Sat 3/31/12 Bringing iCloud to Snow Leopard

Although Mac OS X Lion brought many exciting features from iOS back to the Mac, few have increased my productivity, many have insulted my taste in design, and most have interrupted the established workflows I have been using for the last decade. It is because of Lion’s iOS-ification that I have forgone Apple’s latest desktop operating system, and reinstalled Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

My favorite part about using 10.6 as my regular operating system is that Mac apps act like Mac apps. There is no divide between the applications that have been updated with Lion technologies like Multi-Touch Gestures, Full Screen Mode, Versions, and Autosave, and the apps that have not. All of the built-in applications look like they were made for the Mac, and do not resemble a leather bound book, or torn page calendar. None of the built-in applications resume with unwanted documents open. Double clicking on an application always ensures a clean starting point. On Snow Leopard the Macintosh experience is more consistent. Every application that needs a “Save As…” command has one, and the applications that require full screen mode, resume, and autosave already do. While booted into Snow Leopard I no longer have to second guess how each one of my applications will behave. None of the built-in apps are trying to look and feel like something out of iOS. Everything performs like it was made for the Mac.

Living with Snow Leopard may be more consistent, but it is also lacking several features from Lion I would like brought back to my Mac. Since upgrading my MobileMe account to iCloud, Mail, Calendar, Contact, and Bookmark syncing are the biggest features I have been forced to leave behind.

iCloud Email

Email is the only iCloud service Apple currently supports in Snow Leopard. Setting up Mail.app for iCloud email is easy once you know the server settings.

  1. From the Mail.app preferences Accounts tab click the plus button to create a new email account.
  2. Fill in your full name, iCloud email address, and iCloud password.
  3. Mail.app will fail to automatically detect your email settings because it presumes you are a MobileMe subscriber. Click Continue.
  4. Switch your account type to IMAP, and enter your incoming mail server as “imap.mail.me.com”
  5. The outgoing mail server should be “smtp.mail.me.com” Click Continue and Create to take your iCloud email account online.

Calendar Syncing

You can sync your iCloud Calendar with Snow Leopard’s iCal by following these steps.

  1. Launch iCal and visit the iCal preferences.
  2. From the Accounts tab add a new CalDav account with your iCloud username and password.
  3. Enter “caldav.icloud.com” as the server address.
  4. Out of the options that appear choose the “caldav.icloud.com” server.
  5. Before this will work you will need to reformat your server settings. The server address should resemble “pxx-caldav.icloud.com” where xx equals the iCloud server where your Calendar is hosted. You can determine this server by logging onto iCloud.com and creating a new public calendar. The webcal URL for the calendar will include the missing value. ( Example: webcal://p04-calendarws.icloud.com/… )
  6. Enter the port number 443, and check “Use SSL” to complete the configuration.

Contact Syncing

Similar steps can be used for configuring Address Book.

  1. Launch Address Book and visit the Address Book preferences.
  2. From the Accounts tab add a new CardDav account.
  3. Enter the following string as your username “xxxxxxxx%40xxx.com:password” where xxx is replaced with the appropriate parts of your iCloud email address, and password is replaced with your iCloud password.
  4. Enter a space as your actual password.
  5. The server address is “pxx-contacts.icloud.com/xxxxxxxx/principal” where the “pxx” is replaced with the iCloud server number you acquired by setting up iCal, and xxxxxxxx is replaced with the unique iCloud ID you acquired from your iCloud calendar’s server path.
  6. After Address Book accepts these settings you may need to edit the Configuration.plist in ‘~/Library/Application Support/AddressBook/Sources/unique ID/’ to make sure the settings appear correctly.
  7. Enter the port number 443, and check “Use SSL” to complete the configuration.

iCloud Address Book syncing in Snow Leopard is not a reliable two-way exchange of information, but it should give you access to your contacts stored in iCloud.

Bookmark Syncing

At this time there is no way to sync Safari’s bookmarks with iCloud directly, but you can user an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad running iOS 5 as an intermediary.

  1. Simply setup wireless or tethered syncing between iTunes running on Snow Leopard and your iOS device.
  2. With your iOS device selected in the left hand pane, check the “Sync Safari bookmarks” option underneath the Into tab. (This can only be selected if iCloud Bookmark syncing is turned off on your deivce.)
  3. Perform a sync between iTunes and your iOS device.
  4. Under the iCloud setting on your iOS device turn on Bookmark syncing to complete the process.

Mac OS X 10.6.9 might be right around the corner and with it comes rumored functionality to restore Email, Calendar, Contact, and Bookmark syncing to Snow Leopard. Until that time comes use the instructions above to restore the synchronization capabilities lost on older Macs, and stubborn Mac users like myself, who were forced to upgrade to iCloud, but refuse to install Mac OS X Lion.

Newton