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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2008 11:27 pm   

Switching from Outlook to Thunderbird
 
I'd *really* like to switch from Outlook to Thunderbird if I can. Thunderbird has come a long way over the past couple of years, and it now interfaces with our local IMAP server perfectly. I've got it configured to work just like Outlook. It's faster and has some nice extensions.

But there is one problem left. We receive our sales orders via email. Each day I run a program that processes these emails and enters them into our local customer database. This is sort of a backup of the server "Store" database. It acts as a nice double-check since it ensures that the customer really received their license key (it emails me a copy when it sends it to the customer).

Anyway, I currently do this via the COM API in Outlook. I access a specific mail box and read all of the messages, and then process them.

Now I need to figure out how to do this with Thunderbird. I tried searching for a Thunderbird "COM" API, but COM is too common of a word to make that very useful. I tried searching for "Delphi Thunderbird" to see if there were any existing Delphi examples of interfacing with Thunderbird, and didn't find anything.

One thing that I'll look into is marking the "Orders" folder is a "offline" folder to force Thunderbird to download the full messages and then try to find where these messages are stored on the local disk.

Anyone have any ideas on this?
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 12:11 am   
 
OK, this is really sad. One of the other things we use Outlook for is our shared calendar. No problem, I thought. I can use SunBird, or use Lightning addon for Thunderbird. For sharing the calendar I can just put it on Google Calendar and use the addon for syncing this with SunBird/Thunderbird.

Well, it sort of works. The main problem is that honestly the Google Calendar system is a piece of junk. I mean, come on...it doesn't support categories? What kind of calendar is that? I want to be able to categorize and assign different colors to different categories. Then there are bugs with the recurring meeting stuff.

Does anyone *actually* use this calendar for any serious work? I'm getting really tired of Google just releasing "toy" applications like this.

So, in addition to my question above about accessing Thunderbird messages, I guess I still need a better shared calendar solution. Since I am installing Apache 2 on our server, I supposed I can look into the webDAV mod to see if I can just store our calendar on our own server. If this worked with Sunbird/Thunderbird, then maybe it would be ok.

I'm honestly surprised at the poor general quality of calendar apps these days. Maybe I just have seen the "killer calendar" program. I'd even pay for something if it let me share calendar access across my computers and on the road (and also provide offline access, which you can't do with Google and Sunbird either).
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bortaS
Magician


Joined: 10 Oct 2000
Posts: 320
Location: Springville, UT

PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 2:38 am   
 
I found some information on add-on development for Mozilla apps. Here's the "home" page :

http://kb.mozillazine.org/Extension_development

And here's the getting started page :

http://kb.mozillazine.org/Getting_started_with_extension_development

Looks like a lot of hoops to jump through, but at least this is a launching point.
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bortaS
~~ Crusty Klingon Programmer ~~
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 2:49 am   
 
Thanks for the link, but that looks *way* more involved than I have time for. I could probably write most of the MyMuds.com site in the time it would take to figure that all out. Doesn't use any of the tools or technologies that I am familiar with. To talk to my database program, I'm going to need to make Windows COM calls, and I'm not sure that is even possible. I don't know how XPCOM works with COM, or even if it does.

I think looking for the mail files stored on disk is going to be easier. My database already knows how to parse a mail message, and parsing several messages in a folder or in a big mail file should be pretty easy if they are not encoding the data in any way.

I figured out how to "kludge" Sunbird and Google to use colors for various events. I have to create a separate calendar for each event type. Not a very good solution, but it kind of works. Now, if only Sunbird could display a multi-day event properly so that it spans days instead of just showing as a separate event each day.

At least it looks like storing the calendar on the server is relatively easy, either with basic FTP, or fancier with the webDAV stuff in Apache. So that's looking hopeful.

I was disappointed with the lack of addons for Sunbird or Lightning. Maybe it's all just too new. But it's still hard to believe that there isn't a very good open source Outlook replacement after all of these years. We have Open Office for the rest of Office, and we have Thunderbird for mail, but the calendaring stuff is still really crude.

And NO, I am NOT going to write my own calendar project. I've been down that rabbit hole before!
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 3:03 am   
 
Found it. Mail files are stored in Users\Username\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\ProfileName\ImapMail\IPAddress\FolderName

Geez, who comes up with this stuff? Anyway, looks like they *do* use the standard mbox mail file format, which I can already parse. Thunderbird has a nice feature where you can mark a specific folder as "make available offline", which seems to cause the full messages to be downloaded instead of just the headers. I need to wait till I get another order to make sure the disk file gets updated properly. If so, then I think I am set.

