Changing The Landscape

This may sound strange but one of the crucial tools that helps Princess Bethany and I save our marriage on a daily basis is a shared calendar. We both work out of our home office, we have many meetings and events that we must attend together, and it helps in making sure that the scheduling needs of Duchess Beatrix is always tended to. Without the ability to share a calendar, our lives would be utter chaos.

Up until very recently, we have been using Backpack’s built in calendar for this task and it has been really great. Bethany and I each have separate calendars for our work and personal items. We also have a calendar for joint events. It is very easy to keep track of which things pertain to our work, which things are personal and which things we had to do together. Because it is browser based it is easily accessible as well.

Once I got an iPhone, things started to break down a bit. I was able to subscribe to the ious calendars in Backpack in iCal, and then sync those events to my phone. The only problem was the subscription option is a “read only” solution. I could not add or edit events on either the iPhone or in iCal. I was fine with this for a while as I rarely need to add events when out and about. The calendar is more of a “dashboard” for my day. That being said, when those rare times would occur, my solution was to capture the meeting specifics on a 3×5 card and then add those to the calendar when I returned home. Having to “touch” the event more than once did drive me a bit batty.

Then, Princess Bethany got an iPhone. While I was willing to put up with the limitations of this solution, I knew that her level of patience for such things was less than mine. A change would have to be made.

I knew that, in order to have native read/write calendar functionality across all devices, I would have to use iCal. The problem with this is that iCal does not natively allow you to have calendar sharing and synchronization across machines on a network. There are ways one could workaround this using a shared MobileMe account but this is a less than ideal solution.

The solution is a product called BusySync. It installs as a pane in System Preferences and seamlessly allows you to do real iCal calendar sharing between multiple Macs – with read write and password control. It is a fantastic solution and works so well you wonder why Apple has not implemented this feature in iCal themselves. It could not have been simpler to set up and make the switch. Here is what I did:

  1. With the Backpack calendars subscribed in iCal on one of the Macs, I exported each calendar individually. To me, this is the simplest way to get the data out of Backpack.
  2. I then deleted those calendar subscriptions from iCal.
  3. Next, I imported the calendars I had exported back into iCal, being careful to make sure it imported each one into its own new calendar.
  4. I then installed BusySync and followed the instructions for sharing the calendars.
  5. Finally, I went to the other Macs, installed BusySync there, and followed the instructions for subscribing to the calendars.

It really was simple and took far less effort than I thought it would. Things just plain work. Make an appointment in iCal on one Mac and seconds later it shows up on every other one. Make a change to an appointment and it also syncs in seconds. The other obvious advantage is that, when we make an addition or change on the iPhone, it updates every calendar the next time we sync. Read/write capability everywhere.

It has only been a day or so but I can already see how much more functional this setup will be.

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