Today was my last day at work for 2008 and so I’d set aside some time for those end-of-year-admin jobs…empty my Inbox (no I didn’t just press CTRL + A and hit the Delete key, nor did I move everything to a “do not process until 2009” folder), tidy my “My Documents folder, set my out-of-office and turn on my voicemail.

I could never get on with Outlook’s calendar but since I started using iCal (and even more so since I got an iPhone), I’ve become a calendar junkie….or maybe I’ve just got more organised!

I like to have my work calendar available when I’m away from the office but the problem is that, as with most corporates, we use Outlook. I’m also handicapped by having an over-zealous IT department that locks down the PC’s, prohibiting installation of any useful 3rd-Party add-ins.

To display my Outlook calendar appointments in iCal I use a part-manual-part-automatic solution.

In Outlook, I use the Export command to save the calendar as a CSV file (This CSV file contains details of the appointments such as date, time, meeting details, etc). I then log into my Google calendar and use the Import command to import the CSV file. That’s the manual part.

Although iCal can be set up to sync with Google calendar, I do this via a great little application called BusySync. We use BusySync to synchronise our iCal calendars at home, however, the application now allows you to “subscribe” to a Google calendar – so any changes that are made to the Google calendar are automatically reflected when viewed through iCal.

I have a Google calendar called “Mike Work Schedule” and I’ve configured BusySync on my iMac to check this calendar every 60 seconds. For this to work, my iMac (which is at home) must be switched on with BusySync running (it runs in the background).

The iPhone is automatically updated via MobileMe.

My work calendar is updated on a regular basis (often several times a day) as meetings and training courses are scheduled, cancelled and re-arranged. In an ideal world, I’d run the export-to-csv-import-to-Google at the end of every day. (I even tried, unsuccessfully, to automate it with VBA) but when you’re running a course, writing a web app or in a meeting until 4:30, the last thing you want to do is spend another 5 minutes updating a calendar. Well, it was 5 minutes at the start of the year…

Unfortunately when you import the CSV file into Google calendar, it doesn’t do any kind of comparison with the existing appointments so you are likely to end up with duplicates and any appointments that no longer exist in your Outlook Calendar are not deleted from the Google calendar.

To get round this problem, prior to running the import, I had to manually delete all the entries from the Google calendar. I also had to ensure that every time I ran the export from Outlook, I defined 1st January 2008 as the start date. As the year wore on, the number of appointments in my Outlook calendar increased and consequently each export took longer to run.

So, back to today’s problem…I configured Outlook to export all appointments between 1st January 2008 and 31st December 2008. The export started and the progress bar began to, well, progress. However, after 20 minutes it was still, er, progressing. I needed to use Outlook to access some emails but the Export dialog box (the one containing the progress bar (or in my case not-much-progress bar) is not only modal, but has no Cancel button, nor a cross in the Title Bar. My only option was to press Alt-Ctrl-Delete, select Task Manager and kill Outlook.

Then I had an idea. I have a desktop PC running Windows 2000 and a laptop running Vista (the company is moving to Vista next year and our team is responsible for supporting and training users). I switched on my laptop, fired up Outlook 2007 and set up and started the export. I could leave this running for however long it would take and continue to work on my emails on my desktop machine.

Well, less than 2 minutes later, the export processs was complete and I had a CSV file containing all my appointments for 2008 ready to import into Google Calendar.

So now I have 3 reasons to fire up my Vista laptop:

  • Outlook 2007 has RSS-reader capabilities
  • Mobile Me web edition has partial support for IE7
  • I can export an entire years worth of Outlook Calendar appointments in under 2 minutes

Finally, as the year draws to a close, may I take the opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and a Geek-Filled New Year!