7 Thunderbird Extensions that will allow you to replace Outlook

Whether you are using Linux or not, Thunderbird is a great email client. It's been around awhile, and works well. But what if we want more than what Thunderbird offers stock? What can we do so that we can share address books between users on completely different computers? Is there a way to use calendars? Can we then share the calendars so other users can access them? With fresh-from-the-box Thunderbird, good luck. Fortunately, the folks at Mozilla have given us the ability to create extensions for this great email client. Because of this, we have a bunch of slick extensions that can provide us with some cool features. Mainly, if we don't want to pay huge fees for proprietary solutions, but we still want to be able to share address books and calendars, we can do it with Thunderbird. We just need to know which extensions to use.

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Well fasten your seatbelts. The list I'm about to give you could overhaul the way you do email. It's a list of extensions that allow you to turn Thunderbird into a full-on communications center. Here we go

1 - Addressbooks Synchronizer - sync your address books to multiple machines

This plugin gives you the ability to synchronize whatever address books you have in Thunderbird. You can sync between home, office, and laptop. You can sync between all your users at the office. It's a snap to install and configure, unlike a shared directory. Especially if said directory is on a proprietary solution.

Once you get it installed, and you restart Thunderbird, go to the TOOLS menu, and select ADD-ONS. In the list that appears, select "Addressbooks Synchronizer", and then click the PREFERENCES button.

To set up synchronization, select the SYNCHRONIZE tab at the top. In the "Addressbooks to sync" box, tick the addressbooks that you want to sync. Below that, select the "Remote" tab. Select "Synchronize with remote files", and then the protocol you wish to use. FTP works great for me. Put in the host, username, and password, and then the path you will use to house your addressbook files. Configure your preferences below that. I just do sync on startup and shutdown, but set it to whatever works for you. Take a look:

2 - Lightning - manage your time and tasks with extensive calendaring features

Lightning is one of those extensions that, once you use it, you cannot live without. You can use it to schedule appointments and maintain your entire calendar. It shows you a summary of what events you have today, tomorrow, and soon. Another great feature is that it provides task management. It also offers configurable event notification reminders. Quick peek:

3 - Lightning Nightly Updater (Unofficial) - From the download page : "Quickly get to the latest nightly builds of Lightning relevant to the version of Thunderbird and the OS you're on."

This extension makes sure that you are aware of and can update to any new versions of Lightning that appear. The latest and greatest is what we like, so I highly recommend this extension.

4 - Provider for Google Calendar - connect to and sync with your Google calendar, which you can also share

This gives you the ability to sync with your Google calendars. There is no prefs box to set it up, but using it is simple. First, go ahead and install the extension. Next, you need to set up a Gmail account if you don't already have one. Then go to http://www.google.com/calendar/render and make sure your calendar is working, maybe create an event or two. Next, go to your calendar's settings:

A page will appear with the details of your calendar's settings Go down to the PRIVATE ADDRESS, and right-click on the XML button. Select "Copy Link Location":

You now have a link to your Google Calendar copied to your clipboard.

Back in Thunderbird, open the FILE menu, select NEW, and then select CALENDAR. You can also double-click or right-click in the calendar list to create a new calendar. The "Create a New Calendar" box comes up. Instead of "On My Computer," we are going to select "On the Network", and click NEXT:

In the next screen, select "Google Calendar", and paste the Private Calendar URL into that box. Click NEXT:

The following screen allows you to select a name and a color for your calendar. Go ahead and set them as you wish and press NEXT.

Surprise! A calendar login appears:

You need to know the password of the account whose private calendar you are accessing. This means that you should do one of two things. First, you could set up a Gmail account that everyone in the group knows the password for. This way, they can all change things as necessary. Another alternative is to only share your calendar with people you trust. Either way, it's a matter of preference. You could do a combination of the two, as you can have as many calendars in Thunderbird as you want. So fill in the password, check the box to remember it, and click OK.

You can now share the Calendar URL with whoever you need to. Point them to this tutorial on how to set it up for themselves.

5 - addressContext - An extension to add addressbook-related options to the context menu.

Email messages just about always have contacts associated with them. Such contacts are usually senders or recipients. This extension allows you to do things with the contact information associated with a given email message. It adds things to the context menu:

So, for example, let's say the HR department where I work sends out an email with every email address in the company as a recipient. If I right-click on that message, I can add every recipient therein as an address book contact. Boom, instant employee directory.

6 - Contacts Sidebar - From the download page: "Displays the address books in a sidebar in Thunderbirds 3-pane window"

Gives you the ability to make the contacts in each of the different address books show up in the main Thunderbird window. Nice for quick access to contacts:

7 - Duplicate Contact Manager - From the download page: "Facilitates handling of duplicates in your address book(s)."

This extension is very nice. It helps remove or combine the duplicates in your address book. I use this thing all the time:

If you want to sync contacts and calendars between many computers, these extensions will give you this capacity. These are a small handful of the available extensions for Thunderbird. There are a bunch more available for your enjoyment or to boost productivity. Check them out when you get a moment.


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