Saturday, February 05, 2005

Sunbird 0.2 Released

The Sunbird Project - Standalone Calendar

I've been following this project for several years now. It has it's roots all the way back to the Netscape Calendar project.

Back in the days of the Netscape Corporation, they had developed a very usable calendaring system consisting of the Calendar client that came with Netscape and a server called Netscape Calendar Server.

It was attempting to go up against the likes of :ccmail, exchange and notes. All of which were based on very proprietary and non-interoperable platforms. Netscape's Calendar Server was an attempt to bring enterprise level group calendaring to public standards. They were heavily involved in the vCalandar and vCard standards, although I can't remember if the developed them or adopted them.

I thought they showed great promise.

However, with the herculean efforts by the likes of Microsoft and Lotus in both product advancement and marketing, I think these excellent technologies have been marginalized. They never reached what we used to call "critical mass".

The Sunbird project has done a good job in building a nice, standards based calendaring project, but it really hasn't caught up to where the old Netscape products were.

Personal calendaring just doesn't seem to have the value that enterprise, group based calendaring has.

For me, there are a few key features that need to be in any calendaring solution to keep me interested.

1. I must be able to maintain a single personal calendar from multiple computers. I move between 4 computers on 4 separate networks on a weekly basis. Sunbird has a rough setup process that can let this occur using ftp or WebDAV. I haven't put it into use yet, so I'd love to hear about anybody's experiences with this.

2. I need the ability to put this system into place in my organization and be able to view other employees available times as well as schedule group events. Sunbird has the ability to subscribe to other personal calendars, but I can't find any ability to manage group meetings. There is little integration between calendars.

3. I REALLY would like to see vCalendar drag-n-drop between Sunbird and Thunderbird. Being able to send and receive meetings and event notices this way is very helpful. It doesn't look like this integration is currently available although I think there are some hooks in there for future development.

Sunbird is being built with the thought that it can be embedded in the other Mozilla products like Firefox and Thunderbird. I'm expecting that there will be greater levels of integration down the road as well as lots of third party add-ons because of the extension capability that is built into the underlying engine.

At first look, this product is obviously still a 0.2 release, but it's still one I'm going to keep my eye on.

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