar's iCal feeds (more on that here), but achieving two-way sync takes a bit more work. The GCalDaemon method mentioned above does for free what Spanning Sync charges $25 per year or $65 for a permanent license to do, although having been a one-year Spanning Sync customer, the two-way hook-up is hidden, swift, and painless.
Your best bet in Linux remains the combination of Thunderbird/Lightning/Provider, although there are attractive alternatives for staying synced. Newer versions of Evolution, the personal information manager built into Ubuntu and other distros, can easily integrate Google calendars (here's a quick guide to doing so) and get at-a-glance access using a one-line terminal commad. If you're really friendly with the command line, you could set up gcalcli (which also works in OS X with a bit of tweaking) to have quick access to calendars, reminders, event additions and daily agendas
Since Firefox is highly extensible and works on all three major platforms, it makes sense that Google Calendar extensions have steadily cropped up since GCal first launched. Those who spend a good deal of time inside a browser can display GCal in a sidebar, have any Gmail message added to a calendar, use an anywhere keyboard shortcut to make additions, and add a lot of useful tools using Lifehacker's own Better GCal Greasemonkey extension.
Any mobile phone that can send text messages can add calendar events and get agendas delivered to it. Register your phone number at Google Calendar's "Settings"->"Mobile Setup" tab, add "GVENT" (48368) to your contacts and send it a standard "quick add" line (such as "7pm Saturday Dinner at Sara's house") or one of the following codes by text message:
- "next" (Receive your next scheduled event)
- "day" (Have today's agenda sent)
- "nday" (Receive tomorrow's events)
Those with browser access on their phone should check to see if GooSync or GCal Sync support their models. Both services can integrate GCal with your phone's built-in calendar, although not without occasional hiccups. BlackBerry fans, Google's got you covered with Google Sync.
iPods / iPhone
Owners of iPhones and iPod Touch models can get connected to Google Calendar with a simple two-step: Their devices easily sync with Outlook, iCal, or Entourage through iTunes, and all three of those applications can be synced or subscribed to Google Calendar. Unfortunately, those who don't use any of those programs have to rely on Google Calendar's mobile web interface for now, as there's no way to force a calendar sync without jailbreaking, hacking into and generally running a whole lot of terminal commands—not that we might not cover how to do that at some point.
Those with non-touch iPods and Macs have an easy solution in iCal, which can subscribe to Google Calendars and sync through iTunes. Windows users with older iPods—the kind that still have "Enable Disk Use" as an option in iTunes—can sync through Outlook or try a stand-alone solution: