Zimbra or Google Calendar with Thunderbird and Lightning

The title sounds a bit Mythological eh? I originally published this entry on my work blog but felt that some people might be able to get some use out of this tip. To use it, you’ll need Zimbra or Google Calendar. I’ll cover Zimbra mostly and then give a link on how to setup Google Calendar at the end. For those interested, my work blog is here.

If you don’t have Zimbra, they have a free Open Source Community Edition available. It’s feature rich and quite configurable for your email. It can even be used to retrieve multiple email sources and bring them all into one place…it also has identity management so you can send from multiple accounts. Very nice stuff.

“I use Thunderbird for my email client. It’s quite speedy and nice. Coming from various places of employment that used Outlook and Exchange, I miss being able to schedule appointments via my email client (of course, with Zimbra, I’m able to do this via the web interface..but I like using Thunderbird for its ability to sort and
handle my email).

Enter Lightning, the sunbird-like extension for Thunderbird. So how does one integratelightning with say, Zimbra? It was rather simple and easy to do so. I’m posting what I did to get this up and running so that others won’t fumble through the Zimbra forums trying to piece various posts together finally arriving at a solution after banging heads against the wall repeatedly. Note that I’m assuming you use Zimbra/Thunderbird with IMAP.

Zimbra and Thunderbird Preparation

To get things rolling, install Lightning, the extension from Mozilla AND install the Provider Add on Extension for Thunderbird as well. This Provider Add on Extension also works for Google Calendar (or so it is blogged about often). I’m assuming that you know how to install Thunderbird extensions (which are different than Firefox ones) and that you’ve been able to install both of those plugins in the order listed.

Open Zimbra and browse to your calendar. Right click it and choose “share calendar”. You don’t need to actually share your calendar because you’ll need to provide your login and password initially when connecting…so you’ll be able to login as yourself through Thunderbird/Lightening…you just need to copy the URL at the bottom of the pop-up window that appears when you choose share calendar. So copy that URL and switch back to your Thunderbird email client.

Thunderbird/Lightning Config

After restarting when you installed the extensions above, you’ll see the lightening calendar bar in your default view. Click on Calendars and you’ll see there is one called ‘home’. This is your default one. Let’s add a calendar…click on ‘New’. Choose “On The Network” for your location.

Next, choose icalendar (ICS) and input the URL you copied from the previous step in the blank and click Next. Give the calendar a unique name and pick a color (I’m partial to green), click next, then click finish. It should prompt you for a login and password…make sure you use your Zimbra Login and Password.

Zimbra Config

None needed…everything is ready to go.

Tidbits of Handy Information?

There is one downside I’ve found so far. When you create an appointment in Lightning, it creates it as an ICS attached email…so it’s not completely integrated. You’ll need to send out your appointments like this. It also warns you that the appointment has already been added to your calendar when hitting the accept button…which is odd but it works just fine and ignoring this small problem is easy.

Integrate the ReminderFox extension with Thunderbird to give you reminder pop-ups for all your appointments and tasks :)

I hooked into my google calendar so I could view my personal appointments (go to DMV, pay bill, etc) as well as my work appointments. Instructions for hooking into Google calendar are here.

If you have problems connecting your Zimbra calendar, look at NAT for the problems. Think about opening up the right ports in your firewalls to allow access to IMAP and think of the proper FQDN for your server. You may have to use IP address instead if things are in a DMZ/orange zone.”

I hope this gives this post a bit more exposure as many people often wonder how to hook Zimbra and their Google Calendar into Thunderbird.


This content is published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

  • Andrew Downes

    Thanks – very helpful, this has made the migration from Outlook a whole lot easier