About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

December 19, 2017

Meetings in Email

Before I start today’s topic I will answer emails I have received this from a couple of readers.  “Are you going to write about which computer I should purchase for Christmas?”  Sorry, but no for a couple of reasons.

First, I stopped doing this several years ago because they always sounded the same.  Next, it is fairly easy; purchase a good brand with the biggest numbers you can afford.  By, “numbers” I mean hard drive size, amount of RAM, number of ports, most pixels on the monitor, etc.   Third, due to the dates of the holidays this year, this is my last column until the second week of 2018 so there is no time.

I will answer this, to the outrage of many, “If money were no object what computer would you buy right now?”  If the first part of that statement were true, I would get the latest Microsoft Surface Pro version available.  I have used older versions (two years old) and they are very good.  That being said, some of them have a higher price tag than an Apple system which started out too high to begin with.

Now onto my last article of 2017.  I use calendars much of the time.  I, as many, use Outlook’s calendar at work.  For my personal use I am dependent on Google’s Calendar which is excellent.

No matter the calendar you use I have a recommendation which you may not have tried yet.  That is meeting invites.  Say you are having a party, meeting, lunch, whatever where you would like to invite other people.  We will also pretend you know all of their email addresses.  You can pretty easily set up an appointment with those individuals.  The following is for Google’s Calendar app but they all work much the same way.

Click in the date on your calendar and a new appointment will open.  A small window will open where you may add the title, edit the date, begin and end times for the meeting, but then click “More.”  Here you get to the details which are all optional.  The required information you have already entered so you could have hit “Save” before “More.”

New Appointment Start

You can set the new screen to repeat if it is weekly, monthly, etc.  Next you can add the location.  If you input an address in the location it is helpful for people who accept the invite if they use Google Maps or Waze for their travels.  It will pop up in those apps to warn them when they need to leave to get there on time.  Conferencing will allow you to use Google Hangouts to chat with people at the appointed time.  Add a note to the invite.

On the right is the really vital add in “Guests.”  Here you can enter the people’s names, if they are in your contacts list or email addresses if not.  Then when you Save the invite it will ask you to send the guests the invitation.  When they receive the emailed invite they can Accept, Decline or Tentatively accept the meeting.  You will be notified of their response which will be kept in the meeting information in your calendar.  That way you can check their intentions at any time.


Also, if you set notifications everyone who accepts an invite will be notified at the appointed time you have set.

Reviewing your appointments is easy too.  Open your calendar and click on the date to see all of the information.

Reviewing your meeting

December 5, 2017

Syncing Outlook & Google Calendars

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:08 am

I wrote about one of Google’s great apps called, “Google Calendar Sync” in 2012.  Then in 2013 they did away with it.  It was an easy to use add-on for Google that made it easy to sync between your Outlook (usually work related) and Google calendars.  That way you could have your business appointments in Outlook sent down to your private Google calendar to have everything available in one place.  Then you would not have your doctor’s appointment in your work calendar, etc.  You could also sync in the other direction or both at the same time.  Great app!  Check here “” (caps count in all of these shortened URLs) for a list of the many Discontinued Google Products.

In 2015 I wrote about a good replacement, “Calendar Sync +” which did the same thing but was sometimes quite difficult to coordinate.  I used it until about a year ago.  It is still available and you can read about it at “” from my old article.

At that time a friend referred me to “GO Contact Sync Mod” at “” which I liked better.  As a matter of fact, I still use that application.  From the title you would think it would only sync your Contacts but not so.  However, it also syncs your calendars.

Once installed it will sit quietly in your taskbar’s notification area unless you have not set it to “Run Program at Startup.”  That setting only starts the program but not the actual process of syncing.  There are several items needed to successfully set up GCSM.  First, set up your Gmail address which you have to also enter the password.  Next, set “Sync Profile” to my computer.  The next checkboxes are whatever you choose and are self-explanatory. I check both “Sync” and “Prompt Deletion” settings so that all deleted items are matched up.  That way I get a warning in case something is being incorrectly deleted (has not happened yet).  Now decide if I want to also “Sync Contacts” which will pull all of your Google Contacts into Outlook for you, or visa-versa.  I personally do not use that at work, but I do at home.

GO Contact Sync Mod screen

Yes, last week I said I no longer use Outlook which is true.  However, there is also a version of GCSM for Thunderbird which also works well.

