After I got bored playing Angry Birds on my Christmas-gift-to-myself Android tablet, I had to get down to business. After all, I didn’t drop over $400 to play games. I bought it so I could extract some productivity from my daily bus commute and my lunch hour.
The biggest productivity challenge was getting my Microsoft Outlook data synchronized. I needed away-from-Office access to my to-do list, contacts, and calendar. I’d had previous experience with PDA-to-PC sync, so I knew how dreadful such apps can be. The few good ones were usually pricey.
The good news is, I found something that (mostly) fits the bill. The bad news is that this is no $2.99 app. But, really, should it be?
Getting that data onto the tablet is only half the battle. It has to stay synchronized with the PC or the cloud, and the tablet interface can’t be so radically different from Outlook that it defeats the purpose of synchronizing everything. For instance, it doesn’t do much good to set alarms or assign categories to Outlook items if they get mangled or lost en route to the tablet because of field mapping limitations.
So I went out on Google Play and browsed apps. I eliminated anything that would only synchronize one component of Outlook (just the tasks or just the calendar items for example), because I didn’t want to deal with three or four separate apps.
Lots of choices (or so it seems)
Search “Microsoft Outlook” in Google Play, and you’ll get over 300 hits. Look a little more closely, though, and you’ll notice that most of the apps will only synchronize one type of Outlook data: Tasks, Calendar, Contacts, or E-mail. Most of them are either relatively untested (fewer than 1,000 downloads), have no technical support or get really crappy reviews. (Outlook.com’s official app gets abysmal reviews as of this writing.) Considering how many Microsoft Outlook users are out there, there are surprisingly few choices for synchronizing data with mobile devices.
Fortunately, the most comprehensive solution on the list appeared close to the top: DejaOffice. The app itself is free; it’s the synchronization piece that’ll cost you, depending on which one you pick (there’s a cloud option, but I picked direct Android-to-PC sync via CompanionLink, which costs anywhere from $14.95 to $129.95, depending on the license term and what data you’re synchronizing (Outlook, Google, Salesforce, etc.) to what device/OS (Android, iPhone, iPad, Mac, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, etc.). My particular combination — Outlook to Android — cost $49.95, although I did the $14.95 90-day trial first to make sure I knew what I was getting into.
CompanionLink has an easy setup wizard, but it might take a sync or two before a new user notices any problems. For instance, I had already set up Outlook to keep separate contacts and tasks for each email address, since I have more than one domain. Unfortunately, CompanionLink can only sync one Contact folder, one Tasks/To-Do folder, and one Calendar from Outlook to a single profile. To make this work, I had to consolidate all my contacts and tasks into one set of folders under my primary email and use categories to separate each domain’s items.
Choosing a synchronization method may take a bit of trial and error, too. At first, I picked USB sync, but moving my Transformer’s USB/power cable between the wall outlet and the USB port got old fast. I reconfigured it for wifi sync via my wireless network, which was much easier.
I was disappointed, though, that I could never get the scheduled synchronization option to work. Despite my tablet being set to auto-connect to my home network when I walked in the door every night, the auto-sync timed for later that evening never happened. Unless another user in their support forums shows me some trick not obvious from the interface, I’m stuck synchronizing while sitting in front of my PC, tablet in hand (the sync has to be started on both the PC and tablet simultaneously).
Accurate data mapping
The much better news, however, is that the data transfers between devices/applications smoothly. My past experience with apps that sync’d data between Outlook and PDAs was that alarms were mysteriously reset, recurring items were either duplicated or deleted, and category names got truncated so badly they were nearly unrecognizable. After several months with CompanionLink, I can say that even my longest category names don’t get cut off en route to the tablet, alarms go off when I set them, and my recurring tasks and calendar items don’t multiply like rabbits with each successive sync.
Overall, DejaOffice with CompanionLink gets my Microsoft Outlook data to and from my tablet safely and intact. Although I probably would’ve preferred to have paid about $10-$15 less for the app, it’s turned out to be a good investment.
DejaOffice with CompanionLink
Reviewed by Deborah Savadra on .
Summary: Free app and paid sync software pair up to sync data between computer, cloud and tablet/smartphone. It’s a tad pricey but works without mangling data.
- Price and features: 3
- Hardware and design: 4
- Included software: 4
- Performance: 3
Overall score: 3.5 (out of 5)