Thunderbird + Lightning Nexus Calendar Export to Google Calendar

There are plenty of ways to sync one’s work (nexus, Oxford’s version of Exchange) calendar with google if you are using Windows and Outlook. However, I’m using Ubuntu Linux. The solution I’ve chosen for getting mail and shared calendaring is Thunderbird + Lightning + Davmail. This works, but had idiosyncrises such as not allowing you to share calendars (but use calendars you have shared through another method such as Outlook2007 or OWA-Messageware).

Let’s be clear here, I do not need full synchronisation. What I want to do is:

  • when looking at my google apps calendars (which I intentionally separate from my work ones) I want to be able to have at least read-only view of my work calendars. Basically I want to just see them so I know that work activities are not overlapping with personal ones.
  • make my calendars available read-only to specific other people who either are not inside * or whose departments do not use calendaring aspects of nexus

The solution I’ve come up with is an ad-hoc one involving a mozilla thunderbird extension called automatic export. Once installed and the icon is added to toolbar you can select from a dropdown menu on this icon a cyclical export. I have this set to export my calendar every 10 minutes. As long as you export this to a web accessible location then google calendar can subscribe to this. In addition, I store mine on a remote server, so have a shell script that scp’s it to the correct location every 10 minutes…so at very worst it is 20 minutes out of date. On google you just subscribe to the remote .ics file… though it sometimes takes awhile for google to finally realise it is there.


  • The export only works when you have a copy of thunderbird that is set to do this is currently running. So, for example, TB on my laptop is not set to do this, or if I add an appointment with OWA-lite it doesn’t end up in my google calendar until I load up TB at work on Monday.
  • It is fairly insecure. The entire calendar is exported as an .ics file that is world readable. While it is in a place that is fairly obscure, security by obscurity isn’t really security.
  • I tried having it on a passworded WebDAV storage, but even giving google the username/password in the url, it had problems finding it.
  • Private events are shared with those with whom you share the calendar… so they basically see anything you see.
  • You need to have a constantly web-accessible location in which to put the calendar, exporting it to your desktop machine isn’t sufficient since google will think it has disappeared when the machine is off. (And we all hibernate our desktops and use OUCS’s Wake-On-Lan service to wake them up when needed… don’t we?)

I don’t know if this will be useful to anyone else… but that is how I export my Thunderbird+lightning+davmail Nexus Calendar to my Google Apps Calendar.


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One Response to “Thunderbird + Lightning Nexus Calendar Export to Google Calendar”

  1. […] Previously I wrote about thunderbird, davmail, exchange and exporting to google calendar and my system was setup and working fine. Then I upgraded (full-wipe and install) to the latest Ubuntu operating system and I had to set things up again. Part of the problem was that the thunderbird Automatic Export add-on wouldn’t work with the new version of thunderbird. While I know sometimes changes of software mean that the plugin will no longer function, I didn’t think this might be a problem with Automatic Export… I mean all it does is take the calendar you’ve set and export it which hopefully isn’t too reliant on the way the program itself works. Hopefully. […]

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