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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Syncing bliss with the iPhone

July 5, 2007

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Something I was worried about with Eliza and I both getting iPhones was syncing. She has data, I have data, we have data! How would I be able to manage keeping all of this data in sync between our two computers and the iPhones without forcing her to only sync her iPhone with my computer?

A few things came into play in order to make this happen – but out of the box I’m very happy with how the iPhone handles syncing. Unlike the iPod, and correct me if I’m wrong, the iPhone allows itself to be connected to more than one computer. Have you ever had an iPod yell at you when you connect it to another computer? The iPhone doesn’t. Which is beautiful! So now my iPhone syncs only with my computer whereas Eliza’s syncs with mine for music and her’s for mail, calendar, address book, and photos. Happy, happy, joy, joy.

However, this introduces a small wrench into the system. Syncing our iPhones separately would mean that we would have to manage two different address books and calendars. The address book is a non-issue since Eliza and I, for the most part, managed two very separate contact lists. The number of business contacts that I have makes it so that Eliza would not want to sync with my address book outright. I, on the other hand, want all of my contact’s information available to me all the time.

So we’re left with the calendar. How do I sync Eliza’s calendar with mine, mine with hers, and both of ours with our iPhones? Turns out this is made very easy using a utility called Spanning Sync. So here is how I do keep all of this information up-to-date between both of our computers, the Web, and our respective iPhones.

Syncing the iPhone

Syncing bliss. (made with Skitch)

The first step is to create the calendars that you think you need within iCal. I decided to create two calendars per person and one joint calendar for our use. So we both have a personal calendar and a work calendar, and then we share a family events calendar. Eliza maintains the family events calendar so that I don’t have to (thanks babe!).

The second step is to recreate those same calendars within Google Calendar. I could have easily set it up so that Spanning Sync used the same Google Calendar account, but I wanted to keep our two accounts separate for other reasons and I really think this is the better option if Eliza wanted to go into Google Calendar and subscribe to things like the Green Bay Packers season schedule or something.

Once you have this completed you tell Spanning Sync, on both computers, to sync the iCal calendars that you created with their online representatives within Google Calendar. This will pull your information from iCal every hour, day, or week and sync it with Google Calendar making them both up-to-date.

The final step is to share my calendars with Eliza through Google Calendar and share her’s with mine. Then, ask Spanning Sync to sync those calendars too with offline representatives within iCal.

Once I had this workflow down, and have tested it, I have been really, really happy with the results. If I didn’t explain this too well I’m sorry – it gets a bit confusing but if you have any questions you can leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them. Or, if you have any tips on how I can improve this workflow – I’d like those as well.