Getting Outlook’s Calendar into iCal for the iPhone

38 Comments

outlook to ical
As I understand it, iTunes for Windows allows you to sync your iPod – or more importantly (these days) your iPhone – with Outlook for contacts and calendar items. That seems well and good for Windows users I suppose, but not so for my co-worker and his new iPhone. (Unfortunately for him I’m a bigger Apple nerd than he, and the phrase, “Can I see your iPhone?” has become an old joke very quickly…)

You see my friend and I work in a place – like many, many places – that uses Microsoft’s Exchange server for email, thus Outlook is the tool of choice for email, contacts, calendars, etc. The issue my co-worker faces is that he syncs his iPhone with his Mac at home, not his work PC. Thus, his work-based calendar items (which don’t exactly translate on the poor IMAP/Exchange integration) aren’t loaded onto his iPhone. (And between you and me, He misses enough meetings as it is…) So what to do?

As most of my friends do when they have an Apple related question, he came bugging me (which was only fair given the love affair I’ve had with his iPhone). I should mention also that he’s a senior engineer (hence the missed skipped meetings) and doesn’t like to do a lot of ‘heavy lifting’, so the process of exporting a CSV from Outlook each day to mangle into iCal was out of the question – Can you blame him?

So we did some digging. Finally, we came to a solution in the form of Plaxo. Plaxo is the plugin for Outlook that many of you may have gotten invites to a few years back when it came on the scene, and all your co-workers and friends wanted you to jump off a bridge join up too. Well in its current manifestation it’s a much more full-featured (and free!) plugin, which in the Beta 3.0 version rocks a pretty slick web-based hub. This web-hub acts as a one-stop-shop for all your calendar and contact needs (as well as much more) and imports from Outlook of course. PlaxoBut the real magic comes in to play with the ability to sync several different services to this one-stop web-hub. iCal, Google Calendar, Yahoo Calendar, and on and on and on can all share their info to the website, which syncs it between all the sources, in effect unifying your contacts and scheduled appearances. Brilliant!

So now you’ve got Plaxo keeping all parties up to date – a new item in iCal updates to Plaxo, which then updates to Outlook (and Google Calendar, and Yahoo, and so on) and vis versa. So no matter where a new item is added, all apps from end to end get the memo. Thus, the end game of getting Outlook calendar items onto a Mac-based/sync’d iPhone is a success.

A footnote to this, is that obviously those appointments are only made available to the iPhone when a sync to iTunes (and in turn, iCal) is performed. As Plaxo plays so nicely with all these other services, Google Calendar (which got a nice iPhone/Safari makeover) for instance, is updated on the fly and immediately available for calendar updates in between hard syncs with the Mac!

So there you have it. All you Mac and iPhone users stuck trying to integrate with the world of Microsoft can hopefully get on a little easier now. Many thanks to my buddy for letting me spend so much quality time with his iPhone, and having a fun and interesting story to show for it. Hopefully he doesn’t pummel me for all the slacker references…

As I’ve been typing this, the thought occurred that it may be possible to sync the iPhone with multiple iTunes – hence grabbing Outlook calendar entries from a Windows-based iTunes, and syncing music and everything else from an OS X-based iTunes. Does anyone know if that’s possible? If you’ve got a different (more elegant?) solution to the problem, lets hear it!

38 Comments

lex

Installing the Plaxo 3.0 plug-in to my work laptop (MS Windows XP) crushed my Outlook speed, it feels like the system is maxing out on resources even though I turned off nearly all the profile options. I’ve got plenty of RAM installed, and system performance looks notional on the Windows Task Manager Performance tab.

Anybody else experiencing this?

Quiet Day | Neptunus Lex

[…] Spent all the morning puzzling out how to synchronize my MS Windows-based Outlook calendar with my Google calendar, with iCal on the Mac, with iPhone. Plaxo was the answer, as it turned out. […]

Krys

I don’t think the last part of your question is possible but it MIGHT be. It occurs to me that with iPods, once you use them on a computer, they are formatted for that platform, and I wonder if the iPhone (which I just bought 2 days ago and which is why I’m looking for this information…we use exchange at work/school as well) has the same configuration, or if it can be synced on any OS regardless but not updated.

Also, you’ll need to authorize any computer you want to sync with iTunes (and in turn everything else) in order to make it work, to a maximum of I believe 5 computers.

David Bressler

This one will probably make you all laugh… but I need to use my blackberry to get work email. So, I also have google sync loaded on it. My outlook/exchange calender syncs to my blackberry, googlesync puts the info into google calendar, which in turn uses caldav (I think) to sync to ical, which in turn, through a cable (argh!!!) syncs to my iphone.

I can enter appointments anywhere in that chain, and they make it everywhere, but if I enter them on ical, I have no way to make them private, whereas if I enter them in outlook (which usually occurs from meeting invites) or I enter them manually in google calendar (which I do my personal stuff), it works like a charm.

David

Hatim

Same story as Jay Jones.

Not only is my IT department freakingly and blindly MS pawns, they have our laptops / PC locked down so much that we can’t install anything into Program Files.

Plaxo does intall, but the plugin doesn’t work, and I’m assuming because the necessary files couldn’t get pasted in the office folder.

Any suggestions? I’ve been living on Plaxo to keep myself sane in a windows work environment, while I’m a mac-er at home.

Pankaj

another great way to access and synch your Outlook calendars on iPhone is HyperOffice. it also allows you to share your calendars with your team.

JAy Jones

What d I do if my IT has locked out any of these options? I cannot install the app that makes Plaxo run on my PC.

HELP!

