Monday, May 12, 2008

Dr. HotSync or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Outlook

Regular readers of this blog will recall that I was disappointed a few days ago by the lack of non-sucky ways for my to sync my PalmPilot's calendar with my Google Calendar. You'll be happy, I'm sure, to know that I've found a solution. It's a bit kludgey, and has so far cost me $50 and a few hours to install and configure, but it works.

Short answer: I bought Chapura's PocketMirror Professional, which converts between Outlook's and Palm's data formats during a HotSync, and then re-installed Palm Desktop and configured it to sync my handheld with Outlook instead.

Long answer: As a bonus, I was also able to add a couple of Internet Calendars (RSS feeds from Google Calendar) to Outlook, so I can now view those on my handheld as well. That feature is what convinced me to switch to Outlook and shell out for PocketMirror Professional, instead of the Standard version which can only sync with a single, default Outlook calendar.

There's only one catch--well, two. The first is that PocketMirror Pro allows me to mark those other calendars from Outlook with different categories when I import them into my PalmPilot, so I can tell which calendar each event came from. Unfortunately, the default Palm Datebook application on my antique Sony CLIE (vintage 2003) doesn't support categories. It'll show me all the events, but I can't view or edit categories.

Now, PocketMirror did create their own Calendar app for Palm, but it's very bare-bones (and even older than Sony's app--made in 2001). I think they just took the original reference code and added a single pull-down menu to switch between categories. Honestly? It's pretty naff.

So now I'm trying out DateBk6, and even though the full array of options is somewhat dizzying, it is nice. I like being able to assign icons to each datebook category, so I can see at a glance which events came from which online calendar, and if I end up getting addicted to some of its other features, I may just shell out the $28 to buy it.

The second catch is that PocketMirror won't synchronize some multi-day appointments from Outlook. Note that I said won't, not can't: Chapura makes another product called KeySuite which has additional features and support for more types of Palm data, including email. Right now, I'm just getting a few HotSync error messages for old events because they were repeating appointments which spanned multiple days. It's not really a big deal, but if I end up using my calendar more because it's, well, usable again, I may just pay for the damn upgrade.

Bottom line: I probably should have taken the time to sort this out months ago. And, as usual, trying to save a little money and not choosing the most deluxe option is probably going to end up annoying me. We'll see. At the moment, $100 feels like a lot to spend just to fix something that shouldn't be broken in the first place, but 28 days later, I may be singing a different tune.

And you know, Outlook isn't all bad. I used it for a good four years when I was at AT&T Labs, because nothing else would talk to the Exchange mail server (which was actually pure evil). At least Microsoft didn't go completely extreme makeover apeshit on the Outlook UI in Office 2007, like they did for Word and Excel. I'm getting used to the crazy blue panels and hidden sub-menus, but I can't say I like it.

~CKL
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