More and more, I’m impressed with the capabilities of Mozilla Thunderbird. Although there are a lot of default options that I don’t think are set correctly, It’s got to be my favorite mail user agent (MUA). However, Thunderbird by itself does not have any calendaring or tasks management. As such, proponents of Microsoft Outlook like to tout why other MUAs other than Outlook are sub-par. And rightfully so. Even if Thunderbird were to add calendaring and tasks management into the native client, there is still a great deal of integration with other software that Thunderbird would not provide, such as Live Meeting and Communicator integration that Outlook provides. At any event, even if Thunderbird isn’t the crème de la crème of MUAs (which is a debate that we’ll save for another time), it’s rock-solid, it’s extensible, it’s standards-compliant and it does its job very, very well. We’ll look at one extension, that in my opinion, really makes it shine.
Because Mozilla Thunderbird lacks native calendaring and tasks support, there is an extension that makes this possible. Enter Mozilla Lightning. Initially, Mozilla had been providing a stand-along application called Sunbird, as well as the Lightning extension. However, as of April of this year, Mozilla announced their intention to drop Sunbird in favor of Lightning. In my opinion, this was the right move. I never really understood why there was a separate stand-alone application to begin with. Integrating it into Thunderbird just made sense, and made Thunderbird a better competitor on the MUA stage.
After installing the extension and restarting Thunderbird, it’s time to get your calendar setup with Google Calendar. If you’re anyone like myself, I use a vast array of Google services- Gmail, Calendar, Reader and so on. I’ve been keeping my calendar and tasks in Google Calendar for a while, so when I setup Lightning, I wanted it to synchronize with Google Calendar both ways. In other words, I want to add to my calendar from Google, and see the update in Thunderbird, as well as make a change in Thunderbird and see the update in Google. Fortunately, Google recognizes the importance of this, as do the Lightning developers. The synchronization is enabled through CalDAV. CalDAV is an open standard, so rock on.
It’s important to note that only Mozilla Sunbird 0.8+ and Lightning in Thunderbird support CalDAV synchronization. Grabbing 1.0 beta 2, which is the latest and greatest as of this post will get you covered. Setting up CalDAV with Lightning is rather trivial. These instructions are taken directly from the Google Calendar help page on the subject. Also, Lightning comes with Tasks support, as does Google Calendar, but tasks will NOT be synchronized with CalDAV. Only your calendar. I don’t have a solution yet for this.
- Open the calendar application, ond select File > New Calendar. Screenshot.
- Select On the Network and click Next. Screenshot.
- Select the CalDAV format option. NOTE: Do not select the Google Calendar option. That is for read-only, and won’t allow you to setup to two-way synchronization that we’re after.
- In the Location field, enter “https://email@example.com/events” where “firstname.lastname@example.org” is your Google Calendar username (just your email address), and click Next. Make sure you’re using “https://”, or secure HTTP as plain “http://” won’t work. Screenshot.
- Enter a name and select a color for your calendar. Screenshot.
- In the pop-up screen, enter the following information:
- Username: This is the complete email address you use with Google Calendar (including the domain after the @ sign). If you’re using Google Apps, be sure to enter your Google Apps email address.
- Password: Enter the password associated with your Google account.
- Click OK.
That’s it! You now have a fully working synchronization between your Thunderbird MUA and Google Calendar.