May 19, 2010

How To Sync Exchange Calendar With Thunderbird and Lightning

Yesterday I posted about setting up a PGP key server in Ubuntu for use at work. That is one piece of the puzzle. The second piece of the PGP puzzle is integrating PGP with your email client so that you can easily send and receive encrypted messages.

I always recommend gpg4win for Windows users looking for a free OpenPGP solution in Windows. In Linux, GPG is built in, but in Windows you have to find 3rd party software to get the job done. In Microsoft Outlook 2003 and 2007, the Outlook plug-in that comes with gpg4win works great. The problem? We are now using Outlook 2010 in the office. Sometimes it sucks to be bleeding edge because old software isn’t always compatible.

You know what works well for PGP/GPG though? Mozilla Thunderbird with the Enigmail extension. The problem with Thunderbird is that it doesn’t natively support Microsoft Exchange. Sure there are tricks to get it to work, but in reality the best way is to enable secure IMAP and SMTP to your Exchange server. You can easily do that on ports 993 and 587 the way Google does with Gmail. If you don’t know how to do that, look it up because it is beyond the scope of this post!

lightning Anyhoo, back on track. So I configured Secure IMAP/SMTP on my Exchange server, and got Thunderbird working fine… Well, except Calendar and Contacts. The contact issue wasn’t a big deal because I just imported them in from Outlook. My Calendar however is dynamic, and I like it to have a two-way sync with Exchange. Also, there isn’t a built-in calendar for Thunderbird. That is where Lightning comes in. Lightning is a calendar extension for Thunderbird and Seamonkey.

Okay, so I installed Lightning, but it doesn’t automagically start working with Exchange. For that I needed yet one more extension. It comes as a private 3rd party extension called The Microsoft Data Provider for Thunderbird Lightning. Here are some of the features it provides:

  • Creating, modifying, deleting calendar items.
  • Inviting attendees to meetings and sending meeting requests.
  • Free/Busy information when inviting other Exchange users to meetings.
  • Notifications for meeting requests
  • Configuration autodiscovery
Now, with the exception of accepting/declining inbound meeting requests (Still have to use OWA for that) I can fully manage my calendar through Thunderbird and have it sync with Exchange!

Are you using Thunderbird  with Exchange? Know of any other cool plug-ins and extensions to make it work better? Do you use PGP with Outlook 2010? What plug-in do you use for that? Let me know in the comments!

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