Spicebird – Information & Communication Center

A few days ago the guys at Synovel released Spicebird. It integrates the excellent programs Mozilla Thunderbird (email), Sunbird (desktop calendar) and Xmpp4moz (instant messaging). I am using the first two myself on Ubuntu 7.10. Well, instead of Sunbird I am using Lightning, which is integrating in Thunderbird as a plug-in.

So, why not just using the single programs?

First of all, because I like the idea of a “information & communication center” which shows me the most important information in one place. I would have just one program to start in the morning and would defenitely not forget to open my calendar and miss important tasks or dates.

The software is still a very early version and a beta. However, I have installed it and with the current functionalities it works quite fine. On Phorolinux you can find a good tutorial on how to install Spicebird on Ubuntu 7.10. I was very easy to follow and worked fine on my computer.

On top of the application you will find 5 different tabs:

  • Home (which is a configurable dashboard)
  • Mail, News
  • Contacts
  • Calendar
  • Tasks

Currently the most interesting feature for me is the dashboard, which you can configure to display different information, depending on what is important for you. The other tabs I have already in Thunderbird, more or less. Some examples for the applets you can add to the “Home” dashboard are:

  • RSS Feeds
  • Date & time (you can add the current time from cities all over the world, especially interesting when you have to work with people from different time zones and you do not really want to call them in the middle of the night ;-))
  • The last few emails of an inbox.
  • A calendar view
  • An agenda showing you the dates from your different calendars
  • etc.

The instant messaging part I am not that much interested in. The messenger can communicate with Jabber only, at the moment. Might be interesting in a company evironment though to have a standard messenger based on an open protocol. At the moment for me it is not really important.

So far Spicebird does not offer anything too special, but I have high hopes for the future about this software. When you look at the roadmap, the Synovel seems to have a few good ideas for future releases. The following sounded the most interesting to me:

  • Blogs as Email: Can make live easy when you are travelling, as you could use your email client as a desktop blog software and would not have to log in to your blog.
  • Integration with a CMS (Drupal): This sounds very interesting. I would like to know what exactly is planned. But Drupal is definitely a good choice.
  • Document management
  • Microsoft Exchange connector: Interesting especially for those who would like to get rid of Outlook but depend on an Exchange server
  • Multiple backends for tasks management
    • Partial project management features: I would even like “complete” project management features, but that might come in a later release.
  • A more meaningful address book –> Meaningful is always good! 😉
    • Last conversation/chat with a contact: To show the last conversations is a good start. I would also like to have the chance to add information about contact. E.g. what was the result of the last phone call, what was discussed in the last meeting, etc.

So, as I said, it sounds like a good start to me. Some things I would really like to see for this tool:

  • VoIP functionality: Imaging something like Skype integrated into this thingy! This would be the first chance to create a serious competition for Skype. So far all software phones have basically the same functionalities. Integrated into this information and communication tool it would add additional value: calling your contacts by clicking on their telephone number in your address book, calling someone who sent you his number via email, see who of you colleagues is available for a call, etc.
  • Bidirectional synchronization with Google Calendar and other on-line calendar applications

Give the software a try and let me know what you are thinking about. Do you have any features you would like to see in future releases?

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