Without CalendarBridge, getting all your calendars into Outlook can be quite a feat.
If you have multiple Microsoft and/or Google email accounts, getting all those calendars in one place is a crucial step to avoiding missed and conflicting meetings. The problem is that getting all those calendars in one place, typically involves jumping through a lot of hoops.
For many people, the ideal situation would be to have all their calendars in Microsoft Outlook, since that's where that they spend the better part of the day. If you are one of those people, you are in the right place. This article will walk you through how to get all your Office 365, Exchange Online, Outlook.com, GSuite, and Gmail calendars into Outlook.
The different flavors of Outlook, types of calendars, and methods of adding calendars to Outlook makes calendar management using Outlook surprisingly confusing and complicated. It will help to first get some background and terminology out of the way.
Don't want to become a calendar technology expert, but still want all your calendars in Outlook? Jump to the CalendarBridge solution.
For the vast majority of users, there are three calendar types of interest: Microsoft (i.e,. Exchange) calendars, Google calendars, and internet calendars (iCal).
Here's how Microsoft explains the difference between subscribing and importing a calendar
When you import an .ics file, you get a snapshot of the events in the calendar at the time of import. Your calendar doesn't refresh the imported events automatically -- even if the calendar's owner makes an update. This is a good way to add events to your existing calendar that aren't going to change, like tide tables or phases of the moon.
Subscribing to an online calendar connects it to your calendar. Whenever the owner of a calendar you've subscribed to makes changes to the events, Outlook.com updates your calendar. This is a good way to track events that change frequently, like movie times or a school calendar.
Note: This update can take more than 24 hours, although updates should happen approximately every 3 hours. (link)
Since imported calendars are one-time snapshots they are not much help to those of us trying to manage multiple calendars that can change at any moment.
Likewise, subscribed calendars updating only every 3 to 24 hours means they are not reliable in preventing missed meetings and double-bookings.
This article is going to focus only on calendars that are synced to Outlook, since it is the only type of calendar in Outlook that we can truly rely on if we don't want missed or conflicting meetings. First we will go over the free (and painful) way, and then we will go over the cheap and painless CalendarBridge way.
If none of these is a showstopper for you, read the next sections on how to sync Microsoft and Google calendars to Outlook using Outlook's built-in functionality.
If you want to save yourself time and headache, jump ahead to see how CalendarBridge syncs all your calendars into all versions of Outlook with a one-time, 5 minute setup.
Instructions for adding accounts to Outlook for Windows can be found here on Microsoft's website. For adding Microsoft accounts, the instructions are pretty easy to follow and generally things will go smoothly. When you add a Microsoft email account to Outlook for Windows, the calendar tied to that email account is automatically syned (typically within a few minutes).
For demonstration, I have synced two different Microsoft 365 accounts from two different organizations (with domains "@exchange1" and "@exchange2"). The user can simultaneously view both calendars in side-by-side mode:
Outlook for Windows overlay calendar view
The ability to view both calendars simultaneously on the same screen is nice, but remember -- these two calendars are only synced to this particular instance of Outlook for Windows. Below is what the user's calendar looks like when logged in to Outlook on the Web using her @exchange2 credentials:
Calendars synced to Outlook for Windows are not reflected in Outlook on the Web (or anywhere else)
As you can see, there is no trace of the events that are on her @exchange1 calendar. Importantly, this is also what her colleagues in @exchange2 see when using the Outlook Scheduling Assistant. This "blindness" of the Outlook Scheduling Assistant is why Outlook users with external calendars are constantly getting double booked. If the Outlook Scheduling Assistant is constant double booking you, skip ahead to see how CalendarBridge will make your life easier.
As mentioned above, sadly (and somewhat mind-bogglingly, IMHO), adding a Google email account to Outlook for Windows does NOT add that Google account's calendar to Outlook for Windows.
Adding a Google account to Outlook for Windows does not add a Google Calendar to Outlook for Windows
If you want a Google calendar in Outlook for Windows for free, the solutions offered by Google and Microsoft involve jumping through some extra hoops. Which hoops depends on whether you are a paying Google customer.
For free Gmail and GSuite users, the only option is to publish your calendar to an iCal ("Internet Calendar") feed and then subscribe to that feed in Outlook for Windows. As mentioned above, iCal is not ideal at least because it can often be 3 to 24 hours out of date.
For paid GSuite users, there is the option of installing yet another piece of software: the very-descriptively-named "G Suite Sync for Microsoft Outlook (GSSMO)" tool. You can find Google's documentation for it here.
If you take iCal or GSSMO approach, and finally get your Google calendar into Outlook for Windows, you still have to suffer with all the shortcomings listed above still apply.
If you don't want to jump through all these hoops only to wind up with a half-solution to your calendar woes, CalendarBridge has a simpler, more-complete solution. Scroll down to see how it works.
Unlike Outlook for Windows (discussed above), the latest version of Outlook Mobile makes syncing Google calendars just as easy as syncing Microsoft calendars. The Microsoft documentation for adding accounts on Outlook Mobile for Android is here, and for adding accounts on Outlook Mobile for iOS is here.
By default Outlook Mobile provides an overlay calendar view very similar to that provided on Outlook for Windows. But as with Outlook for Windows, Outlook Mobile simply provides a single view of multiple disparate calendars on that particular mobile device. All the shortcomings listed above still apply.
First, a note about Microsoft's confusing branding: "Outlook on the web" refers to the web application used for accessing professional accounts hosted on an Exchange server. If the Exchange server is hosted by someone other than Microsoft, it is typically referred to as a "on-premises" Exchange server. If the Exchange server is hosted by Microsoft, it is typically referred to as "Exchange Online" or simply "Microsoft 365," which, by the way, was recently rebranded from "Office 365," (often shortened as "O365"). Outlook on the web does not refer to Outlook.com, which hosts personal outlook.com, hotmail.com, and msn.com accounts. Oh, and Outlook on the web used to be called Outlook Web App (OWA). Clear as mud? 😉
As of September 2018, Outlook on the Web no longer allows connecting other accounts. You can read the Microsoft announcement here.
So, for both Outlook on the Web and Outlook.com, adding another calendar requires going the iCal route. For details on how that works (and how it often doesn't work), check out our next article.
As discussed above, Outlook doesn't really sync your calendars, it just shows them all in one place. CalendarBridge, on the other hand, actually syncs all of your calendars directly on the Exchange and Google servers. So no matter which account you log into, and no matter which version of Outlook you use, all your calendars are there.
Creating your CalendarBridge account and setting up your calendar syncs takes just a couple of minutes.
Let's return to our example of the user with two Microsoft accounts and a Gmail account. Shown below is her CalendarBridge dashboard where she has added all three accounts and configured bidrectional syncs ("bridges") between them.
Here is her @exchange2 calendar in Outlook before and after CalendarBridge:
Finally, here is her @gmail calendar in Google Calendar:
Thus, after a single, 5-minute setup on CalendarBridge.com, all instances of Outlook -- including the Outlook Scheduling Assistant -- always reflect her up-to-date schedule across all of her calendars. Doesn't that sound great? It is great. Try it now for free.