Many Computers; One Life – How I Synchronize My Information

Keeping your life in sync can be a real problem. You have your professional contacts and your friends, your work calendar and your personal schedule, tasks you’ve been assigned at work and things you need to do for yourself, and so on. It’s nigh-impossible to keep your work and home lives separate, especially if you work as much as I tend to do. Things just cross over, and you need to be prepared for when that happens.

I’m a bit of a geek. I have two computers at home – my desktop and my laptop – and my work computer. All of these used to have different sets of information on them. Different files, different contacts, different everything.

No longer.

This is how I keep my life in sync:

Calendar, Tasks, Contacts

This drove me nuts for a while. I have Outlook 2002 on my computer at work, I have Outlook 2007 for my desktop and I use Google Calendar on my laptop.

If you only have to deal with Outlook 2003 and 2007 , Google offers a nifty application called Google Calendar Sync, which offers a neat way to keep your calendars synchronized. Install the app, enter your login information and it takes care of everything for you. However, Outlook 2002 is a different beast – the app doesn’t work with that version. A few people told me there was no way of syncing an older version of Outlook. They were wrong.

The key to this puzzle: Plaxo.

How Dave Fleet syncs his information

Slammed by some for spamming people with invites without asking permission when it first came out, Plaxo has learned and evolved into a very useful service for managing your information flow. Sign up for an account, create a ‘sync point’ with your Google account, install the Plaxo toolbar for Outlook on each machine and you’re good to go.

What’s more, Plaxo also takes care of syncing your tasks and your contacts. Fantastic. If you want to pay for Plaxo’s Premium Services – about US$50 per year – you can synchronize your Linkedin contacts with your local machines too.

I have a pretty bad memory for birthdays, so this next app improves things no end for me. Facebook app fbCal grabs all of your friends birthdays from Facebook and creates calendars that you can subscribe to in Outlook. It does the same thing for all of the events people have invited you to via Facebook, too.


A while back I was searching for a way to synchronize my monstrous iTunes library on my two home computers – right now it’s all on my desktop. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way of doing it (grrrr) other than just copying over the files. However, while I was looking into this, I stumbled upon Live Mesh.

Live Mesh is an ambitious project by Microsoft. As their original blog post/announcement said:

Our design goals for Live Mesh are to have…

  • …your devices work together
  • …your data and applications available from anywhere
  • …the people you need to connect with just a few clicks away for sharing and collaborating
  • … the information you need to stay up-to-date and always be available

We’re achieving these design goals by combining the power of ‘cloud services,’ with the convenience and rich experience of your many devices

I’ can’t wait to see more of this functionality (bring on the shared apps!) but for my purposes now I focus on one thing: I can sync up to 5Gb of information between all of my computers, and if I’m on someone else’s computer I can access it through a browser too. Files update in the background without any work from you, and it’s extremely easy to set up. What’s more, Live Mesh just came out of closed beta so you don’t have to apply to use it any more.

Five gigabytes isn’t that much any more – I’ve taken more than 2.5Gb of photos in the first seven months of this year alone – but it’s plenty for keeping your most frequently-used files available, and for now I do have my 2008 photos on there along with my other files.

Even with this stuff, I’m no Tommy “Living In The Cloud” Vallier. I’m sure there are ways I could bring other things into this system.

How do you keep your life in sync?

4 Responses toMany Computers; One Life – How I Synchronize My Information

  • Dave, Nice post… interesting how you used Plaxo to tie all the pieces together. I have a Plaxo account but have never used that sync feature – I’ll have to check it out.

    Interesting that you use Live Mesh for the file sync. I have at this point moved to an all Mac household, but I accomplish basically the same thing with .mac and its iDisk service (although I did have to pay for this). I’ve also started using a great service called DropBox ( which has worked out well for sync and also for storing a copy of the info “out in the cloud” as an offsite backup. 2GB limit, though.

    Thanks for sharing your tips,

  • Really useful Dave. Now that I’m changing jobs, using multiple PCs and am likely to be on the move – and while I’m working at home this week – I’ve been giving serious thought to how this can all work together, everywhere. I’m slowly drawing everything together in the Googleverse – Google Docs, Calendar, Bookmarks, Notes etc. But Plaxo could just be what I’ve been looking for. Nice one.

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