Using Google Calendar, Thunderbird and Lighting to full effect

One of the best apps available on Windows is MS Outlook, as a complete suite of apps to organize your life, with Mail, to do lists and a calendar application, which allows for scheduling of meetings, and your time, which will communicate happily with your Windows Mobile or Smartphone Device. Allowing you to know what you are doing while both at your PC or away from it. However, being a commercial application, this can be quite a pricey solution, especially, if your are looking for these features to manage yourself, or maybe just a few others.

However it is possible to archive similar results using Windows, or Linux for free.
Being the owner of an Orange M600 Smartphone, and a Linux user, I spent a long time looking over the Internet, as the best way to get the information shared between my Desktop and my PDA phone. and although there are projects out there , SynCE springs to mind, they are not easy to setup.
So I thought i would look at a different way of resolving the issue.. As always, this is not the only way, its just my way.

  • Cross Platform Calendar Connectivity Windows, Linux, Windows Mobile
  • Easy to use
How I managed it.
The key to my resolution is Google Calendar, which can be accessed easily enough, especially if you already have a gMail account. If however you don’t have a gMail account, you can create your self a Google Account here, which will give you access to the Calendar functionality. Its pretty self explanatory. Once this is setup, its time to look at your mail client, obviously you could just use google calendar, via the web browser in Windows or Linux, but it doesn’t display to well on a PDA.. Also the aim here, is to emulate some of the functionality of Outlook, which allows you to have access to multiple mail accounts in one location.
The Email Client
The software I use is Thunderbird, Its my preferred Mail client, as i use both POP and IMAP based mail accounts, this mail client doesn’t however come with any built in calendar function, which is a reason, so many people berate it, and state that “calendar functionality is required before this app can move forward”. One of Thunderbirds strengths however, is, like its cousin Firefox, it works on a plugin system. That is, people have written third party modules, which can be used to enhance the functionality of Thunderbird. And I use 2 of these plugins:Quite simply, Lightning provides a calendar interface for Thunderbird, its part of the Mozilla Sunbird project, and helps provide the Schedule interface which standalone Thunderbird is missing.
Setup The Plugins
The magic here, however is the Provider for Google Calendar plugin, which, unlike just adding the necessary links to Thunderbird, to access Google Calendard, not only provides read access, it provides write access as well..
Install both plugins, and restart Thunderbird, you will then be shown, a Calendar in the left pane, this calendar has 3 tabs Agenda, Todo and Calendars. To setup Google Calendar, click on the Calendar tab.
Click on the New Button, in the Calendar Tab, and you will be given a choice, you need to select, On the Network. Click on Next, there is an option for Google Calendar, select this.
In the Text bar under the Google Calendar you will need to enter the Link URL which allows you to write to your Account, you can find this, buy logging into the Google Calendar account you created earlier.

Create a new Calendar, or if you already have a celedar created, click on the down arrow next to the calendar. And click on Share this Calendar.
You will be taken to a new page, where you will need to click on Calendar Details on the top of this page.

Then Select the XML button, next to the Private Address, this will allow you the read/write access to the calendar, if you need read only access, or wish to share calendards with read only access, use the XML button next to the Public Tab.

When you click on the XML button a URL will be displayed (i’ve edited the whole strin below for security reasons) Copy this URL , and paste it into the Thunderbird Text box, then click on Next.

Give the Calendar a name which you will use in Thunderbird to identify this calendar, and choose a colour, this is the colour which will identify your Google Calendar, if you are using multiple calendars. Then CLick on Next and then Finish.
You will then see your calendar listed as available. you should now be able to add an event in either Thunderbird, or the wEb Interface, and both will update to show the events. You can set reminders, repeat events, and all the usual type of Schedule details.
Sync the PDA
The next step is to sync the Calendar with the PDA, this is done using the GMobileSync app for Windows Mobile or Smartphones. it requires .NET CF 2.0 which is available for download from the site, and provides not only read access to they Google Calendar, it also provides write access. This means as well as having PDA based access to your existing schedule, you can provide updates from your PDA to your calendar too. The application requires your login ID and password for the Google Calendar site. and works as far as i’m aware over both Wifi and GPRS networks, however i will confess, with UK prices as they are for Data over GPRS i’ve only tried Wifi. The Sync is a manual operation, and not automatic (yet)
Final Thoughts? So what do we have? quite simply a free, Open source based Mail and personal schedulling system, which can be accessed, over muliple platforms, Windows Mobile, Windows and Linux (not sure about OSX). Providing access to multiple mail accounts, using POP or IMAP. Read/Write Calendar access on Desktop, Laptop or PDA.. There is also ToDo list functionality available. and all this can be accessed via a Web Interface. Now thats value for money.. Now if i could get this working with Open Xchange as well… bye bye M$ Exchange..

Original Post

Clicky Web Analytics