Syncing Mac's Address Book and iCal with Google Apps

Vincent Danen explains how Mac's Address Book and iCal can be synced with Google Apps with new built-in support in OS X 10.6.

Vincent Danen explains how Mac's Address Book and iCal can be synced with Google Apps with new built-in support in OS X 10.6.


The use of Gmail for personal email is as common now as Hotmail was five years ago. With the introduction of Google Apps, Gmail has come to the business as well and a whole lot of enterprise features with it. Google Apps allows you to have Web-based email, calendaring, collaboration, and instant messaging within an organization, all using, rather than

For users of OS X, prior to the 10.6 release, you had to rely on third-party solutions to synchronize contacts and calendars to Gmail. That kind of synchronization has distinct appeal, particularly if you use Gmail as an IMAP service for a local mail client such as Thunderbird or Apple Mail, and want to have access to the same email addresses and contacts should you choose or need to use the Web interface away from your local computer.

Subscription tools such as Spanning Sync are available to assist with this. Spanning Sync can be bought outright, or via a yearly subscription, and offers two-way sync between Gmail and OS X's Address Book and iCal. It's a pretty good tool that works quite well and for versions of OS X prior to 10.6, was one of a few choices available, and perhaps one of the better ones.

With OS X 10.6, syncing support is built right into the operating system. Launch Address Book and head to the Preferences. Under the Accounts page, enable Synchronize With Google. A pull-down window appears asking for the Google account name and password. If you are a Google Apps user, the Google account is your full Google Apps email address, such as; for Gmail users this would be

Once this is done, close the Preferences. On the OS X menu bar, there should be an icon to sync (the dual arrows in a circle). Click this and select Sync Now. If this icon isn't present on the menu bar, launch iSync and in its Preferences, enable showing its status in the menu bar.

Once the sync is complete, you can log into Gmail and your contacts should be listed and available.

The iCal sync works just as well but is a bit more annoying. In order to synchronize local calendars to Gmail or Google Apps, you need to define and use the calendars on the Google side, rather than the local side. iCal subscribes to the Google Calendar as its own calendar, so existing calendars are not synchronized to Google. If you are just starting out, this isn't a big deal but if you have a lot of appointments or tasks in existing local calendars, linking that to Google can be a chore.

Subscribing to the Google calendar is very straightforward. Simply head to the iCal Preferences and the Accounts page. Use the [+] button to add a new account, and add Google as the account type. Again, for Google Apps users, enter your email address and password and iCal configures the rest.

In iCal's calendar list now, a YOU@YOURDOMAIN.COM entry appears, and the subscribed calendars are nested beneath it. By default, it will only show your personal calendar, but in the Preferences for this account, the Delegation pane allows you to list other calendars you have access to (other calendars of your own and any shared calendars from others you may have defined). These will show up in the calendar list under the DELEGATES heading.

Some third party applications like Spanning Sync may work better than the built-in services offered by OS X 10.6. Spanning Sync allows you to match local calendars to Google Calendars, so if having local calendars online is important, Spanning Sync or another application may be preferable to iCal's support. If contacts are all you are concerned with, the built-in sync with Address Book will do the job.

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