You Want It - When?!!
by Alan German
Do you have
calendar-envy of your friends who run the full-blown
blown version of Outlook rather than Outlook Express? If
so, open-source technology can provide an answer. You
need Sunbird a cross platform standalone
calendar application based on Mozilla's XUL user
The software can be downloaded as a 6.8 MB ZIP file. The
installation instructions, contained in a readme.txt
file, are a little confusing as they refer to
Mozilla rather than to Sunbird. This doesn't
make a whole lot of sense to me since there is Mozilla
Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Mozilla Sunbird.
Perhaps the instructions are generic for all Mozilla
packages but, if so, this isn't made clear. In any case,
following the instructions to unpack the ZIP file to a
new directory (e.g. C:\Program Files\Mozilla Sunbird),
and running the file sunbird.exe has the desired effect
of installing the Sunbird program.
Use of the program is intuitive for the most part. This
is actually quite fortuitous since the Sunbird project is
a work in progress, and there is no help file included
with the current distribution. But as the release notes
say: ...we do not consider it to be a
production-quality release. It is pre-release software
and should be treated as such.
launches with a three-pane window with small windows
displaying a calendar of the current month and a task
list (that is mercifully empty!). The largest window
shows the single-day view for the current date, but this
can be easily changed to display a week or a month, or a
set of user-configurable multiple weeks, using various
icons on a menu bar.
For my purposes, viewing the current month's events seems
to work best. Adding an event to the calendar is as
simple as clicking on the New Event menu icon. This opens
a dialogue box for the addition of the event title and
location, a longer description of the event or associated
notes, and the dates and times of the starting and
completion points of the event. Other features include a
check box for an all-day event that results in the time
boxes being greyed out, and the ability to have the event
repeated at regular intervals.
The Tools-Options menus have a number of tabs
General, Alarms, Views and My Timezone that allow
customization of many of the program's features. In
particular, alarms can be set for both events and tasks,
with an alarm box being displayed on the screen, a custom
sound played, and even having an E-mail sent to a
When an event is added to the calendar, its title and
starting time show up in the associated day on the
monthly view of the calendar. If the completion date is
several days after the starting date, the time of the
event and the title are displayed on each involved day of
this view. Thus, the monthly view provides a
If you add a task to your schedule, it shows up in the
task-list window. If you include a starting date and
time, it is added to the task list and is also displayed
as a starred item on the main calendar. Checking the box
next to a given task, to indicate that it has been
completed, literally crosses it off the list with
the text mode changing to strikethrough. Alternatively,
you can opt not to display tasks that have been completed
so that the list does eventually get shorter!
So, if you need an electronic calendar and/or a to-do
list, Sunbird can provide it. While the developers
obviously still have some work to do, including providing
documentation of the program's functions, the utility is
certainly very usable. And, it's an open-source product
so it won't cost you anything to give it a try.
Of course, the downside of this software is that your
partner may discover the to-do list feature, so perhaps a
free copy of Sunbird isn't such a great idea after all?
Sunbird 0.3 alpha2 (Open Source)
Originally published: March, 2007
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The opinions expressed in these reviews
do not necessarily represent the views of the
Ottawa PC Users' Group or its members.