Lighting 1.0 – Thunderbird Addon Preview

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my software for email, so with the latest update in hand of Thunderbird 3.0 I went about updating the whole email system. Low and behold my Lighting and Gdata provider needed to be updated as well. I installed the latest version and was blown away.

I used to be a hardcore Microsoft Outlook user, that is until I got more than 1000 email in my inbox and the system was plagued with slowdowns and outright crashes. Thank you, Microsoft, for making my transition off of Outlook so easy. But my favorite, and honestly must have feature, was the calendar and task manager. How can it be that no other email programs had this integrated into their email client?!?

In stepped Mozilla with their email application. Thunderbird filled the email slot for accessing my Gmail account. But the back and forth for the calendar and the crappy task manager in Gmail were not cutting it. Luckily, the guys at Mozilla have a great project called Sunbird. Sunbird is the missing piece of Outlook that I needed, but not hooked into the email – that is where Lighting fits.

Lighting adds Calendar and Task management to Thunderbird directly. Henceforth, making it the ultimate replacement for Outlook.

Once you install the add-on you will see the Today Pane on the right side of your Thunderbird window. In it is the current date, upcoming events and tasks. Users of Outlook 2007 should feel right at home. On the top left of Thunderbird there are three new buttons – Mail, Calendar, and Tasks. Clicking on each take you to that main area.

Some of the most exciting features:

  • Multiple calendar support. Local calendars, iCal calendars, shared calendars, google calendars – all supported.
    Google calendar provider for extra features – the Gdata Provider.
  • Multi-day/week events
  • Tasks! You can create a to-do list – complete with due dates and alarms.
  • Drag and drop. Just drag your email from the email list onto the Today Pane and Lighting automatically create an event or task based off the email.
  • Add emailed events and invitations right to your calendar.
  • Send invitations

One of my favorite features is the Google Calendar support. This allows me to read and write to my Google calendar from Thunderbird without having to open up a browser window. Then, when I am away from my desktop, I can still open up my Gmail account and view/edit events – knowing full well when I get back to my desk the changes will be there. Look out, Microsoft Exchange!!

My only complaint continues to be the time dialog box. While it is not terrible, it’s just clunky to use. I think to improve it the developers need to remember that most Americans are not used to the 24-hour military time – it confuses us. Allow for me to make it a 12-hour clock and then choose AM or PM. Keep in mind that this is a VERY minor complaint.

So to wrap this up… Mozilla Thunderbird and Lightning together are a Microsoft Outlook KILLER! The 1.0 release is polished, stable and very well-thought-out. Everything works correctly and things are organized in very user-friendly way. The application is quick and responsive, making the whole experience very enjoyable. The Lightning team continues to create a “game changing” project. It is BETTER than Microsoft Outlook in every way.