Syncing Thunderbird Contacts and Calendar with Blackberry

Sometime late last year I switched from Outlook 2003 to Thunderbird.1 I liked Outlook, I was used to it from work, so I didn’t want to switch. But it didn’t take long before it’s abysmal IMAP support drove me nuts with bogus error messages. I know Microsoft makes money off Exchange servers, not IMAP servers, but how hard can it be? Every other free mail client works great with IMAP!

This includes Thunderbird. Sure, it’s not as polished or mature as Outlook when it comes to contacts2 or tasks, but I am no longer getting error messages every 10 minutes. Unfortunately, Blackberry Desktop software won’t sync Thunderbird contacts and calendar items.

Enter Google. Now, I still haven’t jumped on the Gmail bandwagon; I use Yahoo Mail for my spammy accounts, simply because I already had that account. But I do have a Google account, and I recently learned that their Contact Manager and Calendar apps have their own home pages that don’t require Gmail accounts. And they allow 2-way syncing! So here’s what you need:

A Google Calendar – use the links above. Make note of the private XML link; to find that, you must click on Settings, then the link for your calendar.

This Thunderbird add-on gives you calendar and task functions. I’m assuming you already have this installed.

Provider for Google Calendar
This Thunderbird add-on allows syncing with your Google calendar. Unfortunately, your current Thunderbird calendar is no good anymore. If you already have stuff in it, you have to export it. Use iCalendar (.ics) format! The other formats do not support recurring events like birthdays or any weekly reminders you have set up. Import that file into Google Calendar, disable your current Thunderbird calendar (under Properties), and then create a new Google calendar within Thunderbird (this requires the private XML calendar link).

This Thunderbird add-on syncs your contacts with Google Contact Manager. Make sure your contacts are clean before you sync. For instance, I imported my Outlook Contacts into a Contacts address book, but Thunderbird defaults to a Personal Address Book. I should have copied them over right away, but didn’t. Thunderbird automatically collected addresses, so I wound up with duplicates I had to merge or delete. Zindus will spot duplicates during the syncing process and let you pick one and delete the other, but it’s probably safer to do this by hand. When that’s done, go to Tools >> Zindus and sync.

Google Sync

This mobile app syncs your contacts and calendar with what you just set up on Google. It can be installed from within Google Mobile, which I already had installed so I could get Google Maps Mobile.3 Install it, sign in, and you’re done!

  1. This was after switching from SquirrelMail to Outlook. []
  2. Why can’t I highlight text on the contact card? This drives me nuts! []
  3. BTW, Maps is way better than Sprint Navigation. Sure, there’s no voice nav (which I admit is important), but for seeing where you are, scrolling around that map, and doing local searches, it wins hands down. Its routes are far superior, so if you can remember the directions, you’ll get where you’re going faster than the Sprint voice navigation. []