This is my ultimate guide to keeping your calendar, contacts, bookmarks, todo’s, files, passwords and other items synchronized between multiple computers, iPhone and the iPad. Warning, this one of the most geeky posts I have made yet! But if you are a productivity freak like me, this will help you a lot!
So, I work with a desktop, laptop, iPhone and iPad. My biggest pet peeve was having my contacts, calendar, documents and other items missing from my computer or device when I needed it!
So began my quest to find a way to manage all these data sets that I use on a daily basis. A lot of solutions came at a monthly cost. That was a no-no for me and so I started experimenting with all the different free services out there including some freemium services.
After much trial and error, I believe that I have found the optimum solution for now. So here’s how I do it:
Syncing contacts between my Desktop and my iPhone and iPad is simple enough. I just use iTunes and choose to sync my contacts and calendar. So every time I dock my devices to my main computer, the calendar and contacts are synchronized.
But synching between my desktop and laptop proved to be a real pain. That is until I found Plaxo’s sync point service.
Sign-up with Plaxo for free and download their desktop app to do your first sync.
Next, select “add a synch point” and choose to add a new computer. You can also sync with Google apps (Google Calendar and Google Contacts) but I found it was not necessary.
Now download the Plaxo desktop application on your laptop and sync with the same Plaxo account. Voila! Now your Address Book and iCal will always be in sync!
Now you are free to add contacts or appointments from any device and at the end of the day they will all be on all your devices.
Next came the todo list. Now if you are happy using the todo’s inside iCal, then you can ignore this part.
But being the productivity geek that I am – I needed something much more powerful. The Rolls Royce of task management apps that I found is called “Things” from Cultured Code.
And the reason they rock is because they have a desktop version, iPhone version and iPad version. Now you will need to pay for all 3 versions. This is fine for me because its a one-time expense but I use it everyday!
So once installed, all devices sync automatically with each other every time these devices are on the same WiFi network. No need to dock.
Also, by placing the Things database file on my Dropbox folder (read below), my todos also sync with my laptop the same way.
Additionally, I created a special calendar in iCal to sync with my ToDo items, so that any item I specify in Things that has a date, the item and task will be added to my iCal.
Now I can manage my todos from any device and they will always be synchronized.
With email, this is also easily managed by Apple’s Mail application in all devices.
However, the key is to set up IMAP accounts for your mail accounts. This way, if I read any email from any device, it is marked as “read” on all my devices.
So again, I can check email or send email from any device and a the end of the day, all the mail accounts are synchronized.
Document is a rather tricky one. To sync documents between computers, the best solution out there is DropBox.
Go to DropBox and create a free account. This allows you 2GB of data to sync. I found this to be more than enough for my needs.
Now you install the Dropbox desktop app and create a folder that is always synchronized. Now install Dropbox in your laptop and you will have the same folder on both computers that is always synchronized.
Next, install the free Dropbox app for iPhone and iPad. Now all the files in your Dropbox folder will appear here too.
Now with iPhone and iPad, they way to view and edit docs like MS Word, Excel and Powerpoint and PDFs are managed by another app I use called “Docs2Go”.
This is a paid app but I have found that it is very useful if I ever need to create or read docs on my mobile devices.
Docs2Go also come with a desktop application that allows WiFi synching with the iPhone and iPad versions. But in order to sync – you need to launch the Docs2Go desktop all and click the synch button. That’s too many steps for my liking!
Now comes my solution – because I have Dropbox installed, I just added all the document folders I manage with Docs2Go inside the Dropbox folder. So now, I can access these documents inside my mobile devices via Dropbox without needing to manually sycn my Docs2Go folder.
As a side note, the Docs2Go apps also allows you to sync with your Google Docs account anywhere you are. These are additional option which I don’t really use right now but may be useful for you if you collaborate with others and want to share files using Google Docs.
Having said that, Dropbox also allows you to share selected folders for collaboration. So its your choice how you want to make the most of these features.
Text and Multimedia Notes
For text and multimedia notes like photos and audio notes, the simplest way is to use Evernote.
Like Dropbox, they have a desktop app, iPhone app and iPad app. This app allows you to take photos, record an audio note or just type some text.
All these will be automatically synchronized between all your devices.
Like Dropbox, there’s a limit to how much data you can transfer each month. Again, I have found that the free account has more than sufficient data space for my needs.
Passwords and Bookmarks
My default web browser is Google Chrome. Google Chrome automatically allows you to sync bookmarks with your Google Account.
So on both my computers, the browsing experience is identical. e.g. I have the same book marks and theme.
As for passwords, I use a software called 1Password. They also have an iPhone and iPad app. So far, this app keeps my passwords and secured notes synchronized between my main computer and my mobile devices.
The only limitation right now is that the Google Chrome iPassword extension is still in beta mode and does not have the full features yet.
But like I said, this is an acceptable solution for now.
Recommendations and Future Updates
This quest of mine to find the ultimate mix of software, apps and best-practices to manage all the common data between my computers and devices is ongoing.
If you have any recommendations please do add them to the comments below.
If you want to keep in the loop of my discoveries and experiments, please subscribe to this blog.