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BusyCal Brings iCloud Calendars to Snow Leopard

True confession time here. While I have upgraded to Mac OS X 10.7 Lion on my MacBook, I’m still running 10.6 Snow Leopard on my Mac Pro. The reasons shouldn’t surprise anyone: Rosetta, needing a Snow Leopard test machine, and not needing Lion’s new features. Oh, and inertia — I have work to do, and installing Lion on my Mac Pro in the way I want to do it will take some time. None of these problems are insurmountable, and while Lion doesn’t do much for me when I use my MacBook, I don’t have anything against it either — I get my work done with applications, not the operating system.

But lagging behind Lion also meant I was hesitant to upgrade my MobileMe account to iCloud, since I didn’t want to lose access to my shared MobileMe calendars on my Mac Pro. That wasn’t the only machine in the mix, since I also access those calendars on an original MacBook Pro that can’t upgrade past Snow Leopard, and our Power Mac G5 file server that’s stuck at 10.5 Leopard. Also included are my iPhone 4 and iPad, but since both of those run iOS 5, iCloud presents no problems for them.

Pushing the upgrade was the household tension created by Tonya upgrading her MobileMe account to iCloud while writing “Take Control of Your iPad.” We normally rely heavily on shared calendars, but her upgrade to iCloud meant that she could no longer share my MobileMe calendars, and sooner or later, that was going to result in an awkward scheduling conflict.

I’ll bet there are people out there who have put off iCloud upgrades for similar reasons, but to reveal something I didn’t realize until the end of the process, the most recent version of BusyMac’s BusyCal simply solves the problem, enabling Macs running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to share iCloud calendars. (BusyCal costs $49.99 for one Mac, or $79.99 for up to five Macs.) That doesn’t mean you should just switch to iCloud without considering other aspects of the move, for reasons I’ll discuss later, but BusyCal 1.6.1 does remove one significant barrier to the transition. Before finishing the process, I had thought I would bring my older Macs into the mix by publishing my shared iCloud calendars using BusyCal’s local network-based BusyCal-to-BusyCal sharing. Although that would have worked, it turned out to be unnecessary.

Thanks to Rich Mogull’s near disaster with iCloud (see “How to Lose and Recover iCloud Data,” 2 November 2011), I wanted to perform my move extremely carefully. To that end, I pored over the relevant section in Joe Kissell’s “Take Control of iCloud,” which has helped thousands of Mac users make the iCloud transition, and then I correlated his instructions with those that BusyMac provides for BusyCal users making the jump.

I won’t reiterate everything I learned from those two sources, but here’s the basic approach I took, and what I’d recommend to others in similar situations:

  1. On each of my Macs, I backed up BusyCal (File > Back up BusyCal), iCal (File > Export > iCal Archive), Address Book (File > Export > Address Book Archive), and Safari bookmarks (File > Export Bookmarks). I have plenty of system-wide backups, but my experience is that if you prepare for problems, you won’t have any.

  2. On BusyMac’s advice, I reset BusyCal (Help > Reset > Reset BusyCal) on each of my Macs to ensure that each one would be starting with a clean slate.

  3. On my MacBook running Lion, I opened the MobileMe preference pane, and clicked the Move to iCloud button. That loads a Web page at, where the next steps take place.

  4. I worked through a number of Web pages that merely confirmed that I was using the desired account, that my calendars would be moved to iCloud, that I could keep using certain MobileMe legacy features until 30 June 2012, that MobileMe syncing would stop working, that my Macs and iOS devices were running the right operating system versions, that contacts and bookmarks would come from my devices and not, that I had a backup, and that I had agreed to the iCloud terms of service. Phew! After I had acknowledged all that, my MobileMe content was moved to iCloud relatively quickly.

  5. Once it finished, on BusyMac’s suggestion, I next launched iCal on my Lion-equipped MacBook, and let it sync entirely with iCloud. (Remember, iCal under Snow Leopard and Leopard cannot communicate with your iCloud account.)

  6. Still on the MacBook, I launched BusyCal itself, and it connected to iCloud and synced all my calendar data.

  7. I went to all the other Macs and launched BusyCal on them, and acknowledged alerts on my iOS devices that I’d switched from MobileMe to iCloud. This was the point where I was surprised, since BusyCal on my Mac Pro automatically connected to my iCloud account and brought in my calendars, eliminating the need for me to publish them from my MacBook. On the other two Macs I had to choose Calendar > Connect to iCloud/CalDAV Server and enter my iCloud account information to get them to make the connection.

