Thunderbird and Lightning — 2

The Thunderbird Lightning add-on has been in development for many years. I expect the add-on to be robust and stable. I hope the add-on is usable as well.

After I restored the add-on without performing a fresh install, my first step was to become familiar with the basic interface.

I never used a full-fledged calendar app. Even back in my pre-computer days I never used a “day planner” handbook. Mostly because I try hard to keep my life as simple as practical. That is, I never needed a full-fledged calendar. With my computer usage a basic reminder app has always been sufficient.

Activating Lightning reminded me why I never adopted a full-fledged computer calendar app. Immediately I felt overwhelmed by the increase in “noise.”

Any time I feel overwhelmed I remind myself of an important guideline for dealing with change.

Remember to breath.

Another guideline is remembering that every journey begins with a single step. That is, don’t panic.

Activating the add-on introduces a new Events and Tasks option in the menu bar. I am old school. I like menu bars and refuse to apologize.

As I have used Thunderbird only as an email client, I have not used the tabbed interface. To use Lightning means using tabs.

There is a panel feature called the Today Pane that appears on the right side of the Thunderbird window. The pane can be toggled on or off using the F11 key or with the mouse at the bottom of the pane. Customizing the layout is possible. I decided on displaying a “mini-month” calendar at the top and the list of upcoming events below.

My next step was importing my ReminderFox events. This was straightforward and there were no bumps or bruises. The Today Pane displayed the imported data.

The Today Pane defaults to displaying the next five days. I changed that to three days. One nuisance is when I expand any of the drop-down lists the Today Pane widens to display all text. There does not seem to be any configuration option to wrap text and keep the pane width fixed.

A full calendar can be displayed. Doing so is done in a new tab. There are two related tabs. One for the calendar and one for tasks. Either can be opened through the menu bar or keyboard shortcut.

I am running Thunderbird with both the ReminderFox and Lightning add-ons enabled. Doing so allowed me to notice a bug. My Lightning calendar had offset some event times by one hour. Some events showed the times had imported correctly. The calendar time zone configuration was correct.

I suspected ReminderFox. Throughout my usage I always noticed that ReminderFox does not manage repeating events correctly. Repeating events seem to accumulate. I methodically pruned the ReminderFox calendar of all old repeating events. I closed Thunderbird and created a backup of the ReminderFox data files. I deleted the Lightning calendar data files. I launched Thunderbird and verified the calendar was empty. I again imported the ReminderFox event list. This time the event times all seemed to be correct.

I used ReminderFox only as a reminder tool. I do not track tasks. I always have maintained simple text files for my to-do lists. I like to move forward in life, but I am not an obsessed “get things done” person. I am not motivated to track related “triumphs.” I am unlikely to venture far into using Lightning to monitor tasks, but who knows.

Lightning supports multiple calendars. For many users that typically means a personal or home calendar and a work calendar. I never used ReminderFox in this manner, but I might start tinkering with a work calendar.

Lightning supports a Publish option as well as synchronizing. The idea is to push the calendar to a server. This might prove helpful because at work the owner reluctantly relies on Google Calendar. We are slowly migrating laptops and some workstations to Ubuntu MATE. Along with that effort, migrating from Outlook to Thunderbird is feasible. With support for publishing and synchronizing calendars, I might be able to help the owner break that reliance and keep the company calendar internal to our own infrastructure.

I will need a few weeks to learn Lightning. Overall, I think I will acclimate without screaming or awakening in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. Considering the ReminderFox bug to accumulate past repeating events, Lightning would be an improvement.

I will let the dust settle before again trying to update to Thunderbird 60.x.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, Thunderbird

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