Monday, 12 March 2007

Synchronising data

The Task
For me, having a work and personal calendar separate is a bit of a pain. I'm not great at keeping both sets of dates and appointments in my head and can double book myself easily. Ideally I like to want sync them both together so I always have a good view of what's happening in both calendars.

Problem is, my new place of work uses Lotus Notes, not Outlook! :0(

I've been chasing the ideal world of data synchronisation for a while now. Devices and application I use are:
- Pocket PC (Dell Axim X51V)
- Lotus Notes 7 (work)
- Outlook 2003 (home)
- Google Calendar (currently home)
- Yahoo Calendar (not using, but might)

My requirements are simple (to me):

1. Merge work and personal calendars "somewhere". This can be on the web or a device., preferably a device.
2. Support Lotus Notes and Outlook calendars (my two primary sources).
3. Automate the sync as far as possible. I don't want to have to remember to "Press sync" (I hate Palm's HotSync cradles because of this).

Nice features would be
1. Support two way sync of the "somewhere" with whatever sourced that data.
2. Offline read access to the merged calendar via my Pocket PC. Don't require to change it offline.
3. Keep the client installation simple. My work PC is locked down so I cannot simply install lots of software to make this happen.
4. Sync contacts too for easier scheduling of appointments.
5. Support Google calendars in some way, simply because I have mentally subscribed to the Google way of life...

I cannot believe I am the only person who wants to do this. However I think Lotus Notes will be the biggest problem here. So full speed with the research...

The Options So Far
ScheduleWorld has an excellent diagram which on first impressions does exactly what I want.

I use Lotus Notes (not by choice) at work for my calendar. This means I have the pain of making ScheduleWorld work with Lotus Notes which doesn't appear to be an out-of-the-box feature. This isn't going to give a smooth experience, but holds promise.

Outlook 2007
Yet another option might be Outlook 2007. This supports Internet Calendar Subscriptions which avoids ScheduleWorld and seems to give a good experience. Google Calendars supports RSS feeds, so this also holds promise for a picture where I push the work calendar into Google, share to Outlook and sync up Outlook to the X51V.

I particularly like involving Google in the mix as their tools offer a good mix of a rich experience, solid service and the promise of more social networking features as we transition into Web 2.0!

Also, I'm not very keen to spend more money on doing this.

Remote Calendars
Interesting this one. Remote Calendars seems to support sharing my home calendar with Google and supports two way sync. I foresee a problem in that there are limits over the number of records being synchronised (read a few people mentioning this, but no-one solving it).

Roll My Own
Not my favourite option here, but it's a possibility.

As Lotus Notes both support structured files for export, there is an option of writing my own code to push this into an iCal format keeping the data very open and very usable. Writing something in MS Outlook to import this data doesn't seem to provide too many problems, but we will see...

I'll add more solutions as I find them then go back and review them for others to read about.
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