There is an Addon for adding custom buttons to Thunderbird. I theory, I should be able to use that to launch my database app with a special command line argument that will tell it to fetch the latest data from the above mailbox file.

So I think that takes care of email. Now I just need to find a calendar compromise that I can convince Chiara to use instead of Outlook. That's the last thing standing in the way of getting rid of MS Office.
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Rorso
Wizard


Joined: 14 Oct 2000
Posts: 1368

PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 5:50 am   
 
Zugg wrote:
Well, it sort of works. The main problem is that honestly the Google Calendar system is a piece of junk. I mean, come on...it doesn't support categories? What kind of calendar is that? I want to be able to categorize and assign different colors to different categories. Then there are bugs with the recurring meeting stuff.

If you create a new calendar for each category you can assign them different colours.
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 4:50 pm   
 
Hmm, Thunderbird doesn't automatically download new messages in folders marked for Offline viewing. It forces you to actually "go offline" before it downloads anything. I was hoping that a folder marked for Offline would automatically download new messages as they arrived. Maybe there is another option that I'm missing or some other way to do that.
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Rorso
Wizard


Joined: 14 Oct 2000
Posts: 1368

PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 5:05 pm   
 
Zugg wrote:
Hmm, Thunderbird doesn't automatically download new messages in folders marked for Offline viewing. It forces you to actually "go offline" before it downloads anything. I was hoping that a folder marked for Offline would automatically download new messages as they arrived. Maybe there is another option that I'm missing or some other way to do that.

Try if "server settings"(on the imap account) ->"Offline and diskspace" -> "Incoming messages should be made avaible when I work offline" works.
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 5:59 pm   
 
In the latest version, the option is called "Make the messages in my Inbox available when I am working offline". So that might only effect the Inbox. There is a button to "Select folders for offline use" and I have the Orders folder checked in that. But like I said, it seems to require that I actually go offline before it downloads anything.
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Rorso
Wizard


Joined: 14 Oct 2000
Posts: 1368

PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 6:26 pm   
 
Zugg wrote:
In the latest version, the option is called "Make the messages in my Inbox available when I am working offline". So that might only effect the Inbox. There is a button to "Select folders for offline use" and I have the Orders folder checked in that. But like I said, it seems to require that I actually go offline before it downloads anything.

I translated from the Swedish version, which should be latest(2.0.12) so the actual text might differ slightly. It is too bad there is no easy hotkey to quickly display the English translation to easier discuss translated applications.
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 25, 2008 5:43 pm   
 
Turns out that option only works for the InBox. There seems to be a known issue in Thunderbird that there is no way to do this automatically for other folders that you have marked for Offline use. There is a good page about Offline folder usage. You must manually go Offline and then back Online. There was an addon to fix this called Sync On Arrival, but it is for v1.3 and hasn't been updated. I tried patching the version number to see if it would work with the latest 2.x version of Thunderbird. I got the addon to load, but it still didn't download my Orders folder.

There is a bug report about this, but it doesn't look like anything has done anything about it even though it was reported several years ago.

I guess not many people are really using Thunderbird for real IMAP usage. They seem to have an internal option for fetching full messages from ALL folders. But that's silly. I don't want it to fetch messages from all folders, just the folders that I have marked as Offline. I really don't understand why this would be hard. It's already fetching the headers when I click on a folder. Why can't it just have a simple option to download the full messages when I click on a folder?

Oh well, looks like I cannot completely automate this how I wanted. But it's the little details like this that matter when you are trying to convince people to switch from Outlook to Thunderbird. I like enough of the other features in Thunderbird that I'll probably still keep using it, but I'm going to need to come up with a better way to process my incoming sales Orders. For now I just need to remember to manually download/sync the Orders folder before processing it. I'm just worried that if I forget this step, then I'll be missing orders in our local database that were not downloaded.
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ralgith
Sorcerer


Joined: 13 Jan 2006
Posts: 715

PostPosted: Mon Apr 28, 2008 11:03 pm   
 
I agree Zugg. And no, most users aren't using the full IMAP capabilities. So they don't have as much priority. Myself, I have TBird set to always download all messages fully from my gmail account, but thats just me :)
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