  8. Lastly, I shared the calendars that Tonya and I use together; this can be done from either iCal or the Web-based Calendar app on iCloud — I think it’s a testament to how confusing iCal has become that I found it much easier to share the calendars from iCloud’s Web app. (In the Web app, you just click the little radio wave broadcast icon next to the calendar name in the sidebar; since iCal replaces the sidebar with a funny popover, it’s difficult to figure out how to select a calendar and choose Calendar > Share Calendar.)

Again, I’m a little embarrassed that I had equated iCloud compatibility so completely with Lion that I didn’t realize BusyCal would enable me to access all my iCloud calendars from my Leopard- and Snow Leopard-based Macs.

There are a few casualties associated with switching to iCloud, only one of which is a significant concern. A number of types of data, including Dashboard widgets, Dock items, Keychains, Preferences, and Mail accounts, rules, signatures, and smart mailboxes, can no longer be synced after you move to iCloud. That’s also true of independent applications that rely on Mac OS X’s sync services to sync data across Macs — Transmit, Yojimbo, TextExpander, and more. None of this is a problem for me, and Dropbox often provides a viable alternative for MobileMe syncing. It’s likely that future versions of MobileMe-savvy apps will eventually support iCloud syncing.

More concerning is that I lose Address Book syncing with any Macs that are not running Lion. Contact syncing with non-Lion Macs is much less important to me than calendar syncing, so I’m willing to live with it until I get around to upgrading my Mac Pro to Lion.

There’s also one workaround for contact syncing that I’m investigating, and I’ll write more about it once I’ve had a chance to test it. Address Book Server (it predates Apple’s use of the name in Snow Leopard Server) promises to enable contact and calendar syncing on a local network, and better yet, it’s currently free. From what I can tell from the product’s Web site, it would enable me to set up my Power Mac G5 as a server, share contacts to it from my iCloud-connected MacBook, and then have my older Macs connect to the server for changes. Leave a note in the comments if you have any experience with Address Book Server.

In the end, although the move to iCloud would have eliminated calendar sharing were I relying on iCal, the fact that I far prefer BusyCal in every way means that the transition was easier than I had anticipated.


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Comments about BusyCal Brings iCloud Calendars to Snow Leopard
(Comments are closed.)

Scott Rose  2011-12-05 16:58
There are so many dozens of reasons to NOT upgrade to Lion.

Therefore, it is absolutely criminal that Apple has discontinued MobileMe yet failed to give any of their pre-Lion customers iCloud support.

Yet... here's the real surprise. You may want to be sitting down for this one. Apple supports both Windows Vista and Windows 7 customers with iCloud!!

That's right! Apple is treating WINDOWS CUSTOMERS better than its own Mac customers.

What a complete disgrace.

Apple should be completely ashamed of themselves. But of course, they're not.
J Morey  2011-12-09 07:08
I agree and am not happy with Apple after being a steady customer all these years.
No iCloud support for Snow Leopard is a travesty.
Eva Zeiser  2011-12-05 17:51
Just wanted to note that when you mentioned you did a backup of calendars/address book before the switch, you made an iCal Archive backup.

I just recently lost all of my calendars, after the iCloud switch, after a few weeks of all being OK. The Apple chat support people eventually got my issue resolved by contacting engineering, and after two weeks, all was good. But all of the support people were very clear in stating that each calendar needs to be exported separately as a backup file. A calendar archive turned out to be useless. Lesson learned.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-06 06:40
Hmm, that's what Joe recommended in "Take Control of iCloud" - I'll check with him to see if that's an issue. Personally, I wasn't really worried about the iCal backup anyway, since I would rely on BusyCal's backup preferentially.
Nello Lucchesi  2011-12-05 19:47
Why not just use Google's calendar app as your server and iCal etc as a client?

More generally, what is the advantage of iCloud for mail, calendar, and contacts when you can just use Google Apps for these repositories and sync with IMAP and (Exchange ActiveSync protocols respectively?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-06 06:45
Although it may not be a major issue for most sharing situations, there's one situation where Google Calendar fails miserably, and that's sharing a calendar with people in multiple time zones. We did this some time ago for our Macworld Expo events for TidBITS staffers, and I've never seen such a mess, since the Google Calendar kept changing the time for events based on who touched the event last, and with people in Seattle, Ithaca, and Paris, there was no telling what could happen.

