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