Sync contacts and calendars between Outlook, Gmail, and iPhone

Google Calendar Sync and Gmail's Contacts export and import let you combine information stored in Outlook, your iPhone or other smartphone, and Google's services.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
3 min read

Last February, I described losing half my iPhone contacts after an iTunes sync. Even though I tried the Filadex Web-based contact manager, I don't like the fact that the information is stored unencrypted on Web servers.

More importantly, my iPhone always has my most up-to-date telephone and address contact list, while Gmail knows more about my e-mail correspondents than the iPhone does, and Google Calendar is my primary scheduler. Just to complicate matters, I spend most of my workdays (and some weekends, unfortunately) in Outlook.

I need to export my Google Calendar and Gmail addresses to Outlook and my iPhone, and move my iPhone telephone numbers and physical addresses to Gmail and Outlook. Simple, right? Well, it turned out to be not too difficult or time-consuming, although the result was a bit messy.

Sync Google Calendar with calendars in Outlook and the iPhone
Who knew Google Calendar and Outlook could play so nice? The aptly named Google Calendar Sync does the trick with just a few clicks and a minimum of thumb-twiddling. The program works with Outlook 2003 and 2007 on XP and Vista PCs, though it doesn't support 64-bit XP, according to Google.

After you download and install the program, you enter your Google ID and password and choose one of three options: sync from and to Google Calendar and Outlook; sync from Google Calendar to Outlook; or sync from Outlook to Google Calendar. The default sync time is 120 minutes, and the minimum setting is 10 minutes; there's no mention of a maximum setting. The sync begins after you click Save.

Google Calendar Sync
Choose two-way or one-way sync between Outlook and Google Calendar in the Google Calendar Sync utility. Google

Up-and-down arrows on the Google Calendar icon in the notification area indicate a sync in progress; hover over it to see the percent complete or the time of the last sync.

The program converted my relatively simple Google Calendar to Outlook 2007 with surprising accuracy. In fact, the two calendars appeared and acted very much alike. Keep in mind, I didn't transfer any tricky repeating appointments, invitations, or time-zone changes. But for my meager calendar needs, the sync was fast and comprehensive.

To sync your Google Calendar and Gmail contacts with an iPhone, simply use the phone to create a Google Sync account. Instructions for OS version 2.2 and 3.0 are on the Google Mobile Help site.

Unfortunately, Google Sync is limited in the fields it supports and doesn't let you exclude entries or deal with duplicates. These and other of the program's limitations are described on the Google Sync Help page.

Move your iPhone contacts to Gmail and Outlook, or vice-versa
Use iTunes to export your iPhone contacts to Outlook--and Gmail, if you choose not to go the Google Sync route described above. Plug your iPhone into your PC, choose the device in iTunes' left pane, and select the Info tab. Pick either Outlook or Google Contacts in the "Sync contacts from" drop-down menu. (Yahoo Address Book and Windows Address Book are the other options.) For Outlook, you can choose which groups to sync. For Gmail, you enter your user ID and password.

Your only sync options are to merge or replace the entries iTunes identifies as duplicates, and to choose between two entries pegged as conflicts. The resulting sync was full of double entries, but I would much rather deal with manually merging the dupes than losing the information either entry contains.

Apple iTunes contact sync
iTunes' sync with Google Contacts provides few options for dealing with duplicate entries. Apple

I'll probably spend another hour or so cleaning up the extra entries created by the contact sync, but that's much less time than I'd spend trying to replace the info.