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Thread: Using Google Calendar, Thunderbird and Lighting to full effect

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  1. #1
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    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.
    Issue
    • 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 pluginfrom has an old version, Try downloading Lightening from

    Lightning Plugin for Thunderbird: http://www.mozilla.org/projects/calendar/lightning/
    Google Calendar Provider: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/4631

    Note: The version of the google provider at this time, requires Lightning version 0.7 or higher, and may not work with the one in the Gutsy repository under add/remove, so use the link above to download the latest version.
    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..
    Last edited by dmfield; December 28th, 2007 at 11:12 AM.
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  2. #2
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    Re: Using Google Calendar, Thunderbird and Lighting to full effect

    I have some problems with this setup. If I set an reoccurring event in Lighting it a) often doesn't set and b) if it sets, it changes the time by one hour early.
    When I change in Google calender everything will be properly synchronised with Lightning.
    Last edited by be4truth; September 5th, 2007 at 07:43 AM.
    Don't forget to thank; more points when you want to go to heaven or less karma if you decide for reincarnation. Mark threads solved when they are ...

  3. #3
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    Re: Using Google Calendar, Thunderbird and Lighting to full effect

    Now all we need is for Google to accept the fact that people want a to-do list included with their email (gMail) and their calendar (gCal). It's so painfully easy to implement, but also such a painfully needed feature that the Google suite lacks.

    Based on this, we'd then need to find a way to add/update the to-do list offline, and then your Thunderbird solution would be near perfect.

  4. #4
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    Re: Using Google Calendar, Thunderbird and Lighting to full effect

    Quote Originally Posted by xxdesmus View Post
    Now all we need is for Google to accept the fact that people want a to-do list included with their email (gMail) and their calendar (gCal). It's so painfully easy to implement, but also such a painfully needed feature that the Google suite lacks.

    Based on this, we'd then need to find a way to add/update the to-do list offline, and then your Thunderbird solution would be near perfect.
    You can implement a todo list manually with tags and filters:

    Email with the to address bill+action@gmail.com automatically tags the email with the "Action" tag. To mark a task finished, tag the email "finished". If Thunderbird can handle tagging (have not checked recently), then this technique can be used offline as well.

    or you can install the GTDInbox Firefox extension, which automates the above concept.

    -Adam
    Last edited by ghostis; March 17th, 2010 at 03:36 PM.

  5. #5
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    Re: Using Google Calendar, Thunderbird and Lighting to full effect

    Quote Originally Posted by ghostis View Post
    If Thunderbird can handle tagging (have not checked recently)
    The most recent version does, yep.

    Interesting thread. I'm looking for something similar, but my phone is palm OS based, not Windows Mobile.

    Sooner or later I'll have to upgrade it, and it's good to know I don't need to dread it so much if there is a linux-syncing route.

  6. #6
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    Re: Using Google Calendar, Thunderbird and Lighting to full effect

    Hello all, I'm new to this forum ran across it while working toward the same solution having just purchased a Motorola Q9M smartphone.
    I could not get synce working at all and while messing with it my 19 month old grabbed my USB cable and yanked it hard enough to break the USB port on my laptop so until I pull it apart and re solder it I can't mess with synce anymore.
    I'm using KDE's Kontact for my e-mail and PIM currently and found the GCALDaemon project and set it up to sync a google calendar with a local .ics file. I then found an app called oggsync and sync'ed the google calendar down to my phone over wifi. I tried opensync and it kept creating duplicate entries. GCALDaemon says it supports the gmail contacts as well so I'm looking for some way to sync those down to the phone, I found an app called emoze but like oggsync its not open source. Does anyone know of a project for the phone side that will allow that?
    I'm also concerned that the gmail and thunderbird (I'd like to switch to TBird for use with portableTbird) don't seem to have many data fields in their contacts list like the kde address book the the thunderbird project doesn't seem interested in missing features. Anyone have issues there?

    WRT Outlook. I used it from OL97 to OL2002, while its features are nice, its also a very problematic app. First issue is the 2G .pst limit which I hit shortly after starting with it. I got to the point in 1998 where I had to archive monthly and would then re-import my calendar. Of course that was a big pain when the boss asked about that e-mail from customer x and I'd have to ask when it was so I knew which year or month archive to look through. Then its searches were slooow. Then sometimes it would still corrupt the pst file and nothing but a little hack tool could back it up while in use. So you had to spend time with outlook maintenance such as monthly archives, exiting it to make backups, etc so it took a lot of work to keep it going. Then if you were checking mail from two places and having OL leaving mail on the server for a certain number of days it would often mess up the pointer and re-download all the mail on the server so you had to go through and delete the duplicates. Those pst files were fun, I'm became convinced that they are only still in use because the company that MS bought OL from originally lost the source and documentation for the format so they worked with what they could reverse engineer because nothing could ever work with those pst files but outlook, any other apps always had to go through outlook. Then I found out one day that it was limited to 65534 items in a folder when I had an end user that actually hit that limit with 65534 sent items! Of course there are all the annoyances such as Microsoft's preference for html mail or top posting and that it messes up threading, etc. IMHO its not even one of the best apps feature wise as the OP stated because of some missing features that are supported in apps like kontact such as sub todo's.
    Last edited by enine; September 7th, 2007 at 03:41 AM.

  7. #7
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    Re: Using Google Calendar, Thunderbird and Lighting to full effect

    Great article, this helped me immensely!! Thank you!!

  8. #8
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    Re: Using Google Calendar, Thunderbird and Lighting to full effect

    Quote Originally Posted by caseywise View Post
    Great article, this helped me immensely!! Thank you!!
    Yeah helped me too. now, as you seem to know about these things, on the "gadget" for a real website, how do i make show a private calendar?

    Any ideas?

  9. #9
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    Re: Using Google Calendar, Thunderbird and Lighting to full effect

    oki', getting an error while trying to add the calender url

    [Exception... "[xpconnect wrapped nsIURI]" nsresult: "0x804b000a (NS_ERROR_MALFORMED_URI)" and then the link i provided which i have not included.

    what are arwe you supposed to use as the address of the google calender?

  10. #10
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    Re: Using Google Calendar, Thunderbird and Lighting to full effect

    Quote Originally Posted by confused_user View Post
    oki', getting an error while trying to add the calender url

    [Exception... "[xpconnect wrapped nsIURI]" nsresult: "0x804b000a (NS_ERROR_MALFORMED_URI)" and then the link i provided which i have not included.

    what are arwe you supposed to use as the address of the google calender?

    I don't know about your error message, but I use "private address" XML.

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