How To: Sync Thunderbird with Google Calendar

I never used to have a lot of use for calendars and scheduling software, but I’ve got to say that over the last few years it’s something that I’ve increasingly come to rely on the ensure I’m where I should be, when I should be there. It might have been okay to miss appointments, forget about meet-ups and generally run off my own whims when I was a kid, but in the grown up world if you schedule appointments, meetings, phone calls and the like and then don’t show up, let’s be honest – it makes you look like a douche at best, and if you’re missing professional appointments then you’re going to be having a sit down discussion with your boss sooner rather than later.

Do Your Prep

I’ve used Thunderbird as my email client of choice for a number of years, but back when I worked at General Dynamics they had it set up so you’d use Outlook as your combined email and calendar client, and it worked really well, so I wanted something similar. Thunderbird doesn’t come with calendar functionality built in, you have to add it as a separate add-on called Lightning, but first – if you want to sync your calendar properly (which we’ll get to) then you need to have the a version of Thunderbird which is at at least version 3.1 (3.0 won’t cut it).

On Ubuntu 10.04, the packaged version of Thunderbird in the repositories is only 3.0 so you’ll need to get yourself a package from a PPA (this will sort you out) or just download it from the Thunderbird website here – but be careful to get the language right (EN-US is not for everyone =P).

I wrote a little about installing Thunderbird before, and it contains some useful bits and pieces about installing/upgrading in Linux without losing all your emails, so if you’re using Linux, and you’re not 100% sure of what you’re doing then it could be worth taking a look before you upgrade: How To: Install Thunderbird in Linux

Ride the Lightning

Installing the Lightning add-on to get calendar functionality in Thunderbird is a doddle:

  • Head on over to the Lightning homepage and download a relevant .xpi file,
  • Open up Thunderbird, then click on Tools | Add-ons then click the [Install…] button and point it at your downloaded .xpi,
  • Let it install then restart Thunderbird.

That’s half the battle – you now have working calendar functionality. But I really want this calendar synced to Google Calendar… Well, actually that’s not quite true, I couldn’t care less about Google Calendar – what I want is that the calendar I use in Thunderbird can sync itself to Google Calendar, and this way I can in turn sync my phone to Google Calendar and be able to keep track of my appointments on my PC at home, or on my phone when I’m out and about.

Let’s make it happen…

Sync Me Up

For Thunderbird/Lightning to talk to Google Calendar, you need to install an extra add-on called GDATA Provider. Be careful to install the appropriate version for your operating system of choice.

Once that’s installed, restart Thunderbird, and then create a new calendar by going to File | New | Calendar and choosing On the Network:

Thunderbird New Network Calendar

Once you’ve clicked [Next] button you need to actually go and find out the network location of your Google Calendar. To do this, head to the Google Calendar web page, sign in, then go to Calendar Settings and scroll down a bit until you see the Calendar Address section, like this:

Google Calendar ICAL Address

You need to right-click on the ICAL button and copy the URL of your calendar into the clipboard (or you could always hover the mouse over the ICAL image and write down the URL displayed in the bottom-left corner of your browser, assuming you have the Status Bar visible). Thinking about it, the form of the calendar address is pretty simple, so you could always just copy and paste the line below, and substitute your user name in:

Be careful to leave the %40 in there – it’s just the hash code for the ‘@’ character.

So, you’ve selected the Calendar address as On the Network, now select Google Calendar and paste your ICAL address into Thunderbird’s network location dialogue box:

Google Calendar ICAL Address in Thunderbird

Once you’ve clicked next on the above dialogue, just give the calendar a name, and that’s it – you’re set!

Put a few test entries into the Calendar in Thunderbird and watch them show up on the Google Calendar web interface! Do the reverse! Use your phone’s Google Calendar integration software (comes as a given on Android phones) to do all sorts of scheduley things and never miss an appointment again!

Cheers! =D

How To: Install Thunderbird 3 in Linux

Update: In Ubuntu 10.04 Thunderbird 3 is now in the repositories so you can just install it through Synaptic or use sudo apt-get install thunderbird

Thunderbird is my email client of choice, but Thunderbird 2.x has some issues that bug me, like poor search facilities, no tabbed emails etc. so I want the next version with all its added goodness. However, Thunderbird 3 isn’t packaged in the Ubuntu repos yet, and I don’t feel like adding a PPA to my software sources (where Thunderbird is oddly branded as its project codename: Shredder) or waiting a couple of months until it’s available – so I’ve installed the new version manually and hooked it up to my Thunderbird 2 emails like this:

Thunderbird Logo

1.) Get Thunderbird 3 from http://www.mozillamessaging.com/en-US/thunderbird/

2.) Extract it by right-clicking on the file and selecting Extract Here, or from the console with something along the lines of:

Why xfvj? Because:
x = Extract
f = File mode (use the file listed on the command line)
v = Verbose (print a bunch of stuff to the screen so you can see what’s happening)
j = The file is compressed (you can tell because it’s called thunderbird-3.0.tar.bz2), so pipe it through bzip2 to decompress it first

3.) Copy it to a more reasonable location where you want it to live with:

4.) Sort out your email profile:

Thunderbird 2.0 uses the location ~/mozilla-thunderbird (i.e. a folder called .mozilla-thunderbird located in your home directory) to store your email, while Thunderbird 3 uses ~/.thunderbird, so when I did this I hedged my bets to make sure TB3 didn’t knacker the only copy of my email hive by creating a copy of the ~/.mozilla-thunderbird folder and renaming it to .thunderbird

5.) Create a launcher for our new Thunderbird install:

Assuming you’re using gnome, right-click on the top gnome panel and select Add to Panel, then select Custom Application Launcher and enter the following details:

Thunderbird 3 Launcher Details

6.) Launch Thunderbird 3 from your spiffy new launcher

Ch-Ching! New, emaily goodness is yours for the taking. You might want to uninstall Thunderbird 2 from Synaptic and nuke your old ~/.mozillia-thunderbird folder once everything’s up and running as it’s pretty unlikely you’ll ever be going back to an older version.

Shouts out to Parick Micka for his post which got me started, as the official Thunderbird install/upgrade instructions for linux – well, I couldn’t find them, and don’t know if they even exist.

How To: Use Hotmail through Thunderbird without the WebMail Plugin

The WebMail plugin has been a trusty, appreciated boon to everyone wanting to get their hotmail/yahoo/gmail through a proper email client for years.

But due to the way providers re-jig their login mechanisms now and then, it just breaks. And breaks. Then breaks again. Not a bad word to the plugin authors – there’s nothing they can do about it, and it’s the prerogative of the email provider to setup their login and authentication mechanisms however they damn well see fit. But FFS – it’s email, you know? Can it just work, and stay working?

Following on from gmail offering POP and SMTP access for the last year or two, Hotmail now offers its own POP and SMTP servers – which means the WebMail plugin is no longer needed for Thunderbird, or personally by any webmail I use.

To modify your accounts in Thunderbird / Eudora etc – just set your hotmail accounts to the following details and you’re all set:

* Type: POP
* Server Name: pop3.live.com
* User Name: Your FULL email address
* Port: 995 (this should be automatically set when you select SSL)
* Use secure connection: SSL
* Use secure authentication: leave unchecked

If you want to use their SMTP server select “Outgoing Server (SMTP)” and press the Add button.

* Server Name: smtp.live.com
* Port: 587 (you could also use port 25 if your ISP doesn’t block it)
* Use name and password: Check it
* Username: Your FULL email address
* Use secure connection: TLS