Mac Calendaring and Address Book

It’s been over 3 months since I converted to (almost) exclusively using a Mac. I’ve talked about what moved me to make the change, why I chose what I did, my initial thoughts, my examination of browsers and e-mail clients. I am now looking at calendaring and the address book.

Let me remind you of my requirements (and/or desires). In August, I wrote, “Interoperability with a Palm handheld. I use it a bunch for everything it does including the obvious (calendar, etc.) and the less obvious (eReader, Documents to Go, Expense).” I really do us it, and did not want to abandon it for something else.

After some little research, I figured I had 3 choices: the Mac-resident applications iCal and the cleverly named Address Book; Microsoft’s Entourage; and, obviously, Palm Desktop for Mac.

Palm Desktop for Mac.
I really like Palm Desktop on Windows, so I had hoped the Mac version would be a slam-dunk winner. Not so. It is a completely different program. On Windows, I like its layout. I like how it supports everything standard with the Palm handheld. Also, it has a neat “find duplicates” feature, to look for exact or near duplicate entries. Very useful. Not in the Mac version. The layout for the contact list (address book) had multiple views. On the Mac, there was one view: ugly, with the each entry laid out as if you were viewing it in a spreadsheet. On Windows, you could add notes to calendar entries and contact entries. On Mac, you could by jumping through hoops and creating a memo note and attaching it to an entry. I do recall that years ago, Palm Desktop for Windows was lame. Palm then took Claris Organizer and for a while Palm for Mac was better. (See PalmPilot and Macintosh: together at last.) But, back in those olden days, great functionality was auto-formatting phone numbers, and auto-completing city names. As far as I can tell, little was done since then.

I found A wish list for the next Palm Desktop for Macintosh, which echoed many of my concerns. Another problem I noted: contact items that are tagged as email in my Palm computer are not in the email column on the Mac Desktop. That is to say, when I exported the address book to import into my email application most of the email addresses were missing. I guess they were not in the exact right place on the Palm handheld. But, they do export properly in the Windows version. So, I wrote to the author of the above-mentioned article.. and the email bounced. It was then I realized that it was from April, 2001! Not much hope of getting things in Palm Desktop changed.

iCal and Address Book
These come with the Mac. iSync, the Mac’s sync program, does a fine job of syncing with the Palm. But, there are some things missing. I use categories for calendar events. iCal does not. For example, on my Palm calendar I categories calendar events into Anniversary, Birthday, Business, Church, Conference, Holiday, Meeting, Personal, and Travel. I thought, if only there was a way to map categories into different calendars (iCal supports different calendars), I’d be golden. But, there was not. And Address Book also was simple. It had different address books but they did not convert to categories. And it did not seem that Birthday fields on i the handheld mapped to the desktop applications. In fact, when I synced, the birthdays in the contacts list were all lost. So, I gave up on iCal and Address Book.

Next, I tried Entourage that came with Office for Mac. It has a very nice layout. I had no intention of using it for email, but it seemed to have everything I was looking for. It had categories in both the address book and the calendar. It had tasks. It had memos. It has birthdays. It just did not sync properly. The conduit supplied with Entourage for iSync lost all the categories. It supports categories but apparently cannot map them from the handheld. It, too, lost all the birthdays. And Entourage does not allow notes on calendar events. Arrg!!

My Solution
I went back and forth with some of these solutions, always going back to Palm Desktop, hating it, but not being willing to leave it for the things that were broken in the other possibilities. And then an Internet search pointed me to The Missing Sync for Palm OS. One thing that caught my eye: “Synchronizes iCal calendars to Palm OS calendar categories.” So, I downloaded it for US$39.95 and tried it. But, the documentation pointed out that I needed to make some preparations. If I wanted categories in my Palm to map to “Groups” in Address Book, and to “Calendars” in iCal, I needed to create groups and calendars with matching names. No problem.

It worked great. Absolutely wonderful. Missing Sync has conduits for Palm Desktop and Entourage. I only use one: it syncs Notepad to the separate Palm Notepad viewer. Since Mac does not have a Memos application (like the Palm Desktop and Palm handheld have), Missing Sync has a MemoPad application. It also will sync files (to store on the hand held) and photos from iPhoto. There have been a few glitches. In a previous version of the product, one sync took 7.5 hours! But, that has not happened with the latest version. Syncs take under 5 minutes, including synching photos, 2753 address cards, a few Documents to Go (from Dataviz) files, and some Adobe Reader for Palm documents.

I am now very satisfied with my Palm integration with the Mac, thanks to Missing Sync.

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