Changing from Outlook to Thunderbird: Calender Export/Import

The best way I found to get your calender data from Outlook 2003 to Thunderbird/Lightning it via the google calendar (if you happen to not have an invitation, yet, ask me — if google still requires invitations that is). If you install the Provider for Google Calendar all you need to do is

in Outlook

  1. Export calendar data into a file (Comma Separated Values – Windows) for one year each, i.e. in the last step of the exporter 1.1.2007-31.12.2007, new export and choose 1.1.2008-31.12.2008, and so on. Be warned that repeating appointments will be saved as single items since the .csv format doesn’t allow reoccurring events.

in google calendar

  1. Create a new calendar (I called it Outlook)
  2. On the left hand side where it lists your calendars in that box choose the drop down menu (click “add”) and click “import” and import each file one by one
  3. Don’t forget to select the calendar Outlook
  4. Now go to the calendar view and, again on the left hand side, hit “Manage calendars”, select the calendar “Outlook” and at the very bottom copy the XML Link Private Address

in Thunderbird/Lightning

  1. Create a new network calendar
  2. For the google calendar location insert the copied XML link and move on
  3. Choose a different presentation colour to distiguish what is the Outlook later on
  4. You also might want to let Thunderbird save the required google-accout password

Now you have Thunderbird/Lightning showing your data from your google calendar in a different colour (mind you, it doesn’t work reliably with nightly builds of lighning, yet). You can, over time, select each calendar item, edit it and select your local calendar to save the appointment in if you prefer not to have everything (or anything) saved in google calendar.

Update 2008/04/20: Yesterday I stumbled upon a very nice and promising looking cross-platform alternative called spicebird which has import for Outlook coming along already (it’s beta 0.4 now). They aim at giving a functionally complete replacement for Outlook. The software is based on Thunderbird/Lightning or Sunbird respectively. Watch a demo video or read their roadmap for more details. Some interesting ideas are:

  • Blogs as Email
  • Integration with a CMS (Drupal)
  • Document management
  • email tabs
  • Instant Messaging


  1. Wednesday, 28th Apr 2010 at 16:03

    […] Changing from Outlook to Thunderbird: Calender¬†Export/Import […]

  2. Grover said,

    Friday, 15th Jan 2010 at 19:28

    Is there no way to import tasks and calendar items directly from Outlook into Thunderbird/Lightning? This is a huge barrier to entry IMHO.

    • sysblog said,

      Saturday, 16th Jan 2010 at 00:16

      Not to my knowledge, I’m afraid. Maybe someone has developed a tool in the meantime, but since outlook’s file format is closed source I would not assume so. If u find anything please let me know.

  3. Techh said,

    Monday, 11th May 2009 at 10:46

    Now Yahoo comes with Zimbra Desktop and may be a better replacement for both outlook and thunderbird.

  4. octruil said,

    Saturday, 11th Apr 2009 at 12:21

    I tried this and exported from Outlook imported into Google and linked Thunderbird/Lightning to Google and it works fine – the only difference being in Google select the settings on the left choose your calendar then scroll to the the bottom of the screen click in the ICAL icon next to Private Address and paste this into the Lightning calendar location.

  5. MailSavR said,

    Thursday, 12th Feb 2009 at 06:22

    I tried to move my Outlook mail over to Thunderbird but nothing seems to work. I tried a Thunderbird plugin with French error messages but that didn’t work either.

    My problem was made worse because I had PC problems and could only save the pst file from a dying hard drive. I had to get my email back. There was information I needed and I had software keys for about 10 programs on it that I never backed up. After checking dozens of blogs and forums, it seemed the only way to move the data was to have Outlook installed.

    I found a program called pst walker here => [] that let me read pst files directly and copy any attachments I need to other locations. I got all my data back and it saved my contacts too. I didn’t like paying the registration fee but it was better than losing all my contacts and data in my email.

    I must have searched through more than 20 forums and blogs before I found this solution so I’m passing this information along to every site I visited. I appreciate the help I get from these forums and blogs and I’m happy I can give something back.


  6. afura said,

    Thursday, 17th Jul 2008 at 19:24

    Thanks I moved from Outlook to Thunderbird successfully following your tutorial. Well, thanks!

  7. sysblog said,

    Thursday, 26th Jun 2008 at 20:29

    Hi Misia.

    Thanks for your comment! First of all if you’ve just started with Lightning you might want to have a look at first.

    About Google->Lightning: Does Lightning display and are you talking about my last statement to edit calender items to change the calender it belongs to? Or do you have trouble showing google cal stuff in Lightning at all?

    Anyway, it’s been a while and I cannot remember details. However I do remember it wasn’t always that easy especially with reoccurring events. So there is a chance it doesn’t work at all for individual items.

  8. Misia said,

    Tuesday, 24th Jun 2008 at 01:38

    Hello I found this post desperately trying to find my way out of Outlook.
    I hope you could help me.

    I followed your instructions, and I was able to import Outlook data to Google Calendar. However, which seems strange, I cannot get the data from Google calendar to Lightning. Any Idea why that can be?
    I will appreciate your help

  9. sysblogd said,

    Wednesday, 29th Aug 2007 at 20:27

    Ta, Steve. That does look helpfull

  10. Steve Rowe said,

    Wednesday, 29th Aug 2007 at 19:03

    there is a program called calgoo that will do a full outlook to google sync.

    might want to check it out – cuts out a couple of steps for ya.


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