The final step is to decide how you want it to sync.  In other words, sync both ways between Outlook and Google or only in one direction so that one of them has everything.  You can also decide which app wins if GCSM cannot figure it out (rarely after the first couple of runs).

There are more setup details on the Go Contact Sync Mod site at “” if you care to check.

There are other alternatives on the web but for now this is the one that works best for me.  Of course, in another couple of years I may be writing about a better option as I have done this time.

November 21, 2017

November 10, 2015

Calendar Sync +

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:24 am

I have written before about Google having rolled out many very good applications over time. I have also remarked that unfortunately they also kill many very good applications off when they should not. I have listed several of my favorites in earlier columns so I will not again. If you are interested read this for a history lesson.

Deceased Google Calendar Sync sign inSince I have received many emails from readers since 2013 when Google did away with “Google Calendar Sync” asking what to do, I have something to mention today.

Google Calendar Sync was a great app which allowed users of Microsoft Outlook to sync their work calendar with their personal Google calendar. That way they could keep track of their appointments no matter where they were. Many people do not want to put their personal calendar (Google) in with their work calendar (usually Outlook). That way they can keep their personal appointments away from the possibly prying eyes of coworkers.

You could set GCS to sync from one calendar to the other or make them both match.

I have had people ask me over time for a replacement for that application. But after searching for a long time, since I used it all the time too, I thought all was lost. I had even tried a few paid apps and found they did not function as well as Google’s product. The free ones were pretty much useless.

Calendar Sync+ syncing screenOver a month ago I read an article about Calendar Sync + which was apparently created in February of this year. It sounded just like what we have been waiting for and I have been trying it out since that day.

I am here to tell you that the Google replacement has arrived and it works as well as and does more than Google did.

Calendar Sync + is available at

Calendar Sync+ Preferences/Setup screenThey have very good installation instructions. Click on the Documentation tab and read on. You basically first choose which way you want it to sync; from Outlook to Google, from Google to Outlook or both ways. Next, you choose a range of time; the entire calendar for 10 years, specific number of days in the past and future, or a date range. I went for the second one and told it to get 31 days in the past and 365 days in the future. Then you select calendars, log into your Google calendar and you are pretty much done. You can also sync it on a schedule or manually. It is all up to you.

I used it first on Windows 8.1 and now on Windows 10 without any problems. I have purposely tried to break it and could not. I need to enter the date this article will be published but in which calendar…oh yeah, it does not matter any longer!


Here is a video I did for you to see how to setup Calendar Sync+ if you are interested.  Feel free to give me constructive criticisms on the video.  I have not done many so appreciate your comments on how they could be better next time.



September 9, 2014

Google Hero and Yet?

As you regular readers know I am a fan of Google and yet on occasion they fail me totally.  Mostly this is due to them doing away with applications I use and enjoy: Google Reader, Calendar Sync, iGoogle, Google Notebook just to name a few.

But I enjoy their products so much that I have purchased hardware from them.  Namely the Nexus 7, 2013.  They always add the "2013"; however, it should have been named Nexus 7.2.  Alas, they did not ask me.  It had been working very well until 90 days ago or so. 

Occasionally when I turned it from portrait to landscape the screen would not always, "flip" to match.  It was a bother at first and I ignored it for a while.  I could always start a program that must run in the correct alignment and then it would lock there.  That would be good until the next time I turned it.  I do not play many games but one day I had a few minutes and fired up, "Go-Go-Goat!"  You are required to tilt the tablet to make the goat jump in the correct direction.  Since the gyroscopic feature in the Nexus was dead he jumped straight up and died every time.   

I contacted Google and the nice folks there gave me three things to try as a solution.  They also told me that since I was under warrantee they would replace it with a rebuilt unit if these fixes did not work. 

Two of the resolutions were easy but regrettably did not work.  The third was easy to do but basically it was to reset my Nexus to the factory settings and rebuild it.  That takes a while and is quite a pain.  After putting it off for 2-3 weeks I did it and guess what?  That did not resolve the issue either.

I called tech support at Google again and they assured me my refurbished unit would arrive the following Monday.  Tuesday then Wednesday — I called again.  I was told by the first rep that it was already delivered…to Austin, TX.  What?!  I asked him to check my order and it was correctly set up with my address in Virginia.  He passed me along to a shipping person.  They were also pleasant and helpful. 

