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Mozilla + Google Calendar Solution For Non-PC Users

by Jay Callicott
April 5, 2009

I recently stumbled upon a little known trick for getting your calendar to sync up with Outlook. I used to work for a web shop where all the managers had PCs and all the developers had Macs. Most of the Macs ran Thunderbird or Apple Mail and all the managers had Outlook. We tried Mac's Entourage for a while but found it could not integrate with Exchange Server. I remember being very annoyed that calendar invitations would come over as garbled emails, while the PC clients got nice little popup reminders. I often thought, couldn't Microsoft have an option to send a regular email for non-Outlook clients? Well now onto our little integration solution. I don't believe this solves the problem of integration with Exchange Server, but I think it does allow non-PC or non-Office users to accept, send and cancel calendar invitations.

In brief here are the steps below:

5 Easy Steps for Google calendar + Thunderbird + Outlook integration

  1. Download and install Thunderbird (Mozilla's mail client)
  2. Sign up for Google calendar
  3. Download and install Lightning extension for Thunderbird
  4. Download and install "Provider for Google Calendar 0.5.1" extension for Thunderbird
  5. Create New Calendar (On the Network Option) and Use the private XML link google calendar gives you.

I found the Lightning extension the other day, which is quite a nice little calendar. It was surprisingly intuitive, very familiar for Outlook users. I am surprised I had not heard of this calendar before. For some users this is enough for their calendar needs but those like myself want to be able to access their calendar from the web and have sharing + integration capabilities so enter the great Google Calendar. I can view my Google Calendar on the web, on a smart phone, on my homepage, etc, etc. And I can integrate Google Calendar with Thunderbird. All you have to do is install that extension and add a remote Google Calendar. Once you do so when you add/modify events it instantly shows up on your Google Calendar page! Sound great!?

One thing to note is that I can do tasks but not with google calendar. I had to add a normal Lightning Calendar which I just use for tasks, not perfect but I like to create tasks from email for organizing my workflow.

Now the great thing is that when you invite users it sends them a google calendar request which doesn't require the user to have Google Calendar, only an email (unlike Microsoft Outlook which requires an Outlook client).

I thought wow this is great, I have a nice integrated + portable calendar on my local box, but I wonder if it works with Outlook? So I sent an invitation for an event from Outlook to my gmail account and voila! I got the invitation and it automatically added the event to my calendar. I then went to my calendar and accepted the invitation. I popped onto my Outlook calendar and got the accepted invitation. This is all with a Google Calendar! Awesome!

I wish I had found this solution sooner. For small business owners / freelancers this could be a godsend. Thunderbird is a great email client that can use free gmail (free POP3 access) , calendar, Outlook and Google Calendar integration. At my last job we used Google Calendar for a while and then switched to Exchange Server later, personally I thought the Google Calendar sharing was much more intuitive. Honestly I had a hard time figuring out how to share everybody's calendar and find schedule conflicts with Exchange.

In conclusion I think using Mozilla + Google solutions one can be very productive utilizing these free and in Mozilla's case open source tools. I have long been leary of relying on too many Microsoft tools because you can get caught in the upgrade trap before too long and Microsoft licenses + CALs + servers, etc can really take a bit out of your bottom line.

Hope you enjoy this little piece, let me know if it works for you. -J


Meet team member, Jay Callicott

Jay is an engineer and leader with a passion for creating technical solutions that solve real-world problems. As a long-time advocate for Drupal and Open Source, he has spent over a decade speaking, writing, and developing enterprise solutions that advance Open Source worldwide.

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