Keep iCal and Address Book in Sync Across Multiple Computers: MobileMe vs. Fruux.

by Kelle on April 14, 2010

(To those who noticed, apologies for the premature publishing of this post earlier this week.)

This is Part 2 of two-part series on keeping multiple computers in sync. Part 1 was about using Dropbox to sync files and applications.

For about three months, I used Fruux to keep my iCal and Address Book in sync on three computers (and one iPhone). I ran into so many little problems and annoyances with Fruux, I gave in and bought a MobileMe subscription ($100/year). I’ve been using MobileMe for three weeks and have been extremely pleased. The bottom line is that Fruux works well enough if you can tolerate duplicates and conflicts, but if you can afford it, MobileMe is a better choice. Read on for the gory details.


DISCLAIMER: I don’t fully understand the inner workings of all this…I figured out what works for me by trial and error. Proceed with extreme caution. Back up! Export Address Book and iCal Archives. Before syncing for the first time, I highly recommend googling your particular situation so you know what to expect. Ideally, start with a blank slate on all secondary computers: no contacts in Address Book and only one calendar in iCal. If you have issues, consider resetting sync services.. If that doesn’t help, try advanced troubleshooting. If none of that works, don’t ask me, contact apple or fruux or post in a relevant forum.

Fruux

FruuxFruux is a free service that offers synchronization of many of the same things as MobileMe: Address Book, Calendars, Tasks, and Bookmarks; over-the-air syncing to an iPhone and a web app are in development. Fruux does actually work pretty well but it has some features that can be a little annoying. If you’re not OCD and can handle some imperfections in your Address Book and iCal, than Fruux is an economical and very functional option.

Problems that I had:

  • Frequent syncing taxing the limited RAM resources of my MacBook Air.
  • Frequent conflicts requiring my attention. Contact pictures, in particular, seemed to cause problems.
  • Duplication of contacts and groups.
  • Two versions of modified events. For example, 3pm meeting moved to 3:30 shows up at both times.

Advantages:

  • Free

The workflow I settled on when using Fruux was keeping my primary computer “Always in Sync” and to only sync secondary computers when I was actually going to use them to schedule or to add or modify a contact. The reason why I didn’t keep all the computers “Always in Sync” was mostly due to the resources used by syncing and the annoying conflict messages. Their might be solutions to these problems, but I didn’t find them.

MobileMe

MobilemeWhen I broke down and bought a MobileMe subscription, it just worked on 2/3 computers and on my iPhone. I’m only interested in syncing Address Book and Calendars; I haven’t played with all the other features of the service such as iDisk. (This article doesn’t make me eager to switch from DropBox to iDisk.)

The problems I have are:

  • Cannot sync Address Book on one computer due to “Inconsistent Data.” This should be fixable, I just haven’t worked it out yet.
  • All calendars, not just selected ones, sync on all computers and display on iPhone. This is a well complained about feature that I hope will be resolved soon.

The reasons I pay for it:

  • New events sync to iPhone without actually having to do a wired sync.
  • No problems with mysterious conflicts.
  • Syncing is fast and doesn’t take any resources. I don’t notice it.

I also sync Google Contacts with Address Book. In order to get this to work for me the method I used was: delete all Google Contacts, export Address Book to vCard, import the vCard to Google. With this method, I lost the groups in Address Book, but I got them in Google…no biggie.

How do you keep your multiple computers in sync? Anyone out there loving Fruux? or not happy with MobileMe?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Henry Roe April 14, 2010 at 10:28 am

If you only need to sync calendars across computers or share calendars between people, have a look at BusySync (just for sync’ing) or BusyCal (essentially an improved version of iCal that includes the syncing capabilities of BusySync).

You can sync directly on a network, or use google calendars for each computer to sync to.

My wife and I are using this to sync several calendars between us and it’s working great.

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2 Maryam January 25, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Thanks for the all the valuable advice! I’m trying to figure out whether I should use dropbox or idisk for syncing folders & files (since they sound very similar in their function) but reading the article you linked and their comments made me decide for dropbox. Also thanks for describing in your earlier article part 1 the helpful applications and how to keep them in sync!

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