Syncing email, calendar and tasks over a laptop, desktop and iPhone

Written by Sam McGeown
Published on 10/12/2009 - Read in about 3 min (576 words)

In the past, I would often say to my wife, “if it’s not in Outlook, it isn’t going to happen”. Increasingly it’s “if it’s not on my iPhone, it’s not going to happen”. The fact is that I can’t actually remember all the things that I need to do each day, I need reminding!

I spend perhaps 8 hours a day at my work PC, maybe 2 hours a day on my home laptop and my iPhone is with me pretty much 24/7 – all of which are both data sources, and data endpoints. They all remind me to do things. To add a bit more complication to the mix, some things are personal, some things are work related.

So, to summarise, I want email, calendaring and to-do/tasks on my desktop, laptop and iPhone, and I want to be able to add/edit/delete for any of them.


Step 1 – Email

My personal email is downloaded by POP3 to Gmail from my ISP’s (GoDaddy) email server. I use Outlook 2007 on both my Laptop and Desktop to connect via IMAP to my Gmail account. Both use my ISP’s SMTP server to send email. I also configured Gmail to send via GoDaddy’s SMTP server, this allows me to send from my personal address rather than my Gmail address. Email is accessible from my iPhone via the Exchange server protocol (Gmail Sync). Since all of these access email on the Gmail storage, when an email is deleted/moved/replied to on any platform, it stays up to date.

Step 2 – Calendar

Once again Google is the central repository for the data, using Google Calendar Sync to synchronise my calendar on both my Laptop and Desktop Outlook. On my Desktop, Google Calendar Sync updates the corporate Exchange account. Again the iPhone calendar syncs over the Gmail Sync/Exchange protocol to Google directly.

Step 3 – To-do/Tasks

This one is the most difficult and I’ve not yet resolved it fully. Google do have a Tasks app, but it doesn’t have a sync tool. My corporate Exchange server has tasks, but I have no way of syncing it with my Laptop. At the moment I am using the Exchange tasks which is obviously sync’d with my Desktop Outlook. I’m also using a free app called IMLite on the iPhone to access the tasks on the Exchange, but it’s read only.

It’s easier to view a diagram!

Other things to note

  • All the connections are over SSL, so they’re secure – that’s really important because it’s personal information and you don’t need just anyone getting it!
  • I chose Gmail over other online hosts because of the storage (over 7.4GB and growing), because it hosts my calendar and tasks, and is easier to set up to SEND email from my SMTP server.
  • I know Gmail is ad supported – but if you access via IMAP/Exchange protocols, you’ll never see them.
  • I’d like to be using Google tasks and sync them with my Outlook, but as yet I’ve not found a way to do this (c’mon Google, release the app!)
  • My iPhone is sync’d to my Laptop via iTunes, but only for media and contacts.

Finally, I’m looking at my options for photo sync (or online storage) but it’s got to be high res, I’m also looking at document sync, but I’m pretty sure Google has that nailed too. I much prefer having it all under one roof.

Any comments, ideas, suggestions, drop a comment below!

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