Keeping in contact
By Stephen WITHERS
A Samsung Galaxy S III has come into my life, so I wanted to sync contact data between it and my Mac. That task wasn't as easy as I'd hoped, but I got there in the end.
Mac OS X supports contact synchronisation with Google accounts, so that was a good start. The problem is that most of my contact information was stored in Outlook 2011, not Address Book. Somewhere along the line (I think it was the arrival of Leopard) the software I'd been using to sync selected Entourage contacts with my old phone had stopped working, so I had turned off Sync Services and the two lists gradually got out of whack. Yes, it was my fault - though I probably wouldn't have got into that situation if that developer hadn't reneged on a Leopard-compatible update.
Anyway, like Entourage, Outlook does support Sync Services, but simply turning it on didn't unify the two sets of data. If I created a new contact in one, it would show up in the other, but existing contacts in Outlook didn't find their way into Address Book. Resetting Sync Services didn't help.
What follows isn't a 'how to', it's just me relating a not very smooth process. In fact, there was so much trial and error involved, I can't even promise that the tale is 100% accurate.
My early attempts to sort out the situation kept resulting in duplicate contacts, but I fixed that by turning off iCloud contacts sync. A script written for me by AppleScript master Shane Stanley (using his ASObjC Runner to keep the code simple) identified contacts that existed in Outlook but not Address Book (or, with a slight change, vice versa), and that helped me manually reconcile the two lists.
Once I had a single list (in Address Book, as it happened), I exported all my contacts from Outlook so I had a backup, and then deleted them. Turing on Sync Services in Outlook didn't repopulate its contacts list, so I manually imported the data from Address Book. That meant the two lists were the same, and I then found that when I added or edited an entry in one program, the change propagated to the other.
Something I did notice was that the delay was quite variable - just because sync doesn't occur immediately, that doesn't mean it isn't working at all!
I then enabled contact syncing with Google in Address Book's preferences, and discovered that the Sync menu extra had gained a Sync Now command which, when selected, seemed to trigger the synchronisation of all three contacts lists (Address Book, Outlook and Google Apps).
Multiple sync operations were necessary before all three lists really were in sync. Part of the problem seemed to be that notes fields are stored slightly differently by Address Book and Outlook: Address Book allows multiple 'paragraphs' but Outlook concatenates them, and then Sync Services decides they are different. And where I'd stored a photo for a contact, it seemed necessary to accept the Google version of the image as the truth or a sync conflict kept occurring.
Eventually I got there: a common contact list across Outlook, Address Book, Google Apps and Android, and any changes on one flowed to the others.
So it was time to extend that to Outlook on Windows. I downloaded and installed Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook (NB: requires a paid edition of Google Apps), and yes, it delivered contact synchronisation. But there was a downside: it creates a new Outlook profile, and also makes a MAPI rather than IMAP connection between Outlook and Gmail. For various reasons, I had that copy of Outlook set to only download email headers until messages are opened, and that doesn't seem to be an option with MAPI so Google Apps Sync downloaded around a gigabyte of emails into Outlook. If you know how to get just the headers, please tell me in a comment.
There's a looming problem.
Sync Services is a deprecated feature of (Mac) OS X. When it goes away, we'll probably lose the ability to sync Outlook and Address Book, as iCloud synchronisation is (as I understand it) only available to software sold through the Mac App Store and there's no sign of Microsoft taking that route.
Given the apparent falling out between Apple and Google, there must be a chance that Google sync will disappear from a future version of Address Book. The good news is that Mountain Lion reportedly supports simultaneous contacts syncing with Google and iCloud, so that scenario is at least a year away.
There's no indication that Google or Microsoft will provide direct support for contact sync between Outlook for Mac and Gmail/Google Apps, so where does that leave us?
The answer seems to be either to accept that it is an an increasingly balkanised world (OS X and iOS, or Windows 7/8 and Windows Phone, or Google Apps and Android), or to rely on third-party developers to provide connectivity. But my experience suggests such reliance could be misplaced.
|Subscribe to Hydrapinion|
I feel your frustration. I work for CompanionLink, and we have been working on a few things for this. We develop sync software; we're new to Mac.
We run into the same stumbling blocks you mention. Please email me if you'd like to discuss further.