Google: Your bridge from Outlook to any smartphone's calendar

Want to take your Outlook calendar events on the road? You don't need Microsoft Exchange to do it. Take to the cloud, Google's cloud.

Danny Sullivan
Danny Sullivan is a journalist who has covered the search and internet marketing space for over 15 years. He's founding editor of Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, and writes a personal blog called Daggle (and maintains his disclosures page there).
Danny Sullivan
4 min read

I love Outlook. Don't judge; I'm not alone. It's an outstanding tool for handling e-mail and my calendar. But what if you want to view your Outlook calendar when away from your desktop? I've found Google Calendar Sync is an awesome solution.

I know there's Microsoft Exchange that many companies use for syncing Outlook to other devices. I've never been in an organization that used it. Instead, my life of syncing Outlook to a phone started years ago when I'd use Microsoft ActiveSync to have Outlook talk to my Windows Mobile phone.

Oh, those were the days. Then along came the iPhone, and iTunes took over, allowing me to sync my Outlook calendar to my iPhone. But, I had to remember to plug-in my phone to do this. Meanwhile, what about syncing to the Web? And syncing to Android? And these days, syncing to Windows Phone?

Google Calendar Sync is the solution to all of these issues, at least if you use Windows. I dearly wish Google would support the Mac with this, and I'll revisit that wish at the end.

Google Calendar Sync is a lightweight program you install that automatically syncs whatever is on your Outlook calendar to your Google Calendar account (you'll need to create a Google Calendar account, if you don't already have one). You can sync one-way, to send only stuff on your Outlook calendar to Google or vice-versa. Sync two-way if you want calendar entries made in either place to flow back-and-forth.

Outlook to iPhone
Once Outlook is talking to Google Calendar, life is beautiful for the smartphone user. Let's start with the iPhone (and this works for the iPad, as well). Go to "Settings," then "Mail, Contacts, Calendar," then choose "Add Account." You'll see Gmail as one of the options listed.

Select Gmail, providing your Google information as required. After the account is set up, you'll see it listed within "Mail, Contacts, Calendars." Select it, then be sure you've toggled the "Calendars" link to "On." Once that's done, voila! Now you've channeled your Outlook calendar through the cloud to Google and back down to your iPhone.

Outlook to Android
With Android, it's a similar process. From the "Settings" menu (which most Android phones should have), look for something like "Accounts & Sync." Click "Add an account," then select "Google" and enter your details.

When done, go back to "Accounts & Sync" and select the Google account that's associated with your Google Calendar. Click on it, then make sure you've ticked the "Sync Calendar" option. That's it. Now Outlook is talking to Android, via Google.

Of course, with Android, you'll almost certainly already have a Google account listed in "Accounts & Sync." You need one to use most Android devices. If so, just make sure that you've created a Google Calendar account that's linked to that account, and you're set. This also works for Android tablets, too.

Outlook to Windows Phone

With Windows Phone, it's the same familiar process. Go to "Settings." Select "Email+Accounts." Select "Add An Account," and then choose "Google." Enter your Google account details. After it has been added, go back to "Email+Accounts" and select the Google account. Then be sure you've ticked the "Calendar" box.

Outlook to the Web
That covers getting your Outlook calendar from your desktop to your devices. A byproduct of this is that you also have a Web-based version of your calendar. Just log into Google Calendar, and all your details are there.

If you're using Google Calendar Sync set to two-way, you can even make changes to your web-based calendar and have them flow back to your desktop.

Outlook to the Mac's iCal
The fun's not over. My desktop computer runs Outlook 2010 for Windows 7, but on the road, I travel with a MacBook Air. Can I flow my Outlook calendar to that? You bet!

Open "System Preferences," then "Mail, Contacts & Calendars." Add your Google account. When that's done, be sure to have selected the "Calendars" tick box for your account. Now your Outlook calendar will flow through Google into iCal.

Left out, Outlook for the Mac
Unfortunately, I don't like iCal. I prefer -- surprise -- Outlook 2011 for the Mac. Sadly, Google doesn't make Google Calendar Sync for the Mac. That really sucks. I'll be following up with Google about whether we'll ever see this happen.

As for Microsoft, nothing seems to have changed from late 2010, when Microsoft warned that for anyone looking to sync with Web-based calendars, "Outlook for Mac may not be ideal." The support page on syncing Outlook For Mac still offers no help. The "Sync Services" option in Outlook For Mac, despite saying it can sync Outlook data with iCal, doesn't seem to do with the calendar.

As with Google, I'll be following up with Microsoft about this. In the meantime, my solution is to run Windows 7 using VMware Fusion on my MacBook Air, then run Outlook For Windows within that. Then if I'm on a long trip, and I really need to interact with my Outlook calendar a lot, I've got a solution.

Got a better solution or great calendar sync tip? Please share below!