Hi. My name is Adam Saunders and I live in the world of 1's and 0's. This is my tiny contribution the vastness of internet information. It's just an opinion and should you have your own, please comment it!

29 Jun 2009

For some time I've been very disappointed with Microsoft Outlook. It was one of the best applications to ever come from the giant software provider, and even today its features and capabilities surpass any other email client. But with all that power comes a gigantic resource requirement, and over the last decade this once lean mean communications and organisation machine has been slow, buggy and expensive.

If I was to be an exchange server user, wishing to spend nearly £10 a month on a single mail box with a store for my calendar, tasks and contacts etc, then Outlook would be my single port of call, and spending that much on a single mailbox would mean I was the type of guy that didn't care about what it cost to get what I believe would be the best. What if I could get it for free or near to?

So I'm on a quest at the moment to see if I can live without the Outlook monolith on my computers and laptops and see if I can get complete email, calendar, tasks and contacts synchronisation including all the push email support that exchange and outlook services can provide, but without all the expense. So far this is what I have:

  • An IMAP email account so I can have my email synchronise with all my devices. It also supports IMAP IDLE to give full push email support (means that as soon as an email gets to the account its immediately pushed to all devices so communications are more responsive). Gmail has both of these as well as a few other free providers, but if you have your own domain name "@majicware.com" for instance you'll be paying a little more but FAR less than an Microsoft Exchange account. You can use your own domain with Google, but it would be cheaper to shop around.
  • A Google Gmail and Calendar account. This gives me the ability to store my contacts and calendar on line.
  • Mozilla Thunderbird for reading and composing emails on my computers and laptops. I'd also need the following add-ons for Thunderbird:

This isn't very much "stuff" which is a great thing, and best of all won't cost a penny for any of it (unless you have your own domain name of course, but would be minimum (Google is about £33/year/account).

So what I have next to do is to set these up. Setup the IMAP accounts in Thunderbird and it will detect them as support IDLE automatically which means that push email is immediately available without any extra leg work. You can also setup the IMAP accounts on your mobile phones if you have the appropriate Internet data tariffs.

Next add your calendar into Lightening by creating a new "On The Network" calendar using CalDAV with the URL https://www.google.com/calendar/dav/youraccount@Gmail.com/events. Don't forget to add your Gmail account to the URL.

Getting your contacts to sync is a little harder, but not difficult. You need to go to the options of the "Google Contacts" Add-on in Thunderbird. Add your Gmail email address to the "Accounts" section and set the maximum contacts to something reasonable based on your current contact size and likely growth. You can always change these later. On the Advanced tab you can enable Disk Cache to keep things speedy, and set the Group Mapping to your Contacts group.

And that is largely it!! Simple! which is what we love, and you can add all of these to your mobile devices (as almost all of them support IMAP, and most modern ones support IDLE as well, and goto http://m.google.com/sync to find out how to sync your calendar and contacts with your device. I'm using a Nokia E71, and that supports Email for Exchange, and fortunately Google now supports Active Sync protocol which basically means instant synchronisation of your calendar and contacts to your mobile device just like email!

Enjoy!

- Also note that Thunderbird is available for Windows + Apple Mac

29 June 2009 19:15 GMT+01:00   Posted By: Adam Saunders
11 Jun 2009

Ok. So I've only used the Digsby application for a second day, but two surprising features I wasn't expecting.. Firstly (the lesser surprising, but none-the-less useful) is that it integrated with my LinkedIn account showing the latest activity with connections I have. However, the best surprise was when I was installed Digsby on my laptop, I was thrilled to find that it had kept all my accounts and settings such as skins/themes avatars etc and pushed them to the laptop, meaning I didn't have to set up accounts twice everywhere!

11 June 2009 19:11 GMT+01:00   Posted By: Adam Saunders
10 Jun 2009

For as long as I can remember I've been fighting problems like having to have two Live Messenger accounts to keep business and personal contacts seperate. Live Messenger doesn't allow you to have more than one instance, and therefore more than one account signed in per machine at one time. However, with a patch like A-Patch, you can get around this, which is what I've been doing all these years. I guess you are waiting for a "but" and this is what it is. Live messenger is quite a bit of a resource hog at the best of times, but needing two seperate instances open really eats into your system resources, and add to this all the other clients like Google chats, ICQs etc, and then you have all the social networking tools for Facebook and Twitter etc like Tweetdeck, and the machine is almost on it's knees..

Well it seems my wishes were granted on behalf of a free application called Digsby. I'm not going to jump to any forgone conclusion as I've only been using it a day, but so far I'm thoroughly impressed. Now I get all my communications coming through the single client which uses very little resources.

What's very impressive is the little extra features they have added, such as on the side of my website you can now see a chat applet that shows you when I'm around allows you to contact me through my site. (I have the right to ignore you by the way. Just the nature of being busy).

What this boils down to is that "I can be everywhere without needing to be all over the place!". That would probably make a good tag line for Digsby!

Hopefully at some point I'll write up something more about its pro's and con's. I have noticed two con's so far. Firstly is that the Live Messenger implementation doesn't support the new ability to be logged in on more than one machine at a time. Pitty, though expected.. And secondly that your status is set across the board, and not just for single accounts etc, although this won't affect me much.

You can get more info and download this tool from: www.digsby.com.

What I find interesting in my response to such an application is a greater appreciation of the side of forthcoming applications like Google Wave. Not only everything in one place, but richer functionality and a more immediate response.

10 June 2009 18:24 GMT+01:00   Posted By: Adam Saunders
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These are the declassified opinions of Adam Saunders. I take no responsibility for the effect these opinions may have on you. Do not read with care...