There was a problem with the shipment and he would check it and email me the next day.  You guessed this correctly too, nothing but the sound of crickets the next two days.  The next time I called I was apologized to and handed to a supervisory rep. 

Samantha was her name and I got a voice mail which assured me that she would return my message as quickly as possible.  She really did.  That afternoon I got an email from her saying she would investigate and let me know what was up within 24 hours. Sure?!

The next morning I received an email from her stating that she was sorry for the mix up.  She had found the problem, shipped out the correct unit which I should have by the end of the week.  She also gave me a credit to my Google account for having the hassle.

I got the Nexus Thursday, a day earlier than she had predicted.  Though it had taken three weeks instead of the initial, "couple of days" they did right by me.  I shipped mine back immediately and the replacement has been working fine. 

I will continue to be a Google Fan-boy for now.  Until they do away with a few more apps that I use.

May 20, 2014

Google, What are you Telling Me?

As you regular readers know, I like Google.  Google is not perfect but they have many great apps.  In the past I have been disappointed in their corporate decisions to do away with some of their more desirable apps.  For instance iGoogle homepage, Calendar Sync and Google Reader to name a few.

I learned something else disappointing this week.

Over the past year or so I have become a fan of Google’s Chrome browser.  Before any of you run out and switch to Chrome from Firefox, (my old favorite) remember the most important thing when deciding on a browser is, "How do you like it?"  You do not have to change but you could always try various browsers from time-to-time and find out what you may like.  It is easy to change back at any time.

I use a Google tablet, the Nexus 7 2013 I also use the Chrome browser as my default browser on the Nexus.  In recent months I have purchased Google’s Chromecast which basically allows you to turn your almost Smart TV into a full fledge Smart TV for $35.  As I originally wrote this past January, it is an excellent device at an excellent price.

Basically, if you are using the Chrome browser on your computer you can play a video in your browser, or music or slideshow which you already know.  If you have a Chromecast device hooked up to your TV you can "send" that media to your TV to enjoy it on a full screen and hear it through better speakers.  This makes it a much more pleasurable experience than watching or listening on a smaller screen. 

Chromecast buttonWhen you have something playing, or getting ready to play, in your computer’s browser you click the Chromecast button and it automatically appears on your TV.  It is a very easy to use and it shows quite a good picture and sound.

So I have three Google products running, their tablet, their browser and their Chromecast.  They are all in excellent working order.  This week my wife and I missed one of our favorite TV shows, "Castle."  If you go to you can view their shows shortly after they air on the site.  This is true for most of the networks. 

I started up my tablet, went to, got "Castle" running and guess what?  No Chromecast button so I could not send this show to the TV.  Please note:  I could, once I hooked up my notebook computer, but that was not my intention. 

I Googled for what I was doing wrong and there was not a tremendous amount of information about it online.  So I called Google support and guess what?  Even though I am running all Google products in working order they do not yet have a way to "Cast a Tab" with an Android tablet or phone.  I asked if it was being worked on and they "thought so" but there is no expected completion date. 

What are they thinking?  But who am I?  What are your thoughts?

April 23, 2013

Office 2013-Outlook

Well, not all of the Office 2013 applications have a lot new going for them and Outlook is one of them.  It really has not changed that much.  It is cleaner, which is the Windows 8 "look."  As I stated in the past it is, in my opinion, boring.  As with the other Office apps we have reviewed it is just pale white and even the "themes" do not do much for it.

Where Word and Excel (in particular) have new features going for them, Outlook has few.

Pop up calendar, Outlook 2013The one thing I really like is that when you are in email you can see the other Outlook items, like Calendar, Tasks, etc. at the bottom-left side of the window.  When you hover over the large word "Calendar" while reading email, it shows a calendar of the current month with the current day’s appointments listed.  You can change dates while in this view too, so that could be helpful for quickly finding available appointment dates and times.  Clicking the other large words will go to those areas of Outlook.  I used the word, "large" because they are.  Why did they change that instead of using the small icons they used to use in Outlook?  I have no idea.   But I think they should have left it alone. 

Speaking of hovering and moving around Outlook, it now appears to operate more smoothly.  Instead of just popping items open they sort of flow into view.  Yes, I know that is a little artsy sounding for me, but it looks polished.  Gee, it sounds like I may start going to the Opera and the Ballet…not.   

