Synchronicity: Syncing Contacts, Calendars, and Other Data Between Computers

Since bringing my iMac home from the Apple Store just over a year ago, my day-to-day computing experience has been pleasant and almost entirely absent of frustration. Yes, I still use a Windows laptop for work, and yes I spend more time on that slow-as-molasses Dell P.O.S. than I do on my Precious, but just knowing that I have an iMac to go home to at the end of the day has made days spent with the Dell significantly more tolerable.

But there is one thing missing. There is one thing about my present technology situation that drives me crazy, and that is the lack of synchronization. In short: I want all of my contacts, calendars, and e-mail easily accessible and modifiable from any computer or device that I want to access them from. I really don’t think that this is too much to ask, and I really don’t think that I should be paying extra for this kind of service.

Currently, I use IMAP and Google Apps For Your Domain to keep e-mail in sync and I use a service called Plaxo to sync data between Mail, iCal, and Address Book on my Mac and Outlook 2007 on my Dell. Plaxo is a relatively good service, but it’s prone to data duplication issues and the plugin that’s required on both ends is a system-hog. It’s free, which is cool, but I hate having to add something onto my system to make it do what I want it to do. I feel like the system should just do what I want it to do, with a minimum amount of effort put in by me.

So, I’ve begun to explore other options. The most obvious option is the one that appeals the least to me. Like so many people, I could start working entirely out of a browser. If I used Gmail and Google Calendar exclusively for all of my mail, contacts, and calendar needs, I wouldn’t have the problem I’m having now. But I like using a desktop client, and I like the way Apple’s Mail.app works specifically. And, more importantly, I can’t stand the way Gmail looks. I tend to get headaches if I stare at it for too long.

The Mac Address Book application does have the ability to sync with an online contact application natively, but that contact application is Yahoo’s. Putting aside Yahoo’s uncertain future, I find this option less than ideal because of the sheer bloatedness of their application and the clutter of its interface.

I got excited about Microsoft’s Live Mesh when I heard about it the other day, but it’s unclear to me how it would work with calendars and contacts. And, of course, it’s PC-only at the moment.

Apple’s .Mac service would seem to be a viable option, as would Spanning Sync, but each of these products violates what I believe to be a cardinal rule: thou shalt not charge extra for data synchronization.

Which leads me back to where I started, to what I’m stuck with: Plaxo. In the end, it seems like it’s probably the only option that makes sense for me right now. If I could actually edit the contacts and events that I can sync to my iPod (when, iPhone, will you finally be mine?), then I probably wouldn’t even care about having data synced to my laptop. But I can’t do that, so I’m stuck with what I’m stuck with.

Anyone out there have any thoughts on this? Do any of you use any of these syncing products? What have your experiences been like?