Replacing KDE’s Kontact with Mozilla Thunderbird

Why would you want to do that? IMHO, by now the question is rather why you would want to continue using Kontact for your email/calendar/contact management needs given all the bugs and regressions. For example, after upgrading to KDE 4.8 on my Gentoo machine recently, once again address completion when composing emails ceased to work (it worked some time with 4.7.x, but not before that). Also, every now and then the virtuoso process consumed 100% CPU on login.

I had problems with KDEPIM2 ever since it was released (version 4.6.x), but was reluctant to ditch it since I had been a happy user for more than 5 years. Furthermore, KDEPIM is more powerful than Thunderbird. Nevertheless, this is 2012 and I am no longer willing to invest considerable time to have a working email and calendar solution. Maybe it works if you clean everything akondadi-, nepomuk- and kontact-related on each upgrade, but this is just not a viable option.

Anyway, to replace Kontact with Thunderbird there are several tweaks to make Thunderbird resemble the behavior of Kontact:

  1. Kmail, Akregator and KNode can be replaced by Thunderbird’s Email, Blogs & News Feeds and Newsgroup accounts, respectively. They may not be as powerful as the original programs, but they do their job.
  2. The KDE calendar is best replaced by the Lightning add-on. For remote synchronization, you will need something like the Provider for Google Calendar add-on. This works reasonably well.

Some additional useful add-ons that make Thunderbird behave like Kmail:

  1. SendWithoutSubject, otherwise there is a confirmation popup every time you try to send an email without a subject (you need an add-on for this, seriously?)
  2. Subject cleaner to eliminate repeated Re: Re:, etc. from subjects when replying (KMail does this automatically)
  3. Sieve to manage sieve scripts on your IMAP server, if you use those.
  4. ThunderPlunger is a useful add-on if you happen to delete accounts, because Thunderbird does not actually remove the data from disk, potentially leaving you with hundreds of megabytes of junk.
  5. LookOut is required to deal with those infamous winmail.dat files brought to you by MS Outlook’s proprietary handling of attachments.
  6. StartupMaster is a useful addon to eliminate multiple password prompts if you have a master password for the builtin password manager. This happens because the Google Calendar provider prompts for a password for each account.
    Update: For KDE users, the kwalltet password integration addon seems to be the way to go.

KMail also automatically checks all folders on your IMAP server, while Thunderbird does this only for the currently open folder. To mimic KMail’s behaviour you have to set
mail.server.default.check_all_folders_for_new
to true in the config editor.

Of course Thunderbird is not as nicely integrated into your desktop as Kontact. For example, I have yet to find a solution to display a systray icon with the number of unread mails, since solutions such as the Gnome integration add-on do not seem to work with the current version of TB. Also your calendar events are not displayed in the KDE Plasma calender if you decide to get rid of Akonadi completely.

4 thoughts on “Replacing KDE’s Kontact with Mozilla Thunderbird

  1. While there are a few plasma widgets that read ical/gcal/caldav stuff directly and then offer a simple list of pending calendar events on the desktop, I really wish someone had forked the existing kde calendar widget to bypasses akonadi for events to use ical and caldav directly. I really like having just a single desktop calendar plasmoid that also presents holidays and events, all together, like the calendar plasmoid can, but I too find the whole kmail2/akonadi backend too buggy, complex, and heavyweight, while thunderbird with lightening (and enigmail) indeed works rather well for secure email with functional calendar integration.

    • Hey David, that’s exactly why I created “Google Calendar Agenda” widget.

      Richard – kwallet integration TB plugin will make the need for Startup Master disappear, while nicely integrating with KDE

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