Update – Syncing iCal, Thunderbird and iPhones with Google Calendar

A while back, I wrote an article on how to sync Google Calendar with Thunderbird. Since that article was written, Google has drastically improved it’s syncing ability making things extremely easy. You can now sync Google Calendar with Thunderbird/Lightning, Sunbird, iCal, iPhone/iPod Touch Calendar, and anything else that supports the CalDAV standard. Here’s how you do it:

CalDAV Standard:

CalDAV is a standard for accessing scheduling information from a remote server. It’s built upon the WebDAV specification and iCalendar format. CalDav is meant to be a standard for syncing across platforms, applications and servers. Many providers including Apple, Google, Yahoo! (beta), the Mozilla Project and Zimbra support this open standard.

For more technical information on the iCalendar format, visit it’s Wikipedia page.

Syncing Google Calendar with Thunderbird:

Now that Google Calendar uses CalDAV, you won’t need the Provider extension anymore. You will still need the Lightning extension so download it now if you haven’t yet.

Syncing with Thunderbird / Lightning works exactly like Sunbird. The only difference that might trip you up is that adding a new calendar isn’t entirely straightforward.

- Click on the Calendar pane to open up Lightning’s calendar view.

- On the left-hand side, click the triangle to expand the calendar pane.

- In that box, Right-Click (Control-Click) and choose “New Calendar”.

Syncing Google Calendar with Thunderbird

- Continue by following the Sunbird instructions below.

Syncing Google Calendar with Sunbird:

Sunbird is Mozilla’s open source calendar application. In OS X, it’s their answer to iCal. You can use it as a standalone application or integrated with Thunderbird. To Sync Sunbird with Google Calendar:

- Open Sunbird and Create a New Calendar.

- When prompted, select “On the Network”.

Syncing Google Calendar with Sunbird

- Select “CalDAV” for the format.

- For the Location, enter: https://www.google.com/calendar/dav/ [ Google Calendar ID ] /events.

Syncing Google Calendar with Sunbird

Note: Your primary calendar will be your Gmail address. If you have other calendars to sync, you’ll find this in “Calendar Settings” within your Google Calendar it will be the long string of characters followed by “@group.calendar.google.com”.

- Name your calendar.

Syncing Google Calendar with Sunbird

- Click OK and you’re all set.

- Upon syncing, Thunderbird will as for the Username / Password to your Google Calendar.

- Enter your complete email address and your Google Calendar’s password.

Note: This only works with Sunbird 0.8 and up. If you’re using an older version, you’ll need to update Sunbird.

Syncing Google Calendar with iCal:

Judging from the plethora of shareware syncing applications and services, hacks and workarounds, it’s safe to say there was a huge demand for integrated iCal / Google Calendar syncing. With Google’s CalDAV support, this is easily done without any third party software, hacks or workarounds. Here’s what you do:

- Open iCal and go to iCal’s preferences via the menu bar.

- Click on the Accounts tab.

- Add a new account by clicking the + towards the bottom.

- Under Username and Password, enter your Google Account information.

- Click on the triangle to expand the server options.

- Enter the following under Account URL: https://www.google.com/calendar/dav/YOUREMAIL@GMAIL.COM/user

- Replace YOUREMAIL@GMAIL.COM with your Google Account information.

- Click Add.

Syncing Google Calendar with iCal

Note: This only works with iCal 3.x on OS X 10.5 Leopard.

Also note that in order to invite or email guests to events in your Google Calendar, you must have your Google Calendar’s email address added into OS X’s Address Book.

Syncing Google Calendar with your iPhone / iPod Touch

With Google Calendar and CalDAV, you can forget about needing MobileMe for mobile Calendaring with the iPhone / iPod Touch. Here’s how you can sync your iPhone’s Calendar with Google Calendar.

- Go to your iPhone’s “Settings” application.

- Open the “Mail Contacts, Calendars” section.

- Select “Add Account…”.

- Select “Other”.

- Select “Add CalDAV Account”.

- Enter the following:

Server: google.com
Username: Your full Google Account email address.
Password: Your Google Account Password.
Description: Name your calendar.

- Select Next at the top of the screen.