There is another neat feature in the Calendar; however, it depends on your screen size and resolution as to how much you will see.  When you look at the week view in the calendar you will see today’s current weather forecast above the date.  If enough room is available you will also see the next couple of days’ forecast.  Now the default weather on my system was New York, NY but it was easy to click the link and change it.  Pretty slick, but how much is it needed?  Well, that is up to you.

Outlook 2013 Weather

Another neat feature is that an "X" appears next to an email when you hover over it.  You can click it to delete the email.  Not a big deal since in the olden days you could right click and delete it, but it is convenient.

The bad news is there is one thing in the new Outlook that I really do not appreciate.  In the previous versions of Outlook when you hit the Reply, Reply to All or Forward buttons it opened a new window with that email in it.  Now it opens it in the current location of the email view.  As in the past it is either below the email or beside the email list.  When you hit reply it does not open in a new window, but right where it was in the preview area.  This is very disorienting if you used previous versions.  If you need to go read some info off of another email in your list when you click on it, the one you were replying to closes down.   Now when you go back to your replying email you can click on it and see either the "draft" copy you were working on or the original.  From there you may continue editing.   It just seems like a step backwards and rather clunky to me. 

Outlook 2013 iconI found from emails related to the last few columns many of you are now using Office 2013.  If you are using Outlook 2013 what do you think?  I would like to hear what you like and dislike about Office 2013.

March 19, 2013

Google, Are You Kidding Me?

I have always been a big fan, supporter, promoter, etc. of Google.  That is until recently and here is why they are starting to work their way off of my radar. 

Google is performing what is termed "Spring Cleaning" on several of their products.  They shut down services/apps which they do not believe are being supported by users.  Two that were announced last year were Google Calendar Sync which basically ended December 14, 2012 and iGoogle which is scheduled to shut down on November 1, 2013.

Google Calendar Sync Option ScreenPersonally, I used those two extensively, especially Calendar Sync.  Calendar Sync performed an extremely important function for me.  It matched up my Outlook calendar at work to my personal Google calendar online.  Using this syncing process then allowed me to share my Google calendar with my wife so she could keep up with when I was going on trips, meetings after work, etc.  I could also choose to share it with anyone else I chose. 

It was a painless process since you set it up once and never look back.  It automatically "synced" the two calendars immediately when changes were made.  Since the Google calendar is online you can get to it anywhere you have a computer.

It was a very good application for the seven or eight years I had it Google.  Of course, they do say if you are currently using it you may continue…on that computer.  I conclude that means, "Once you have a new computer Calendar Sync is kaput!"

iGoogle was bad news to many people, too.  This was basically a Google home page you could use on your browser.  You could arrange "widgets" to show weather, local movie listings, news articles from specific sites, maps/directions, games, etc.  It essentially served as a geek’s morning paper where you could get the news you really wanted to read. 

Now this week Google made another announcement concerning spring cleaning.  Another of my beloved apps and many other peoples’… (According to the uproar online) Google Reader bites the dust.  Google Reader will be gone as of July 1, 2013.  Gee, Google, thanks for the big advance notice!  If you want to sign a petition to keep GR around visit: and cast your vote.  You may join the other over 114, 500 people who had signed up within four days after the announcement was made.

Google Reader is and was in my opinion one of the best RSS Feed readers around.  We have talked before about RSS (Real Simple Syndication) so I will not belabor it.  Nevertheless, here it is in a nutshell.  It allows you to link to sites which offer RSS feeds (most sties) and get updates whenever they add comments or any content to the site. 

Google Reader logoGoogle Reader is simple to set up, is easy to use and has a very clean and user friendly interface.  I just recommended it to a group I spoke to a couple of weeks ago because it is so easy to use.

There are many other readers out there which have been recommended to be good replacements for Reader.  I have tried numerous quantities of them.  I will not mention those which failed my examination totally; however, there are two which are OK.  I need to state: they are still not as clean as Google Reader.  I would say the first runner-up is "feedly" ( and at this point in my research, the closest one is "Newsblur" (  Let me know as you continue the hunt for the best replacement.

Thanks, Google.

July 10, 2012

Google Calendar

If you currently have a Gmail account you most likely already know all about the Google Calendar feature.  Also, if you are one of the many Android smartphone users you are well aware that in order to reap all of the benefits of the phone, you must have Gmail. Google Calendar is automatically added into the mix.

But if you are new to Gmail, (there are many of you out there according to the emails I have received,) today we will look at Google Calendar.  This is another of the excellent free Google features which come with a free Google account.

