Simplify and Synchronize Your Outlook With ReadySyncGo
by Tom Bunzel (email@example.com)
Last year we profiled several synchronization tools, notably Yahoo and Excite that used the Web to synchronize multiple personal information managers, including Microsoft Outlook. The problem with these tools was that the multiple database formats resulted in occasional mistakes and duplication of records.
For example, synching Tom Bunzel and Tom M. Bunzel would result in two different records, with multiple duplicate e-mail addresses and phone numbers. The calendar was worse; frequently we would get multiple appointments and listings for the same event. Finally, at this year's Internet Showcase in Palm Springs, I discovered ReadySyncGo, a program from Synchrologic. It concentrates only on Outlook on the PC desktop, and does a fine job synchronizing multiple installations to Palm Pilots and some Web phones.
Microsoft Outlook, for all of its girth, has become the ubiquitous contact management, calendaring and e-mail program, mainly because it does it all.
But among its notable problems, whenever you access a Personal Folder in Outlook, it will keep trying to access it, which makes synchronizing your calendar and contacts from a sometimes-available network drive or laptop very difficult.
That's because Microsoft wants you to use the Offline Folders option available through its Windows 2000/NT Server product, Exchange. But that's just too complex and expensive for home users or small businesses.
ReadySyncGo uses a java application to synch multiple Outlook applications and portable devices through its Web site. Besides calendar and contacts, it also synchs up to-dos (tasks) and notes.
Of course for owners of portable devices supported by ReadySyncGo, this is a tremendous added utility. It also synchs with the Palm OS and many WAP phones. Other devices will be added soon.
And if you don't have any of your devices with you and you need your information, all you have to do is access any Web browser to see your most current information and schedule.
I tested the product for about a week, and successfully used it to update two desktop and one laptop Outlook application without a hitch. More impressively, I used the product instead of Outlook's horrendous import utility to bring a brand new Windows installation up to date with all of my contacts, tasks, notes and calendar.
(The ``right" way to do this would be to import an enormous PST file resulting in a huge Outlook file and the constant need to have the source PST file available to avoid Windows error messages).
I did this by installing Outlook for Web-based e-mail, adding that machine to my ReadySyncGo configuration, and synching it up. The only part of Outlook that did not seem synchable were the contact ``categories," which many Outlook users avoid and are not a factor on portable devices. (Categories also use a different area of field values within Outlook; you can't find them in Microsoft Word's mail merge import wizard either).
All of the important fields–mobile phone, e-mail and addresses–came in flawlessly with no field mapping, that horrible thing you need to do between two different applications where you line up the business name field in one with the company name field in the other. This product knows the important fields in Outlook.
The cool thing is that wherever and whenever you update a contact or calendar entry, once you connect to ReadySyncGo, that information will update the server, and all of your other installations once they are synched. That's what Microsoft Exchange Server accomplishes when it resides on a costly and complex, proprietary Microsoft network.
In addition, the program has an interesting Create Trip utility that enables you to simply enter the six-digit record locator supplied by most travel agencies to immediately bring your entire itinerary, with all of the airline, hotel and rental car reservation numbers, directly into Outlook or your portable device. It works with a travel system called WorldSpan. I was unable to use it on a Sabre reservation; however, with the right parameters it potentially will be very helpful. Another nice feature is the ability to have email reminders sent to you about any appointment.
The only glitch I have encountered is sporadic lack of access to the Web site and timing out during synchronization due to what I would have to presume to be overloading on their site. But the product is free for now, so complaining about this is not really fair. If you're patient, you can synch easily and quickly and have all of your important data available on all of your devices without duplication or having to use Microsoft Exchange Server.
My only warning is that synching is addictive, especially if you frequently alternate between a desktop, laptop and other enabled devices. Download the application and synch your brains out at http://www.readysyncgo.com/.
Tom Bunzel works as ``Painless PC," a consulting and training facility in West Los Angeles, specializing in business, presentation and Web-authoring applications. He can be reached at (310) 286-0969 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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