27 Apr 2011

Thunderbird and Google Apps - Mail/Contacts/Calendar.

Google Apps for business is great and MS Outlook is the most widely used communications portal in business, two statements of fact which need a third to highlight a problem and the reason for this post - They don't interface correctly.

Although Google Apps provides comprehensive Exchange configuration with seamless mail, contacts and calendar it's only good for the iPhone, desktop mail is relegated to IMAP with calendar and contact sync flaky at best (if at all) and certainly not accommodated comprehensively by Outlook (2011). Not much help to the organised amongst us who like everything in one place, I mean come on, it's 2011, communication platforms should communicate with each other.

I've read forum entry after forum entry from distressed Outlookers struggling in vain to find a smooth solution for one-stop sync-up of the three (mail, contacts & calendar) but as yet there appears to be no movement from either side to help facilitate it, however there is an answer, don't bother.

When I say don't bother I really mean don't bother with Outlook, or even OSX (Mac) Mail (& Address book) for that matter, life is too short and why bother with something that's never going to work properly when there's a perfectly elegant solution available that will - Enter Mozilla Thunderbird and it's wonderful addons.

As partner to the now ubiquitous Firefox Mozilla Thunderbird has been with us for a while and is now at version 3.1, it's tried, tested, stable, nice to use and with easy installation of a few addons happily delivers Google Apps to your desktop as an integrated bundle. Here's how.

  • Make sure your Google Apps eMail address is enabled for IMAP. This is a check box under eMail settings through the online interface.

    • Download and install Thunderbird. Configuring eMail is literally as easy as typing in your Google Apps eMail address and password, it finds your account and sets up all the SSL for you.

      • Next, download the following Thunderbird Add-Ons. Install via /Tools/Addons from the Thunderbird top drop-down menu.


      Once installed the only one you really need to set up is the calendar, you'll see Google Contacts already populated under the address book tab of Thunderbird. Here's how to configure the calendar add-on.

      • Obtain the XML string of the specific Google Apps calendar you wish to use. Do so through calendar settings under the Google Apps online interface. When you click the XML address button you'll be given a link which looks something like the following.
          • In Thunderbird open the Calendar tab and right-click the left hand pane to add a new instance, choose 'New Calendar/On the Network', select 'Google Calendar' and input the XML link in the location box at the bottom.

            • Next input your Google Apps eMail address and password, name your calendar and choose a colour.
            • Finish up and your Google Apps calendar will spring into life.
            • Delete the default calendar.
            And there you have it, all done. Thunderbird mail is an excellent alternative to MS Outlook and with versions for Mac, PC and Linux it's completely cross platform, it's also totally free of charge and as shown here when configured with a couple of add-ons becomes not only a complete communications suite but quite amazingly the only one which can actually do the job.

            Open Source wins again - #microsoftfail #applefail #outlookfail

            Download Thunderbird HERE.


            Anonymous said...

            Wow, new to Ubuntu/Thunderbird and I can tell this will save me countless hours of research. Thank you for taking the time to post this excellent article!

            RichBos said...

            Most welcome, feel free to get in touch for advice on anything not mentioned in here, I cover most subjects.

            Anonymous said...

            Why do you say it's the only one that can do the job? Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook does the job just fine?

            RichBos said...

            To 'Anonymous' (?), thank you for your comment (whoever you are), and you are correct, Google Apps sync does indeed do the job, however it is only available in the 'paid for' versions of Google Apps, the method above offers a completely free solution for the free version of Google Apps and as such is ideally suited to small businesses who are trying to offset ever increasing software licensing in favour of a more flexible and cost effective option.

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