10 Oct 2012 - Münster (by James)

fruux 101

All of us here at fruux would like to think that our product is super-easy to use and that there would be absolutely no questions asked about our great service, but unfortunately that's not quite the case. Many people may wonder about our service – what it does, on which devices can I use it and, most importantly, how can I use it to my advantage?

Of course, we don't tell you exactly what you can do with fruux after you've signed up for it as that is up to you. But what we do hope is that this little guide will help you understand our product a bit more and what it can help you, the user, achieve.

In a nutshell…

So, what does our product do? In a single sentence: we keep your contacts, calendars and tasks in sync across all the devices you set up with fruux. That was pretty easy, wasn't it? We support all devices that we can given current technological limitations and you may find that with some devices (Android, for example), you may have to download a bit of extra software to get fruux up and running - until these devices also get there and natively support CardDAV and CalDAV. But that's all really easy and we'll show you nice and clearly how to do that.

How does fruux work? Well, we wouldn't want to give all our secrets away, but basically it's some clever coding with the help of several web-based services, the first and foremost being Amazon Web Services. We won't bore you with the details, but changes on any device are pushed across all your devices. Automatically too.

So, basically you're like iCloud?

Sort of. We do pretty much the same thing as iCloud in keeping your contacts, calendars and tasks in sync across all your devices but with fruux, we offer more. You can share your calendars publically to anyone via the web and we're also working on a team concept, whereby you can share all of your fruux data across certain teams.

Also, unlike iCloud, which is limited exclusively to Apple's own devices, we support pretty much every single device. So, no matter how old your mobile phone is or whatever operating system you're using, chances are that fruux will work on it, problem-free of course :)

How can I use fruux then?

We've tried with this article to think of some relatively common real-life situations where you can use fruux. It's great to give you a description of our product (and we could spend a long time telling you about all of its fancy features) but I am the sort of guy that wants an answer to the question: so, how will it benefit me? Let's look at that now.

Of course, you'll only get the most out of fruux if you use more than one device. If you just use your phone for keeping track of your appointments and a place to store all your contacts, then the only thing we can do for you right now is automatic backup in the cloud. Sorry :(

I would, however, hazard a guess at the fact that most of us have a computer at home or in the office and a mobile phone and of course, we want our appointments from our calendar on our phone whilst we're on the move and we want access to our contacts straight from our desktop without having to reach for your phone.

You've got devices that won't sync easily with one another

Despite the obsession with technology in today's modern world, sometimes it can be really difficult to keep all your devices in sync at once. Of course, you've got some proprietary solutions (such as iCloud), but if you're going to sync cross-platform (or want a safe exit strategy, if you ever plan to get your data out) then this can be a bit more hit and miss.

Your dear author, unfortunately speaks from some pretty tedious experience here. Take Macs and Android smartphones, for instance. I can tell you now that trying to get the two to sync problem-free is a very long and very tedious experience and at the end of it you'll want to throw your computer out of the window, smash your Droid against the wall, or both.

We all knew that Steve Jobs famously wanted to declare "thermonuclear war" on Android and this is certainly true when it comes to trying to get an Android smartphone to sync with a Mac. Most sync software that comes with smartphones either doesn't support Mac or provides a "slimmed down" version, and when I mean slimmed down, I'm talking bordering on starvation.

Most of the time, they have extremely limited features and sometimes don't even work at all. Of course, you could try setting up Google Calendar and Contacts sync with your Mac, but I've run into the problem of duplicated appointments and patchy lists of contacts, sometimes with vital information missing (e.g. phone numbers or e-mail addresses).

fruux supports all Android smartphones (as long as you've got the third-party software CardDAV-Sync and CalDAV-Sync installed, as Android currently doesn't provide native support for either CardDAV or CalDAV, the open standards that power fruux) and most OS X versions (including Lion and Mountain Lion). Just head over to your Dashboard and click on Set up Syncing to add a new device.

You want to share your calendars publicly

This is one feature that all of us here at fruux are especially proud of. Take a look here and you'll see what we mean. Often, you just want to view a calendar quickly without having to subscribe to it and import all the events into your default calendaring app (iCal, say). fruux lets you view all the events on a calendar in our simple and easy-to-use web interface.

Let's look at an example here. You are in charge of planning a conference and you've created a calendar with all the events in for that particular day. Of course, you'll want to share this with everyone attending. How? Well you could do it the old-fashioned way and fire up Excel or Word and create a simple timetable, which you then e-mail around to everyone.

This approach is great but say an event changes its allocated time or location, then you as the organiser have to go back into that document you just created, change the time or location and e-mail everyone back. You can now start to see how long-winded this approach is becoming!

Our approach is, however, much simpler. All you have to do is create a calendar in fruux and it'll pop up in your Dashboard when you next log in. Then click on the calendar, give it a quick description and then click on Publish Calendar. You'll then be given a link which you can share with everyone and any changes to your calendar will automatically be pushed across to the web interface, so you know that everyone who has got your link is always up to date with the latest.

You want contacts and calendars in sync without having to resort to Microsoft Exchange

Let's face it, Microsoft Exchange is no fun. It's pretty expensive to run and maintain in the first place and requires a sound technical knowledge – you really need to know exactly what you're doing whilst you're using it. Well, fruux can simplify this.

Let's take an example of a school here. Each school has different "houses" and each housemaster wants their pupils to be able to access the term's events and get the teachers contact information from the school's computers. Well, with our Pro account, you've got an unlimited amount of calendar sharing plus you can sync your calendars and contacts across 10 devices, so you can set up your account to sync across all your house's computers. And all for just € 4 a month, or € 40 if you subscribe for a whole year.

Now that's a whole lot cheaper than trying to run and maintain a Microsoft Exchange server. And there's even better news. We are beavering away hard on our Team plans, which not only include all the features of our Pro account but also allow management of individual address books and calendars, so if you want to hide certain address books from your pupils (say, the private addresses of teachers) then our Team product will let you do this. You can also hide calendars (for example, the teachers' schedules) and control exactly what content is visible to your pupils.

Sounds neat!

We know it does! And of course, we hope that this little guide will help you in understanding our service a bit more. fruux is safe and secure and you don't have to worry about handing over your personal data to us, it'll be kept under strict lock and key using some of the highest security standards. And of course, we would never give your personal data to anyone else without your expressed permission.

And unlike some other companies, we aim to provide the best possible service for our customers. How? Well, we aim to give professional and prompt support for any questions you may have and we also listen to our users. If you think fruux is missing something crucial or you want a feature that should be included in the next release, then tell us! Just click here and suggest something – every single suggestion is considered in detail.

We're also on Twitter and Facebook where we'll also be happy to answer any questions you may have about fruux. Just give us a shout. And, if you'd like to sign up then click here – it's free for our Basic account!

I'm also on hand to answer any questions you may have as well. My e-mail address is james [at] fruux [dot] com.

Thanks and have fun with fruux!

About James

Nothing pleases James more than the smell of the countryside and the atmosphere of his university city of Birmingham. Follow him on Twitter.

fruux is a free service that looks after your contacts, calendars and tasks so you don't have to. It makes sure that they are always in sync, no matter which device or operating system you're using. If you've not tried it yet, then why not check us out and let us know what you think! And if you're already using fruux, then we'd love to hear your thoughts and comments. You can also suggest a feature for any upcoming releases or tweet us: @fruux.