Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Syncing Outlook Calendar to New BlackBerry PlayBook Calendar

This post is intended for readers who own a BlackBerry Playbook, keep their calendar on Outlook, and wish to view their Outlook calendar on the new native PlayBook calendar released today.

Today, RIM released the BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 software update. I downloaded the update with no problems. It is large (410MB) and took 55 minutes to download and install.

I found that the Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and Memos I had always viewed via BlackBerry Bridge were still there. The new native Calendar (along with native Contacts and native Email) are designed so that non-BlackBerry users will have a more successful experience with the PlayBook. In addition, the Calendar is an improvement over the Bridge Calendar.

While setting up the native E-Mail to check my various e-mail accounts was successful, transferring the calendar information associated with them was not. A call to BlackBerry Tech Support revealed that the calendar had to be in the cloud to sync with the native Calendar. This calendar was not going to read the BlackBerry handheld Calendar, nor was it going to communicate with the BlackBerry Bridge Calendar.

I found a workaround.

Google Calendar Sync
First, I already had a Google account (as most of us do) and for several years have been syncing my Outlook Calendar with a Google Calendar through a free piece of software known as Google Calendar Sync. I share my Google Calendar with my wife so that she can see all appointments and all details associated with them with out having to open my Outlook Calendar or look at my BlackBerry. I offer Google Calendar Sync as the easy solution for school principals who want their administrative assistants to be able to view their calendar with the option to make changes if desired.

Setting Up Native E-mail, Calendar, Contacts

Here are the steps for getting your Outlook Calendar (which is synced to Google Calendar) to show up on the new Native PlayBook Calendar:

Boot the PlayBook. Tap the icon for the  Native Calendar.


Swipe down from the top of the bezel.

Tap on "Settings."


Tap "Calendar Preferences."
Tap "Account Configuration" at the bottom of the screen.
Tap "Email, Calendar and Contacts"

Here Comes the Important Part
You could have probably gotten this far on your own. If you are one of the people updating to the 2.0 software today, I hope you are at least finding these diagrams helpful in terms of how easy the task in from of you really is.

When I got to this point, I started entering each of my e-mail accounts. I entered the username and password. The result was that the native Email pulled my messages. What did not happen, however was any Calendar or Contact information showing up on the Playbook.

Here is what I should have done when it came time to enter my Gmail account:
Instead of entering my Gmail address, I should have tapped on "Advanced Setup."

Tap on "Advanced Setup."
Now you see an icon specifically for Gmail. This is the magic bullet. If instead of tapping "Advanced Setup" on the last screen, I had simply entered my Gmail address and password, I would get my Gmail messages, but nothing else.

Tap "Gmail."
Enter your Gmail Account information.
 Once you have completed the information on this screen, your Outlook calendar (which you already synched to your Google Calendar) will now display on the native PlayBook Calendar.

What Else Displays (or Does Not) Display?
During this process, you saw menu options for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Those are straightforward. In your contacts, you will see all of your Facebook friends, people you follow on Twitter, and your LinkedIn connections. The native Calendar interacts with the native Contacts to the extent that it will show on the side of your calendar any Facebook friends who have a birthday today. There may be, and probably are, other things I have not discovered yet.

There is one hole left for me, and that is having my Outlook Contacts displaying on the native Contacts. Right now, my Outlook Contacts display on Outlook, my BlackBerry, and on the PlayBook's Bridge Contacts, but not on the native Contacts. So, I really have two address books, One has phone numbers, addresses, email, etc. The other has social media info. That's not the worst thing in the world, but I am certain open to suggestions for merging the two.

My next option is to do a little more research on Google Sync. That would sync my BlackBerry Calendar and Contacts with Google, rather than my Outlook Calendar with Google. But that's another project for another day. My aim right now is to get this information posted ASAP so that others may benefit from my trial and error.

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