Andres Ornelas

Don’t sync the whole library… Just sync your calendars… You can only have your iPhone (or iPod) music library to one computer, because of Copyright issues, but there’s no problem with your calendar or address book.

Marc

I’ve tried using iTunes, but it threatens to erase my iphone library. Is is safe to assume that it will be restored when I sync up on itunes back at home?

Andres Ornelas

YOU CAN DO IT WITH ITUNES!
Don’t know about the iPod Touch, but I just synced my iPhone with my office PC and it completely merged my iCal calendar with my Outlook calendar!
So, when I go home and sync with my Mac, I’ll have a fully synced calendar (with alerts and everything!) on my Mac, PC and iPhone!

I guess you would use Plaxo instead only if you have other needs besides syncing Outlook and iCal…

Chinarut

Nice article. I’ve been using Plaxo I believe since 2003 and it’s saved my ass multiple times and also had a great Outlook to Address Book transition in mid-2005. I was very pleased all the category information even came over to sort my AB!

I have since realized it is a great tool to keep multiple machines in sync and because I choose to dive back into the world of Windows via VMWare, it made getting my PIM data back to Outlook after many long years a breeze. I even made it sync to Outlook Express just for kicks – it’s that easy!

Plaxo has done a great job getting the Google Calendar sync working and even getting around the iCal/iPhone sync bug I am experiencing – my iPhone events show up on Plaxo as well as my other clients which is really nice.

Amazing what comes at no cost – still wondering what is going to prevent these guys from closing doors without charging for the service! (knock on wood)

si_co7

What can I say? Fantastic!!!!

This article has taken the usefulness of my ipod touch to a whole new level.

Thank you very very much!!!!!

kcw

Does this solution do “over the air syncronization”? Similar to Microsoft’s Active Sync.

Michael

I must give credit to Office 2007 – it includes publishing outlook data to an external site in Ical subscribeable form. That isn’t an option in earlier versions, but it does simplify some issues. Google calendar can pick it up also.

Raj

You can use “You Are Invited” with Mail.app to correct “issues” with Exchange invites such that they can correctly imported directly into iCal. You can also use GroupCal to sync both ways between iCal and your Exchange server. Finally, you can use the Entourage “sync to iCal” capability (already mentioned) if you want to use Entourage to read your mail.

(Oh, and you can setup an Exchange server-side filter using Outlook which will put all of your Exchange calendar messages into a separate folder on the server so you can easily find them with Entourage.)

So many choices! So little time!

RoudyBob

Syncing w/multiple PCs is definitely possible. I do that exact thing – contacts/calendars are synced via Outlook on my work PC and Music/Pictures/Videos/Bookmarks/etc. are synced to my Mac at home. Works great!

Adam Bezark

Will Plaxo sync with Microsoft Entourage? I’m at a company that uses Outlook, but I’m hoping to stay in an all-Mac environment. I’d like to use Entourage for my regular mail; then sync to iCal and Address Book (and my iPhone) with Plaxo and iSync/iTunes. Is this possible?

YodaMac

I have read several articles where the iPhone user simply syncs eveyrthing at home EXCEPT calendar info, and then simply syncs calendar info from his work computer using iTunes there. Easy to do.

Christian Kaas

I have a small set of Exchange Macros (downloaded from somewhere on the web) that creates ical files on my webserver via ftp.
On my macs i just subscribed to those ical files.
All you have to do is “push” the work calendars to your webserver. the rest is done automatically by ical.

Same can be done using .mac or any webdav compatible webspace.

If interested contact me at ckaas “at” mac.com and i provide you with details.

Gillian

Thank you so much for this! I use Outlook at work, but only use gmail at home. I had been dying for a way to get my work calendar on my iPhone — no reason to have two calendars!

gary

Actually I ultimately did turn to Entourage but I don’t like that Entourage creates and syncs only its own Calendar in iCal.

otracey

Why not just use Entourage to Sync with iCal? If you are a Mac user who connects to Exchange, then you already use Entourage for email and calendar, right?

So then just check the preference box in Entourage to “Synchronize events and tasks with iCal and .Mac” there should be no need to use another 3rd party tool like Plaxo.

gary

I had turned to Plaxo in an attempt to sync my wife’s work Outlook with her home mac and ran into a bunch of problems getting Outlook and Plaxo to play well together and had abandon that effort. I would love to see Apple (or someone else) come up with a way to sync Outlook with .mac.

Terry

I have been using Plaxo since 2004, starting with Outlook. When I brought my first Mac home late 2005, Plaxo was just releasing their Mac synchronization. Initially only allowing Address Book synch. A few months back, they released iCal synch and I have to say it is a wonderful solution. Have there been bugs? Of course, but the Plaxo team is very good at fixing them. I am now synching 3 Macs and Google, and have eliminated Windows out of the picture completely. The nice thing is, if I ever need to use a Windows machine again (what a terrifying thought), I have piece of mind knowing all I have to do is download the Plaxo Outlook Add-In and I’ll instantly have all my calendars and contacts back on the Windows machine, being synched with everything else. I HIGHLY recommend this solution!

Tammy

I had the same dilemma as your friend and also turned to Plaxo about a month ago to solve it. So far, so good…it’s worked as promised. My only gripe is that Plaxo doesn’t automatically sync as frequently as I’d like. Sometimes I have to go and manually tell it to sync each separate calendar, a bit of a pain. But compared to the alternatives–or should I say, lack of them–it’s worth it to me.

Honza

I only WISH I had the problem of Outlook syncing… at work we have LOTUS NOTES :-( I don’t think even the mighty Plaxo can do that.

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