The latest addition to the Mozilla Project's offerings is Mozilla Sunbird,
a calendar application based on the
Sunbird has been in the works for some time, but the recent 0.2 release
from the Sunbird team is the first "official" release. We're not really
sure what makes this "official," but we thought this might be a good time
to look at Sunbird to see how it's maturing.
Sunbird is far from complete, but it's much more stable than one might
expect from an application at version 0.2. We used Sunbird for a couple of
days without experiencing any crashes or "show stopper" bugs. There are a
few glitches in Sunbird 0.2, which is to be expected. For example, copying
and pasting an event from Thursday to Friday changed the start and end
times of the event. There are also a few minor interface glitches, but
nothing that would prevent a user from getting work done with Sunbird.
To test Sunbird's calendar import feature and handling of iCal files, we
grabbed the U.S. holiday calendar from the Mozilla's holiday
and a few calendars from iCalShare. Sunbird had no problems
importing the calendars, though it automatically pushed the displayed month
back to the start of the calendars.
The Sunbird roadmap
shows how far Sunbird has progressed so far. Sunbird lacks the ability to
export to HTML, edit remote calendars, accept invitations from Outlook
users, and a number of other features. Still, the list of features that are
complete is larger than the list of incomplete features. The list is not
entirely up to date, either. For example, the "work week view" feature is
available, though the roadmap doesn't show this feature as complete. This
is, in fact, one of this writer's favorite features in Sunbird. The user
can specify the days of their work week, and display only those days in the
calendar view. Since this writer works a decidedly non-standard work week
(Thursday through Sunday) this can come in quite handy.
As a standalone calendar application, Sunbird is already on its way to
being a useful project. However, many users are going to want a calendar
application that integrates with a mailer and browser. To that end, there's
Lightning. Lightning is still in the early development phase, so
there's very little concrete information about it, but the general gist of
the project is to provide tighter integration between Thunderbird and
Sunbird. The first general-user release of Lightning is tentatively
scheduled for mid-2005.
Another area where Sunbird needs help is device
synchronization. Right now, the application doesn't offer any automatic
method of synchronizing with a PDA, which is a feature that many users will
want from a calendaring application.
Why should users care about Sunbird when we already have Evolution and KDE PIM, which are much further along than
Sunbird? The primary reason is multi-platform support. While Evolution and
KDE PIM have much to recommend them, wide cross-platform availability is
something that neither project can offer at this time. Companies that are
looking to standardize on an application will want something that runs on
Windows, and possibly Mac OS X as well.
Sunbird is a promising application. Given the quality of Firefox and
Thunderbird, not to mention the original Mozilla suite, we're optimistic
that Sunbird will be an excellent calendaring application when it grows
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