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  1-10-03 | This column originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.


iCal, iSync, Therefore I Can


By Bob LeVitus

Well, it turns out rumors about updates to Apple’s iApps were true. Before Macworld Expo even began, Apple released new versions of iCal (1.0.1) and iSync (1.0) with numerous performance and stability enhancements and improvements.

iCal is, of course, Apple’s free application (an “iApp”) that lets you manage calendars, appointments, and tasks. iSync is a new Apple iApp, just out of beta, that lets you synchronize contacts, calendars, appointments, and tasks, between your Mac and iSync-compatible Bluetooth mobile phones like my Sony-Ericsson T68i, Palm OS-based devices, and/or iPods. It also lets you synchronize your data with other Macs (such as a PowerBook and a desktop, or a work Mac and a home Mac), though this feature requires a ($99 a year) .Mac account.

I have some experience in these matters. Last July, Apple announced iSync at Macworld Expo in New York. It sounded incredibly cool but was only going to work with Address Book and iCal. So, I was forced to give up Microsoft Entourage, an excellent contact/calendar/to-do/mail application that I liked just fine and had no other reason to abandon.

But abandon it I did. The allure of synchronizing both of my Macs, my cell phone, and my iPod, complete with conflict resolution, was too much to resist. So, I transferred my contacts, appointments, and to-do items from Entourage to Address Book and iCal, bought a Sony-Ericsson T-68i wireless phone with Bluetooth, and one of those little plug-into-USB Bluetooth adapters for my Mac.

In the old days, before iSync and Bluetooth, I only had a handful of phone numbers stored in my cell phone. No addresses or email addresses, either. Sure it would have been nice to have more, but using a 12-button telephone keypad for data entry is not my cup of juice. So I only had a few.

Today, if you’re in my Address Book, you’re in my phone, too. iSync made it painless—I fired it up, introduced the phone to the Mac, then synchronized them. In a few minutes, my new phone was fully stocked with all 300 contacts in my Address Book, complete with all of their different phone numbers and email addresses! That alone is worth the price of admission (free), but wait, there’s more.

Imagine, if you will… You are in my Address Book. You change jobs and move to another city. I update Address Book with your new information. The next time I run iSync, your old address and phone numbers will be replaced with your new ones automatically, on my phone, my iPod, and my PowerBook. If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is.

Or maybe I do. Here’s something even cooler: In the old days, the little calendar application in wireless phones was completely useless. Who had time to enter all those appointments using a telephone keypad?

Today, every appointment I have on my iCal calendar is also in my cell phone. And they got there without my having to touch the phone’s tiny keypad. Heck, they got there without my having to touch the phone at all—because the phone and Mac both have Bluetooth, it’s all done wirelessly. I can synchronize my phone and my Mac even when the phone is across the room, tucked away in a zipped compartment, inside my briefcase.
And that may be the coolest part of all.

I sometimes pine for Entourage’s superior searching, printing, and notifiying, but iCal and Address Book have the killer feature I can’t live without—they work with iSync.

iCal and iSync. Free. For Mac OS 10.2.2 or later. Apple Computer, Inc.

Bob LeVitus is a leading authority on Mac OS and the author of 41 books, including Dr. Mac: The OS X Files, (or, “How to Become a Mac OS X Power User”) and The Little iTunes Book 2nd Edition. E-mail comments to [email protected].

Copyright © 2004 Bob LeVitus



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