Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Google Calendar Sync not working with Outlook? Try Mozilla Lightning + Provider

If you are like me, you probably screamed when you found out that Google was going to stop support for Google Calendar Sync on 1st August 2014.

I didn't really think about looking for an alternative since my phones sync'ed with my Google Calendar anyway. That was until I started double booking appointments and missing appointment since I use Outlook at the office. Outlook was able to import the iCAL for my Google Calendar but that was only one-way traffic. I could only view the appointments in Google and not add/edit them.

I could have launched Google Calendar along with Outlook everyday, but I preferred to use a thick client. Which led me to an old familiar name - Mozilla Thunderbird.

Thunderbird is Mozilla's answer to Outlook. By itself, it's a sturdy email client, however, with the right add-ons, it's the perfect solution to this problem. The add-ons are:
  • Lightning Calendar - This is an add-on to Thunderbird that adds Calendaring features to the client. This by itself allows you to view your Google Calendar in Lightning, however, if you want to also add and edit appointments, you'll need...
  • Provider for Google Calendar - This allow bi-directional support for adding and editing appointments. So whatever you add to Lightning will also be added to your Google Calendar, and vice versa. Oh, and since your online Google Calendar is up-to-date, so will the calendars that you sync with your mobile devices. Nifty eh?
So, once you have installed Thunderbird, hit the menu button and select Add-On.

In the Add-On Manager, search for Lightning and install the latest version of Lightning.

Next, search for Provider and install the latest version of Provider for Google Calendar.

Almost there! Now, we just need to import your Google Calendars into Lightning. There is no need to configure anything on Provider. It just... Works!

Your Thunderbird should now look something like this:

Click on the Calendar Tab button to open up the Calendar Tab view.

Next, Right-click on in the blank area under the Calendar on the left pane of the Window. The pop-up will allow you to manage your Calendars. Repeat the next steps for all the Google Calendars that you wish to add:
  1. Select New Calendar.
  2. Select On the Network and click Next
  3. Select Google Calendar
  4. For the Location area, you will need to get the private address of your Google Calendar. To do that, log in to your Google Calendar account. 
  5. In the left pane, mouse-over the Calendar you wish to add and click on the arrow drop-down button. Select Calendar Settings
  6. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select the XML button under Private Address. Copy the URL that is shown.
  7. Before you enter the Private URL into Lightning, you will need to configure your Google Account to allow Access for less secure apps.
  8. Go to your Google Security settings page (https://www.google.com/settings/security) and under the Account permissions section, enable the Access for less secure apps option. If you do not do this, Lightning will keep asking you to enter your password when you try adding the Calendar.
  9. Return to Lightning and paste the URL for your Google Calendar in the Location field. Click Next.
  10. Now you can name your calendar, choose a color for it and decide if you want reminders to pop-up before the event. Click Next.
  11. Enter your username and password and VIOLA - Your calendar has been created! Remember, if you keep getting asked for your password, it means that you have not set your Google account settings to allow less secure apps. Refer to point 8 above to get that done.
There are of course paid options to get Outlook and Google Calendar to sync in the background like how Google Calendar Sync did it. But, if you don't mind launching another application along side Outlook every morning before you start your day, Thunderbird+Lightning+Provider for Google Calendar should suit you fine.

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