Once the setup is finished, open the Calendar application and your calendar will begin syncing.

Note: These instructions are for 3.0 firmware only.

2.2.1 Firmware:

If you haven’t upgraded your iPod Touch to the 3.0 Firmware, here’s the instructions for you:

- Go to your iPhone’s “Settings” application.

- Open the “Mail Contacts, Calendars” section.

- Select “Add Account…”.

- Select “Microsoft Exchange”.

Syncing Google Calendar with iPhone - iPod Touch

- Under Email, enter your full Google Account email address.

- Leave the domain field blank.

- For Username, enter your full Google Account email address.

- For Password, enter your Google Account’s password.

- Tap Next to move on.

- For Server, enter m.google.com.

Syncing Google Calendar with iPhone - iPod Touch

- Tap Next to move on.

- Turn on the Contacts and Calendars, do not turn on Mail.

- This will clear any contacts and calendars you may have already set up on your iPod Touch. Be sure you backed everything up!

Syncing Google Calendar with iPhone - iPod Touch

- Google Calendar will now Sync!

Note: You can still use the Active Sync (2.2.1 Firmware) method if you have the 3.0 firmware.

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9 Comments

  1. Nick says:

    David — Thanks for the updated post!

    I set this up using iCal and I’m still noticing some syncing issues with the reminders.

    From iCal, when I create an event it automatically uses the default Google Calendar reminder settings. However, I can only add/remove iCal’s own reminders from there and cannot change any of the Google reminders (without logging directly into Google Calendar). I can’t figure out any other way to sync the reminders.

    Does this functionality work better with Lightning/Sunbird?

    I’m just hoping the Google Calendar team releases full offline Gears access like Gmail… and then I can forget all about setting up a separate desktop calendar client.

  2. David Balogh says:

    @Nick -

    According to Google: “Apple’s iCal, Mozilla Sunbird, and Google Calendar differ in the types of event reminders offered. While Google Calendar supports pop-up, email, and SMS reminders, iCal and Sunbird only support pop-up reminders. Accordingly, only pop-up reminders are synced between Google Calendar and these calendar applications.”

    That said, from iCal, I was able to add popup reminders by choosing message and Email reminders by choosing Email.

    I’m not near my home computer, so I can’t test out the reminders with Thunderbird / Lightning but I do remember it being similar. I’d recommend trying it out as it’s much better using one application rather than two (Mail and iCal) and it’s cross platform.

  3. Cliff says:

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the helpful post. Can you tell me what to do if I have more than one Google calendar to sync? It appears as if only one of them has actually synced with iCal on my iPod Touch (2nd generation, everything up-to-date). Any suggestions?

  4. David Balogh says:

    Hi Cliff,

    It’s pretty easy to do. Just point your iPod Touch to http://m.google.com/sync and follow the prompts. If you need more detail, I wrote a tutorial – Here’s the link.

  5. Cliff says:

    Hmm. Followed the steps, but I keep getting the following message once I’ve signed in: “Your browser’s cookie functionality is turned off. Please turn it on.” Despite going into settings on my iPod and changing Safari’s “accept cookies” from “never” to “from visited” and even to “always” I keep getting the same message.

  6. David Balogh says:

    Hi Cliff,

    Try clearing Safari’s Cookie and Cache, to reset anything that may be stored. Always accept cookies, that’s how they keep you logged into the site. I’d avoid the “from visited” setting only because most sites now use other sites to store active content and it results in sites behaving strangely.

  7. Cliff says:

    Clearing Safari’s cookie and cache did it! Everything appears to have synced now; thanks for all your help David.

  8. iconfused says:

    YES YES YES! I have an itouch with OS 2.2.1, and I have looked for over 2 weeks trying to find the answer. Nothing has worked until I found the bottom of this page. Who would have thought that the way to syn my mac product with a google product would have been a microsoft product? This works beautifully, and I didn’t need the mac solution (just buy our brand new operating system and everything will be fine), the google solution (use mac’s new operating system and then our thing will work), the external solution (install our program to overcome their shortcomings) or the hacking solution. Thank you very much, this works so well and was so simple.

  9. Ian says:

    You beauty – just saved me spending £60 on mobileMe