Synching an iPhone or iPod touch with Entourage

One question that pops up very frequently on the Entourage newsgroup is the question of how to synch Entourage data with an iPhone or iPod touch. In this article, we will be looking at several methods to do just that, and highlight any advantages and disadvantages of the methods described.

Please note that since the functionality of both devices is identical in the areas that are going to be discussed in this article, I will use the word “iPhone” to refer to both devices. Any strategy discussed in this article work for both devices. One more fact to point out is that syncing via Sync Services has regrettably not changed much under Snow Leopard, which means that the same limitations manifest under Leopard are still there.


A first step that absolutely needs to be made is to enable Sync Services. You can do so by clicking on Entourage>Preferences, switching to the Sync Services section and enabling the options you can see (even though “Notes” is not required; see below for an explanation).

Figure 1: Enabling Sync Services in Entourage
Sync Services syncs your Entourage data to a global data repository called “Truth”, which is also the repository that the Mac OS X applications Address Book and iCal (called “iApps” hereafter) sync to. While it may look like Entourage is syncing directly to iCal and Address Book, it does not do that.

Figure 2: Sync Services explained

Syncing data between Entourage and the iApps

Calendar
Once you have enabled Sync Services, your Entourage calendar data will be synced to an iCal calendar called “Entourage”. You can enable calendar syncing in iTunes; specify which iCal calendars you want to be synced with your iPhone, but be sure to include the “Entourage” calendar. Any event you now create in Entourage will be synced to the Truth and subsequently the “Entourage” calendar in iCal. The next time you connect your iPhone to your Mac, iTunes will automatically transfer your events to the iPhone calendar application. Alternatively, if you use over-the-air-syncing with Mobile Me, the data will automatically appear on your iPhone shortly afterward, without your having to connect your iPhone via USB.

Please note that if you create calendar entries on your iPhone which you want to sync back to Entourage, you must create them in the “Entourage” calendar; any event created in a calendar other than “Entourage” will show up in iCal, but not in Entourage.

Tip: Some users report that if they only sync one item at a time, this results in fewer duplications.

Contacts

Contacts will be synced to the Truth, and, consequentially, to Address Book. As is the case with calendars, you need to connect your iPhone via USB, or use an over-the-air-syncing service such as MobileMe or Exchange, to transfer the contacts to the Contacts application on your iPhone. Contact syncing is more straightforward than calendar syncing, as the synchronization is automatic, and there is no restriction such as the requirement that calendar events be in the “Entourage” calendar. One downside is that Entourage does not understand groups in Address Book, and Address Book cannot deal with categories in Entourage. As a result, if you use Entourage as your primary contact list manager and make heavy use of categories to arrange your data, this effort will not show on the iPhone. Also, if you create a new contact on the iPhone, you need to apply categories to it in Entourage; there is no way to apply categories on the iPhone.

This article describes a script that will allow you to sync categories in Entourage to the Address Book groups, Sync categories in Entourage with groups in Address Book

That being said, there is a workaround if you do not want all your Entourage contacts on the iPhone. You can instruct iTunes to sync Address Book groups rather than the entire Address Book list. You can therefore create groups in Address Book, add and remove contacts as you see fit, and then only sync those groups to the iPhone.

Notes

Entourage offers the option to synch its notes via Sync Services and MobileMe, which is why a number of iPhone users are surprised when they open the Notes application on their iPhone only to find that their notes appear to be missing. The reason: Entourage notes are not compatible with the Notes application on the iPhone. The Notes application on the iPhone only syncs with the Notes feature in Mail, Apple’s own e-mail application.
You may now ask yourself what the point Entourage’s syncing notes is, and the only explanation is that if you use Entourage on more than one machine, you can keep your notes synchronized between your different databases.

Mail

There is no way to sync mail messages directly from Entourage to the iPhone. The best solution is therefore to use an IMAP account. IMAP accounts store their messages on the server; any modification you make (receive new messages, reply to them, create new messages) is stored on the server, and these modifications appear on any device that connects to this account. Say, for instance, that you use an IMAP account, and you write a message in Entourage. When you send the message, it gets moved to the Sent Items folder on the server. If you now open the Mail application on your iPhone, you will see the same message in the Sent Items folder. Technically speaking, with IMAP, you are not syncing any longer; all the devices use the same server-based data.

Alternative solutions

PocketMac offer a product called “PocketMac for iPhone”, which allows you to synch your Entourage data directly to your iPhone, and vice-versa. I have not tested this product, and therefore cannot judge how efficient it is. There is a trial version, though, so if you want to try a different approach than the one described in this article, just follow this link to the PocketMac for iPhone website.


For more info see these articles:

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4 comments to Synching an iPhone or iPod touch with Entourage

  • David

    Can’t get an iPhone because there’s no coverage where I live. Any recommendations on a Verizon phone that syncs with Entourage 2008? Right now, I’m using Entourage 2004 with a Treo 755, but that phone has seen better days.

  • Michel – any chance you will be reviewing the new Blackberry sync software for the Mac? Would love to upgrade to this if this software works!
    http://www.blackberry.com/mac

  • Michel Bintener

    @ Mac PR Guy:
    Only if you send me a Blackberry to test it with! 😉 Sorry, I am an iPhone guy, and there is no point in downloading this software if I do not have a compatible device.

  • This is a great marketing idea to consider. I think that if you can effectively sync your information with potential customers you will see your page views and subscriptions increase exponentially. Thanks for sharing this, and good luck in your endeavor.