Syncing Private and Work Tasks, Calendar and Contacts

When you’ve got a setup with a home computer, a work computer and a PDA, you’ve got a syncing challenge, at least if you’re using some GTD-like methodology for organizing your life. After fiddling around with various non-working solutions, I’ve finally arrived at one that works for me. My system setup is one home computer with Windows Vista SP1 and Outlook 2007, one work laptop with Windows XP SP3 and Outlook 2007 and Exchange, and a mobile phone with HTC Touch with Windows Mobile 6.0.

My basic requirement is that private tasks, calendar and contact entries shouldn’t appear on the work computer (or Exchange Server) at all. Marking them “private” isn’t good enough for me (I know what a computer administrator can do… 🙂 ). So now, I’m setting a category “Work” on all items that I want synced to my work laptop. In addition to those, I also make the category “@Office” sync to that computer. This way, I turn the security situation around too, by requiring things to be marked in order to exist on the work computer, insted of marking them private if the aren’t to be shown on the work computer.

So, what’s the technical solution? The basis is the well tested synchronization mechanism represented by Windows Mobile Device Center. It syncs between my home computer and my PDA (Windows Mobile 6.0). For syncing between the PDA and the work computer, I use the software PDAsync from Laplink. It didn’t work for syncing from two sources, despite many rounds with their very helpful support organization. Events and tasks weren’t synced correctly, and I had to do “full synchronization” now and then having to deal with lots of duplicate events (none were lost at least). From PDAsync I get the ability to sync based on a filter, such as on the category “Work” and “@Office”, so only those events, tasks and contacts get onto the work computer. Problem solved!

Making sure that work events, tasks and contacs are marked “Work” is of course a bit annoying, but it’s manageable: now and then, I visit the category view on the work computer, and check if something isn’t marked.

Using my Outlook 2007 macros for GTD helps a lot, too.

Update 2008-10-29: You can get into trouble using this solution, too. Now I did. I’ll be back when I’ve got something better!