Making MobileMe, Outlook & Entourage Play Nicely (& in sync)

With my new job, part of my daily work is to assist our Executive Creative Director in all things needed. That, amongst a lot of other things, includes keeping track of his calendar and making sure it’s up to date. With the company being mid-sized, but still lacking an Exchange solution, my first week turned out to be focused on finding a solution for me and him to share a calendar. Having gone through various solutions like Google and open source solutions like the Chandler Project; MobileMe looked like a short term, easy and fast (!) solution to our problems.

My boss has a Macbook Air, Microsoft Entourage and an iPhone; I’m on a PC, Outlook and an iPhone. We wanted them all to play along nicely with each other.

Sounds like MobileMe would be the ultimate solution for just the two of us, no? Well, as a matter of fact, I have it working now, but it took me almost two weeks to find out exactly how I was supposed to get it to work.

According to Apple.com, MobileMe is supposed to:

Work with the applications you know well.

MobileMe works with the native applications you already use on your iPhone and iPod touch (Mail, Contacts, and Calendar), on your Mac (Mail, Address Book, and iCal), and on your PC (Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail, and Windows Contacts). MobileMe automatically syncs your Mac and PC applications with me.com every 15 minutes.* Or you can sync on demand with a click.

You can actually spot the problem right there. Outlook on PC is supported, but the text doesn’t mention its sibling, Entourage for MAC. Here are the hoops you have to jump through to get everything working:

Step 1

Get a MobileMe account at www.me.com. It will require you to input your credit card details when registering, though no money should be drawn from your account within the first 60 days. After that, the yearly fee will be drawn unless you actively cancel the account.

Step 2

Under your iPhone Settings, Mail, Contacts, Calendars option, add your newly created MobileMe account. This will make sure that your iPhone always gets its updates form MobileMe, rather than any other application on your computer when you sync with iTunes. A small disclaimer here, if you set MobileMe to Push, it will automatically update no matter if you’re on a WiFi network or cellular connection. I’m telling you this just in case, if you don’t have a full data plan on your phone subscription, the cost can go up very quickly.

Right, so far so well, now on to the computers.

Step3

Now for the tricky part; making Entourage on the Macbook sync with MobileMe.

For some obscure reason, there is no native support to sync directly to Entourage under the MobileMe options in OSX. The only programs available are iCal and Addressbook.

Make sure your Office 2008 programs are up to date. You will need the Sync Services to work on your Entourage. Open up the Entourage Preferences, Sync Services and check the boxes for your Calendar and Contacts respectively. This will make Entourage sync all its data to the native OSX applications. You do not have to use them, but the data needs to be shared.

Now, “obscure things” part two. The default calendar in Entourage will actually be exported to iCal under the name “Entourage”. This name has to be left as is; otherwise the sync won’t work. This will of course then be synched to your PC, where in Outlook a new calendar will be added under the default one, named “Calendar”. When the “Entourage” calendar appears the first time in Outlook, I would highly suggest you move this one to the top of the list (right click the calendar and choose “Move up in list”) and use that one as your default Calendar.

Anyway, back to the Macbook. When you have set up Entourage to sync to iCal it’s time to setup the MobileMe options in the OSX Control Panel. Go to the “Synchronize” tab and make sure the settings are set to iCal and Addressbook. Do your first sync to make sure everything works between the iPhone, Entourage and MobileMe

Step 4

And lastly the easy part. On a PC, you will get a new MobileMe option under the Windows Control Panel after you install iTunes. Go to the “Synchronize” tab once again and set “Outlook” to all options you want to synchronize to MobileMe and do your first sync.

Under the “Advanced” option you can also see other computers using the account and options to reset your computers data with the one on MobileMe, or the other way around.

Your PC, MobileMe and iPhone should now be good friends and share data.

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