Sunbird -- One Cool Calendar

Most everyone who knows me knows that I am schedule-impaired. I'll arrive a week early for a meeting, and then forget to be there the day it occurs. I'll forget to add an entry to my list of upcoming events, or forget to look at it. If you really want me to be there, you'll send me an email exactly two days in advance--not so early that I forget it, but early enough that there's a good chance I'll see the message a day or two before. Even then, you may see me dashing in late, having forgotten all about it until the last minute.

That hapless state of affairs may be about to change. I've installed the new Sunbird calendar from Mozilla, and I love it. There are a couple of things I'd like to see improved, but the nuts and bolts are terrific. Here are some of the features I really love:

  • Great calendar displays. See a day at a time, a month, or several weeks. There's also a pane you can set to show a list of upcoming events, one entry per line. (That should be the default view for that pane, in my opinion.)

  • A little box shows the name of the event in the calendar. A rollover pop up shows you details.

  • A really clever interface for entering times. You select the hour in the top rows, and select the minutes in the boxes under it. (At first, the fact that it showed 24-hour times threw me. But then I noticed that the times after noon are directly under the times before noon, making it easy to select "2 pm" for example, by selecting the box numbered "14"--which is directly under the box numbered "2".

  • Enter repeating events, and override or delete individual entries.

  • Complex repetition capabilities, like "the 3rd Thursday in November".

  • Schedule a reminder any time from 5 minutes to a week before, with a little window that pops up on your screen to let you know.

  • A calendar can be shared on a WebDAV server or on the file system, so you can access the same calendar from multiple locations.

  • You can aggregate multiple calendars, subscribing to an organizational calendar, for example, that posts events you want to attend. Their calendar is merged with yours, so you don't have to enter events yourself.

Of course, there are always things that could be improved. Here's my wishlist, although none of the items on it will keep from using the app:

  • The save/subscribe interface needs improving. Fortunately, work is in progress in that area. At the moment, though, it's not always clear which calendar you're editing or how to share one. (In one client, you create a calendar you can share. In the other, you "subscribe" to it, and then delete the default calendar so that any changes you make are saved to the shared calendar. It's not difficult once you know how, but the bug reports were a lot more helpful than interface in this area! (small, but important)

  • Dates have a long format (January 12, 2008) and a short (numeric) format (1/12/2008). More choices would be nice, such as the European form I favor: "12 Jan 2008". (small thing)

  • A year-at-time view would make it easier to go to a particular month. It wouldn't have to show events. It would just be a navigational aid. (small thing).
Pretty cool, huh? My wishlist has only one non-trivial thing on it, and work is going on in that area. Excellent!


try lightning, the add-on to Thunderbird, that gives you the functionality in your email client:

This version supports Sun Java System Calendar Server (WCAP):
Our folks here in Hamburg are working on that.

The nightly build are working pretty well:
and integrate nicely into TB.


Posted by Frank on January 22, 2008 at 09:08 PM PST #

Thanks for the comment, Frank. I like the idea of integrating with the calendar service, but Lightning's interface just totally left me cold. SunBird, on the other hand, rocks my world!

They use the same code base, so maybe we'll see that integration in SunBird one day.

Posted by Eric Armstrong on January 24, 2008 at 08:18 AM PST #

You can influence the format in which times (12h vs 24h formats) and short and long dates are shown, by simply editing the shell script from which the sunbird binary is started. For me the script is in /usr/local/sunbird/sunbird whereas the binary is called sunbird-bin in the same directory. I simply added

export LC_TIME

somewhere near the beginning and now I have dates and times displayed as they should in Sweden :-). Not quite sure which time locale would produce the date format you prefer.

Posted by Michael on January 29, 2008 at 01:21 AM PST #

I am also using Sunbird, as I think it is a great program. I was using it in Ubuntu 8.04 and then bought an Asus Eee PC running Xanddros. I copied the settings from my Sunbird installation to the Eee and ran Sunbird in Xandros successfully, except that the times displayed are in the am/pm format, which I do not like. I had the 24-hour format working okay in Ubuntu, but it will not display as such in Xandros, even though the system is set to use 24-hour time in the system clock.

I tried adding the bits in the sunbird script that Michael suggested, but they did not work for me.

Personally I find the 24h clock much easier to understand, and more efficient as there is no need for am or pm, which takes up unnecessary space, especially on the small screen of my Eee PC 901.

Posted by Avoura on April 21, 2009 at 05:16 AM PDT #

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