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The Syncing Problem Finally Solved
In the past, there was just one problem when it came to syncing your Google Calendar and Contacts from Gmail: There really wasn't a very effective solution to be shared. Finally, in late 2008, Google expanded their calendar sync capability to include contacts. Problem solved, as Google Sync for your BlackBerry promises to: "Synchronize the built-in calendar and address book on your BlackBerry with your Google account."
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Getting Started with Google Sync
To get started, point your favorite Web browser at http://www.google.com/mobile/blackberry/sync.html. If you're in the US, you can enter the number of your mobile and Google will send you a text message with the download link. Alternatively, you can open http://m.google.com/sync with the built-in Web browser on your BlackBerry.
By selecting the "Google Sync" icon, download the client to your BlackBerry. The BlackBerry's download screen will be quite familiar to you if you have ever installed an application over-the-air before. The application name, version, vendor, size and description are all identified in this download screen. In the current example, I am downloading version 0.5.13 of Google Sync for the BlackBerry; this version has a size of about 260 kb. Once you have reviewed this information, and are interested in proceeding with the download and installation, click on the "Download" button. The download shouldn't take more than about 15 seconds. (Of course, your mileage will vary depending on the signal strength of your connection, etc.) Once downloaded, the client will be installed for you. (Note that a reboot of your BlackBerry will be required if you have a previous version of the Google Sync client installed.)
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From your BlackBerry's Home Screen look for the new Google Sync icon (Yin-and-Yang stylized arrows embracing the letter "g"). A status screen summarizes the last time your calendar and contacts were successfully synchronized between Google's cloud and your BlackBerry. On a monthly basis, data usage is displayed in kb - an especially important metric for those on anything other than unlimited data plans!
While the Google Sync client is open, you can use the Menu button on your BlackBerry to explore the options.
Under "Options", you will be presented with the client's configuration options:
- Synchronization frequency - Locate the "When To Sync" configuration option. Note that you can have synchronizations take place when you demand them ("Manual") or on your behalf ("Automatic"). If you opt for automatic synchronization, Google Sync will be enabled soon after modifications are made to your calendar or contacts.
- Contact synchronization - This is the highly coveted functionality I introduced at the outset. As of this version of the Google Sync client, contact synchronization is either enabled or not enabled. There are no other configuration options.
- Calendar synchronization - Google Sync has had this capability for some time. Therefore, it is not surprising that this more-mature functionality has a few configuration options available. In addition to the option to enable calendar synchronization, the Google Sync client accounts for past and future events. For example, you can retain events for the 1, 2 or 4 weeks just past, and synchronize forward in time for periods of 4, 8, 16 or 24 weeks. Before you get too carried away though, keep in mind that the more data you synchronize the less free memory your BlackBerry will have. Finally, you can choose to synchronize alarms and even multiple calendars.
The "Sync Now" option is selected by default. If you select it, note that you will need to allow for encrypted communications between your BlackBerry and Google's cloud. You will need to allow the connections for the client to communicate on your behalf. One word of caution is in order: First-time through, it may take Google Sync some time to perform the synchronization. You can help it along by choosing to synchronize only your contacts or only your calendar and in the latter case, keeping the past/future event requirement to the bare minimum. Once this initial synchronization has taken place, I expect you will find Google Sync quite unobtrusive, as it will be only the differences in your calendar and contacts that will require synchronization - and as noted earlier, these differences will be synchronized more-or-less as they happen (and/or when you demand them).
Of course all of this presupposes you have a Google account ... and that you know it - as you will be expected to log in as necessary.
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Google Sync is a powerful, native application for the BlackBerry. First it allowed your Google Calendar to be synchronized with your BlackBerry, and now your Gmail Contacts can also be synchronized. What's next? Google's recently added Tasks to Gmail. For now, Tasks are only available via Gmail Labs. Given that task management is a focal point for devices like the BlackBerry, I expect that at some point in the future, Google Sync will be able to synchronize your tasks in addition to your calendar and contacts.