Once you have logged onto your Gmail/Google account page you can click on "Calendar" in the top Google toolbar to get there. 

Google Toolbar

The calendar will automatically open in a new window or tab.  Where it opens is dependent on your browser and how you have set it up.  You may also go directly to the calendar at "" or ""  If you have not already logged into your account you may do so then.  If you have, you will go directly to your main or default calendar. 

There are many views for your calendar so I cannot predict how your calendar will appear.  However in most cases, unless you have previously changed it, you will be in the Month view.  You will see the entire month laid out in a grid format just like the calendar on your wall or in your checkbook register.  You may also switch to Day, Week, Month, 4 Days and Agenda views.  I usually use the Month or Agenda views. 

Calendar View Choices

Most of the views are self-explanatory but I don’t understand why you would want a "4 Day" view.  Yes, I can understand the others or a "5 Day" view but four…oh well.  I like the Agenda view since it shows you a list of all of the appointments you have added to your calendar.  If you have nothing in your calendar for the day, there is nothing there but the following days will be plainly laid out.  Let me mention one last thing about the views.  The view buttons do not hold much weight, since there is a small month thumbnail-view calendar on the far left of the screen. The exception to this would be Agenda.  In the calendar you can click and drag the time range you want to see, so if you click and drag on three days, that is what will be displayed in full size.

Ron's Calendar

If you are an old e-Calendar pro the following items are very standard and have been for quite a while; however, this is for you noobs (Google for that definition if you need it) out there.

You can enter an appointment by clicking on a date/time and typing the specific information, simple.  However, you may also click the "Create" button on the calendar and enter in many extra details about the appointment.  You may even invite people to the appointment via their email address.  They will receive an invite and if they accept the meeting it will be entered into their default calendar program setting a reminder alarm (usually) and you will also receive an email notification saying they have either accepted, declined or tentatively accepted your request.  Slick, and did I mention all of this is free?!

There are many other features found in the Google Calendar.  If you use it let me know what your favorite feature is in this great "cloud app."

August 31, 2010

Google Calendar Sync

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , — Ron @ 4:36 am

I do not like to write columns that relate to only a small segment of my readers but sometimes it is necessary.  Because of email requests these things pop up from time to time.  I have received several requests about this over the last couple of months.  So today I will explain an online application that will relate to people who use two products and wish to combine them.  Wouldn’t it be clever to combine calendars in Gmail and Microsoft Outlook?  For the past few years we have been able to do just that with this product.

For instance, I use Outlook for my main email application and have for many years.  For the majority of my personal email I use  There is a lot to recommend Gmail.  Although I have written about Microsoft Live, my personal preference is Gmail.  That could be due more to familiarity with it and not that it is significantly better.  But if you care, try both and form your own opinion.  It is mostly personal preference.  And yes, before I get a bunch of emails from you other geeks, I know that I can read Gmail and all other email in Outlook.  That is what I do. 

OK, now back to the calendars.  I use Outlook’s calendar for all of my appointments and scheduling both for work and home.  Whether it is a meeting at work or a doctor’s appointment I post it there so that I will be notified at a time of my choosing.  I also use a BlackBerry which will sync to my Outlook calendar.  If you have a smart phone you need to check with your cell provider or phone manufacturer to find out how to do it( if you don’t already know.)

However, when I am online on a computer without Outlook on it or surfing the net and don’t want to start up Outlook it would be good to be able to use my calendar while online.  In steps a free application, Google Calendar Sync (  Once installed it will allow your two separate calendars to communicate with each other.

SNAGHTML50be6fIt is fairly easy to set up.  Follow the instructions on the site and you will be up and running in no time.  There are basically three settings you need to apply.  First, your Gmail account name and password (to access your online calendar) need to be entered.  Next, you will need to enter how you want to sync the two calendars (see the next paragraph) and how often you wish to sync them during the day.

The Sync Options have three choices.  First, would you like to sync the calendars both ways so that if you make a change on one it is updated on the other?  The next way syncs changes on your Gmail calendar up to your Outlook calendar.  The final way is to sync all of your Outlook appointments to your Gmail calendar but not to Outlook.

I run this application on several computers and they are all tied in to my main calendar in Outlook.  If you use Outlook 2010 there is an extra step that you will need to Google for a "how to" – isn’t that appropriate?

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