[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Wednesday, 2008-11-05

Migrating from Outlook to Thunderbird

Filed under: Intellectual Property,Software — bblackmoor @ 20:54

T-Mobile G1I have wanted to get away from Outlook for a number of years now — ever since I dumped Microsoft Office for OpenOffice. So why haven’t I? For the first few years, it was simple expediency: there really was no functional alternative to Outlook. Then, it was convenience: between myself and my spouse, we keep the calendars and address books of three or four desktop machines synchronized by hotsyncing them through my Palm. For the last few years, this task was not feasible with Thunderbird.

However, I recently got a T-Mobile G1, and with its ties to Google, I thought surely that I would find some way of replacing Outlook while still keeping our contacts and calendars all in sync. As it turns out, I did, thanks to some very clever programmers.


First off, I installed Thunderbird, Lightning, Enigmail, and gContactSync, and set up Enigmail to use my GPG keys (I won’t go into all of that here, but the Enigmail folks are very helpful getting that up and running).

I then needed to import our contacts from Outlook to Thunderbird. That was fairly simple. I set up gContactSync to synchronize our contacts with Google, and that was that — for the contacts, anyway.


Setting up our calendars was a little more complicated. First, I needed to get to get our calendars into Google Calendar. I exported the calendar to a PST file, and then attempted to upload that file to Google. Every time I attempted this, it failed about mid-way through. I kept having to delete the items from the Google Calendar and start over. What finally worked was exporting specific date ranges. I did it year by year, and then individually imported each of those PST files to Google Calendar. This worked perfectly.

Next, I needed to synchronize Thunderbird (actually Lightning) with Google. The way I chose was to use GCALDaemon. GCALDaemon is a cross-platform application that keeps a local iCal repository on your computer, and then periodically syncs that with your Google Calendar. Then, you point Thunderbird at the local iCal file, and there you have it: synchronized calendars.

Once I had my laptop set up, it was very easy to set up our other computers the same way, as well as setting up the G1 to connect to the same Google account (I do not use Gmail for email, but that does not prevent using a Gmail account’s address book).

At last, after far too many years, I have eliminated Outlook from our desktops. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away.