Outlook Calendar Synchronization Cookbook

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I carry an AT&T 8525 Windows Mobile device as my phone and PDA. It’s connected to my company’s Exchange 2007 server back in the office, but as a consultant I’m nearly always at a client site.

When I’m onsite for any length of time the client usually provides me with an email account on their network so that I can more easily communicate with teams and accept meeting invitations. The trouble for me has always been how to synchronize calendar data between the two calendars. There are lots of hard and messy ways to do this – I can forward the appointments to my WM device or type them in manually, or I can use Google calendar to do a “middle man” synchronization.

What I’ve discovered that does a really good job is a software and service called Funambol. This free service is made up of three components:

  • The Funambol client for Windows Mobile
  • The Funambol client for Windows Outlook
  • The myFunambol Portal, the hosted server that holds the synchronized data

Funambol can perform synchronization of email, contacts, calendar items, tasks, notes and briefcases. Synchronization can be one-way (from Funambol server to phone only or from phone to server only) or two-way. Since I only perform calendar synchronization this article only covers this, but the other types of synchronization can be setup the same way.

To begin, sign up for a free myFunambol account at http://my.funambol.com. This creates a personal database account for you that will hold the synchronized data. The myFunambol portal also offers a web interface where you can view and manage your synchronized data stored on the server.

Next, download the Funambol Outlook Plugin from https://www.forge.funambol.org/download and install it on the computer with Outlook that you want to sync with your mobile device. Follow the Wizard to install the plugin. I won’t list them here because Funambol updates their software regularly and the steps may change, but here are the settings I use in the version I’m currently using:

  • Account and password are the same as the myFunambol account
  • Sync Calendar; One-way: Outlook -> Server; Synchronize every 2 hours

Test the synchronization from Outlook. The plugin may warn you that it needs to perform a full sync the first time. Once the sync completes, log into the myFunambol portal to ensure that your data is there.

Now download and install the correct Funambol client for your mobile device from https://www.forge.funambol.org/download. Funambol makes one for Windows Mobile PocketPC, Windows Mobile Smartphone, Blackberry, Java based phones and even the Apple iPod.

Install the client on your device and configure it thusly:

  • Account and password are the same as the myFunambol account
  • Synchronize all items in: Calendar
  • PIM options – Sync Direction: Server to Phone only
  • Sync Method: Scheduled Sync, Sync every 2 hours

Now sync your mobile device. The device will tell you that it needs to perform a full sync the first time and begin syncing the data from the myFunambol portal.

Viola!!! Calendar synchronization made easy!

For this solution to work, your Outlook client must be running and have Internet access.

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