The iPod has wrought some amazing changes in the music world — making the audio CD’s storage capacity seem puny by comparison and turning the Internet into the place to procure music. Yet the iPod has flipped more than the musical universe on its head. Thanks to its ability to store calendars and contacts you’ve created on your Mac or PC, the iPod has transformed the traditional little black book into a whiter shade of pale.
While it’s no replacement for a Palm or a Pocket PC, the iPod duplicates many of their important features: it can store and display hundreds of contacts and events, as well as sound an alarm that can alert you to an upcoming meeting and jerk you out of a hotel bed to attend that meeting. And that means you have less gear to lug around. In these helpful document, I’ll show you how to use your iPod and computer to corral your contacts and direct your dates.
Personable Information Manager
It couldn’t be much easier to start using your iPod’s nonmusical abilities. The iPod uses the vCard, vCal, and iCalendar standards — cross-platform file formats for contact and calendar information that are supported by most mobile phones and personal information managers (PIMs), such as Apple’s Address Book and iCal; Microsoft’s Address Book, Outlook, and Entourage; and Palm’s Palm Desktop.
Before you can import contacts and calendars into your iPod, you have to get them out of the applications on your computer. Usually you do this via a command in the program’s File menu. For example, in Apple’s Address Book you select a contact and choose Export vCard from the File menu. In Outlook you select a contact, choose Save As from the File menu, select vCard Files from the Save As Type pop-up menu in the resulting window, and click on Save. Many programs — Address Book and Outlook included — let you create vCards by simply dragging contacts from the program to the desktop.
Calendars work similarly. Choose an iCal calendar and select Export from iCal’s File menu to export the calendar as an iCalendar (ICS) file. In Outlook, select an event, choose Save As from the File menu, choose iCalendar Format from the Save As Type pop-up menu in the resulting window, and click on Save.
Regardless of the way these programs go about their business, once you’re through you’ve got an iPod-compatible file close at hand. Now let’s look at ways to move it to your iPod.
First, you need to mount your iPod as an external drive. To do so, plug it into your computer and select it in the iTunes Source pane. Click on the Display iPod Options button in the lower right corner of the iTunes window, select Enable Disk Use, and click on OK.
Now double-click on the iPod’s icon, found on the Mac’s desktop or within Windows’ My Computer window. Inside, you’ll find both a Contacts and a Calendars folder. Drag a vCard (VCF) file into the Contacts folder to add the contact(s) within that file to the iPod, and drag vCal and iCalendar files to the Calendars folder to add events and alarms.
Eject the iPod by dragging it to the Mac’s Trash or clicking on Windows’ Safely Remove Hardware icon in the taskbar and selecting your iPod. Once you start up the iPod, you’ll see your contacts and calendars in the iPod’s Extras screen. Go to Settings: Contacts to sort and display contacts by first or last name.
If you’re using a dockable iPod, an iCal file appears as a separate entry in the Calendars screen and bears that calendar’s name — Home, for example. These iPod models also let you view all your information in one calendar called All, accessible from the Calendars screen. Earlier iPod models consolidate all calendars, regardless of the originating application, into a single calendar. On dockable iPods, vCal files and iCalendar files created in an application other than iCal are jammed into a single calendar named Other.
A note for Mac users: if you have an iPod with a dock connector and you want to display your individual calendars separately, you can import your calendars into iCal and then save them to your iPod. (Windows users don’t have this option; they’ll find all their calendars under the Other heading.)
Want another reason to choose iCalendar files? Alarms contained in an iCalendar file will work on the iPod. This is not the case with vCal files — their alarms display dates but don’t sound alarms.
Mac users who have a dockable iPod can also view To Do items created in Apple’s iCal (on the iPod, look under Extras: Calendar: To Do). To Do items created in Windows’ Microsoft Outlook (where they’re called Tasks) are not copied to the iPod when you drag an iCalendar file to the device. But you can copy Outlook tasks to a Windows iPod with the help of a third-party utility such as Mark Reddicks’ free iPod Agent or Mike Matheson’s $14 iPodSync.
Make a Note of It
What about the bits of paper — from shopping lists to the French translation of “Which way to the bathroom, please?” — that clutter your pockets? A good PIM should also let you store notes.
If you’ve got an iPod with a dock connector, you have a handy place to store text files — the Notes area. Older iPods don’t support Notes, but if you have one of these devices, don’t despair. As long as your contact manager supports vCards, you can use the following trick:
Create a contact with the note’s title in the Name field and its contents in the Notes or Comments field. (Outlook, Entourage, and Palm Desktop for Windows call these text-based files Notes; Palm Desktop for the Mac calls them Comments.) Copy this contact to your iPod, and the note will appear in the Contacts screen.
By default, text entered in the Notes field of Apple’s Address Book doesn’t appear on the iPod. To make text in this field appear in a vCard, you must enable the Export Notes In vCard option in the vCard tab of Address Book’s Preferences.
Sounding the Alarm
As I mentioned, alarms linked to a vCal calendar file won’t sound on the iPod. Alarms included in an iCalendar file will, but only if you configure the iPod correctly. Users of first- and second-generation iPods will find alarm settings in the Settings screen. If you have a dockable iPod, go to Extras: Calendar: Alarms. Either way, you’ll find three choices. On the earlier iPods, these are Off, On, and Silent. On dockable iPods, the names have changed slightly to Off, Beep, and Silent. With alarms set to Off, no alarms will sound or display on your screen. Beep and On play an alarm sound from inside the iPod — not through the headphone port (or through the dock connector on dockable iPods) — and display a message on the iPod’s screen. Silent displays only the message without the audible signal.
Don’t worry if you’ve missed an alarm because you were away from your iPod or were rocking out too hard to hear it. The visual alarm won’t disappear until you press the Select button — even if the iPod has gone to sleep in the meantime. Apart from providing alarms associated with events, iPods with dock connectors can also act as alarm clocks. To set such an alarm, wheel on over to Extras: Clock: Alarm Clock. The iPod can play either its internal alarm or a playlist you’ve selected. If you select a playlist, you must have your iPod plugged into something that will amplify its sound so you can hear it. And yes, the iPod will wake itself from sleep to sound the alarm. Note that the internal alarms sound only once, and the mini’s alarms are relatively quiet, so they might not rouse a sound sleeper.
A Bounteous Bonus
For a device that was originally intended to do nothing more than put other music players to shame, the iPod has done a reasonably good job of giving pause to those who thought they couldn’t live without a PIM. The iPod may not be a Palm, but when it comes to mates and dates, it can be mighty handy.