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thunderbirdlogo.pngToday I started using the desktop email client Mozilla Thunderbird again.  Gmail is an excellent email application but if I am out and about with my netbook and I have difficulty finding a wireless connection, then the ability to download all my emails beforehand to Thunderbird is a lifesaver.

Synchronizing your Gmail email messages with Thunderbird is a breeze by using IMAP.   Every change you make in Thunderbird is more or less instantly reflected in your online email account.

But what about your Gmail contact book, your Google calendar and Google Reader RSS feeds?    Although Thunderbird offers their own versions, I wanted it instead to synchronize with my Google accounts and keep everything updated as I made changes.    The thought of having two versions, one in Thunderbird and one online, was not very appealing.

Here’s how I finally managed to do it.

Synchronize Your Google Contacts With Thunderbird :

This can be achieved by using an extension called Zindus.   Just install the extension and after restarting Thunderbird, go into the options :

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zindus

It’s very easy to set up. Just insert your Google account name and password.   Then click the “test connection” button and it will connect to your Google account.    Your contact book will then be downloaded and any further changes in Thunderbird will also be synchronized with your online account.

Synchronize Your Google Calendar With Thunderbird

This one has already been covered by Tina How To: Integrate Google Calendar Into Thunderbird How To: Integrate Google Calendar Into Thunderbird Read More (which is the guide I used) but here’s still a quick summary.   You need two extensions – Lightning and Provider For Google Calendar.   When you install them and restart, you’ll then see your calendar on the right hand side.

thunderbirdcalendar

To start the synchronization, find the XML link of your Google Calendar (found under the settings on your GCal page), insert it into the Thunderbird calendar settings, and bingo, your events are downloaded and synchronized.

To get the full, in-depth process, read Tina’s excellent how-to How To: Integrate Google Calendar Into Thunderbird How To: Integrate Google Calendar Into Thunderbird Read More .

Synchronize Your Google Reader With Thunderbird

This was the biggie as far as I was concerned.   With over 2000 unread RSS messages, I wanted to be able to browse through the feeds and have it instantly updated online.   I didn’t want to read them in Thunderbird but for them still to be sitting unread online.   That would have led to chaos.    Finally I discovered one possible solution.

Basically what the following method does is install a mini browser in your Thunderbird.   So technically you are still reading them online but inside your Thunderbird client instead.   So it’s not an offline synchronization solution which is what I am really looking for.   But for the moment this will do until I find a better method.

  • First download Thunderbrowse and CSLite and install them in Thunderbird.
  • Now go into your Thunderbird options and on the ‘General‘ tab, make sure the box labelled When Thunderbird launches, show the Start Page in the message area is checked, and in the location field, enter the URL http://www.google.com/reader/i/.
  • Now go into your Thunderbrowse options. On the ‘Content‘ tab, check the option Enable SmartJavascript?, and click OK.
  • Open the preferences for the CS Lite extension, and on the ‘Global‘ tab, select Allow cookies globally from the drop-down box.
  • Now restart Thunderbird.   You should now see Google Reader in the main browser pane.   Log in and your feeds will appear.
  • One piece of advice – place the Thunderbrowse button on your Thunderbird toolbar.  Then when you need to navigate away from the window to read your emails, you can click the Thunderbrowse button to go back again.

Do you have any better solutions to synchronize your Google accounts with Thunderbird? If so, I would love to hear about them. Let everyone know in the comments.

  1. Victor
    November 24, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    No me convence ninguno de los 2 metodos, pero seguiré buscando por la web a ver si puedo sincronizar los feeds. De todos modos muy buenos sus aportes.

  2. Rob
    November 20, 2009 at 2:12 am

    I've been using thunderbird for reading my gmail and google apps accounts via imap, and synching contacts and calendar with Zindus and Lightning/Google Provider for around a year now. For RSS I much prefer thunderbird's interface to google reader, but then I can't sync feeds between different computers. Searching for a solution to that problem is what brought me to your post.

    But I dislike the google reader interface so much that I would never use it inside thunderbird. Instead I'm test a free service feedmyinbox.com that will email any rss feed to you. You don't even have to create an account (just click a link in a confirmation email) but if you do create an account you can manage all your feeds in a nice control panel. One drawback is it seems to have a delay of up to a day in reading new feeds and emailing them to you. I just set up a test feed but haven't received anything yet to confirm whether it works well. If it does, I plan to set up filters in gmail to move the feed emails to their own folder. Fingers crossed.

  3. Alex
    October 6, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I especially found the idea of syncing RSS with Google Reader useful.

  4. Ashwin / Thoughts Unlimited
    September 5, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    I am actively using Outlook for my Gmail. But this article tempts me to try out Thunderbird.

    Nicely written!

  5. Steve
    September 5, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Hi Mark

    I was thinking of switching to Thunderbird from Outlook. But read a few articles that said Thunderbird was not being actively developed. Could you shed some light on this?

    Thanks.

  6. Volodyaka
    September 5, 2009 at 9:48 am

    I think the thunderbird is the best spam server in the world.

  7. CLibra
    September 5, 2009 at 4:51 am

    I much prefer using CalDAV over Provider to sync Google Calendar, 'cos changes made offline will sync upon next connection. CalDAV is a more native approach and it also lets you pick up invitations via email, which as far as I'm aware, Provider can't do. And best of all, it's actually maintained by Google.

    By the way, thanks for linking to my blog :)
    Sorry... forgot to say great post - can't wait to read your next one!

  8. CLibra
    September 5, 2009 at 3:43 am

    I much prefer using CalDAV over Provider to sync Google Calendar, 'cos changes made offline will sync upon next connection. CalDAV is a more native approach and it also lets you pick up invitations via email, which as far as I'm aware, Provider can't do. And best of all, it's actually maintained by Google.

    By the way, thanks for linking to my blog :)

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