With BusyCal, there's an option to make events "floating" with respect to time zones, and shared BusyCal and MobileMe calendars honored that setting, unlike Google calendars.

But in general, Google Calendar does work well; it's just a bit more fuss to set up.
Tonya Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-07 07:02
Another thing with Google Calendar is that while it works well enough (and I do have experience with it - I maintain some shared calendars there and I ran a school's calendar there for a year), IMHO, it does not have the polish of either iCal or BusyCal. Creating and moving events, for instance, is just overall more awkward.

It seems as though you ought to be able to sync iCal on a Mac to Google and then Google Sync calendars to iOS, and I did try that a while back when iOS 5 was fairly new, but I couldn't get all the links working; unfortunately I don't recall where I got stuck. I wonder if anyone else has had success with that.
Miro Lucassen  2011-12-06 00:17
I have used Address Book Server with MacOSX Snow Leopard to share contacts with a pc. It works, but takes too much effort to setup and the client web interface looks clumsy. In the end I have disabled the software again. At the moment no contacts sharing here.
Rodney  2011-12-06 03:01
Perhaps you can enable iCloud contacts syncing on Snow Leopard by following the same instructions I have used to get it working on iOS 4?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-06 07:04
I tried those CardDAV and CalDAV settings in Address Book and iCal in Snow Leopard, and neither would work.
Thomas Armbrüster  2011-12-06 10:21
I tried the following and it worked: Under Lion I exported an iCal Archive which is syncing with iCloud. Then I imported the iCal Archive in iCal under Snow Leopard substituting all the information. Now iCal under Snow Leopard is syncing with iCloud without any problems. Unfortunately this trick does not work with the Address Book.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-09 10:53
At first when I tried this, it didn't work, claiming the server information was wrong. But when I went and checked the account info in iCal's preferences, it needed a password. Entering that made it all work.

I'll have to write more about this, thanks!
Norman Wikner  An apple icon for a TidBITS Benefactor 2011-12-08 14:57
I am currently responsible for 9 macs, one of which is a PPC PowerBook 17. I can't switch that to Lion, and the 3 my parents use will never be switched to Lion because they're too old to tolerate such a radical user interface change (I get IT calls like "I cant remember where the Edit menu is.") So my father is about to loose syncing between his iMac, his laptop, and his iPhone. Neither of his macs will ever run Lion. What do I do for him?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-08 15:20
Come June 30th, 2012, he'll have to resort to iTunes syncing, instead of using over-the-air syncing via MobileMe. Not ideal, but it will work.
Norman Wikner  2011-12-10 05:01
Maybe there will be another third-party app that can sync addresses via iCloud. Maybe the Missing Sync series could help. Maybe he should switch to Google. I just don't know.

I am Very Frustrated. Steve Jobs should have lived longer so that he could have experienced loosing a few neurons and some vision in one eye. My father has a PhD in nuclear physics, and designed instrumentation crucial to the detection of the antiproton. Now he is 83 and still smart; but he can't get used to the frequent interface changes. He also cannot tolerate distractions in his work, and routinely dismisses all dialogs offering upgrades, including Apple's Software Update.

There is a lot to be said for computers as appliances, and appliances should just work the same as they always did. No matter what kind of toaster you get it works just about the same. No one would accept one where you have to swipe 3 fingers to the left across the front to get the toast to pop up.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-12 14:03
You're absolutely right, Norman, and it's getting harder to maintain a stable system in the face of constant updates that point toward different ways of working. It's hard for all of us, since even when we can learn new things, it's not clear that the new approaches are more efficient or productive, just different.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-08 15:52
Yes, this is a frustrating situation. I would prefer my mother-in-law and father-in-law never have to update from Snow Leopard, but they may be stuck missing some integration if they don't.
coming to this late, but can someone explain how older macs under 10.5 Leopard sync under Busycal as claimed by Busycal folks? I have managed to get ical on a 10.6 Snow Leopard Mac to sync with Icloud and hence my IOS5/Lion devices. But I cannot get my 10.5 Macs to sync via icloud. I was considering move to BUSYCAL to sync my 10.5 machines, but I have not seen a clear explanation of how Busycal under 10.5 syncs. Can it only sync via local LAN when a shared Busycal on a 10.6/10.7 MAC is running on the same LAN? To get LAN-free calendar syncing with 10.5 machines is the only answer Google sync or some other remote server system?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-12-19 08:28
The simple answer is that you just have to launch BusyCal, choose Calendar > Connect to iCloud/CalDAV Server, enter your username and password, and it all works.