Lightning Sweetens Thunderbird

lightning00.jpgIt seems like ages ago that Mozilla Firefox, and all its mod-loveliness, replaced Internet Explorer as my net browser of choice. And when I saw the company also offered an alternative to Outlook Express, it wasn’t long before I switched all my e-mail habits to Thunderbird and bid Microsoft farewell.

The one thing that Thunderbird always lacked, however, was a slick task/event/calendar interface, a fact that very nearly caused me to dig into my dusty MS Office folder to run the rather bloated Outlook.

I had considered using the sweet-running Sunbird (yet another Mozilla product), but having to launch an additional program on the off chance I had an appointment that day seemed like application overkill.

lightning01.jpgThen along comes Lightning. This fantastic add-on to Mozilla Thunderbird solves the whole quandary by adding a straight-forward calendar/task manager right into my e-mail client. The integration is so well handled that you’ll swear the add-on was part of the program’s core – which indeed it will be when Thunderbird 3 comes out later this year.

Lightning adds an additional “Calendar” layer to Thunderbird, which is easily switched to and from via the addition of “Mail” and “Calendar” icons just below your folders list. Additionally, a quick-view pane nestled to the right of your e-mail viewer gives you a heads up when you have scheduled events or tasks coming your way – and is easily hidden if not needed.

The calendar page operates as you would expect it to. Multiple views (day, week, multi-week, month) allow for as detailed a view as you’d like. New events or tasks are added with the click of a button, and a variety of categories and colours help keep things organized.

lightning03.jpgYou can also layer additional calendars, toggling them on and off with the click of a button – similar in function to Google Calendars.

Importing of iCalendar and Outlook CSV files is included, as is the ability to export your calendars as .html, .ics, or .csv files. Additionally, should you require integration with Sun Java System Calendar Server and its WCAP protocol, separate Lightning installs are available.

With the addition of Lighting, Thunderbird is on the cusp of becoming a fantastic free PIM. Its address book still requires a bit of work, but small complaints for what it offers, and at what price.

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