[Design] Thunderbird / Exchange and Data flow in to Chandler

Brian Kirsch bkirsch at osafoundation.org
Fri Jan 4 15:26:44 PST 2008

I have been waiting till most folks are back from vacation to follow  
up with
the investigations I have been doing regarding providing new mechanisms
for getting data in to Chandler.

Specifically, I have been looking at the feasibility of creating a  
plugin for
Thunderbird to allow Email to be easily assigned a workflow and
brought in to the Chandler Universe. As well as the feasibility of  
leveraging the
Open Change project to provided Exchange support as a Chandler Plug-in.

The Thunderbird plug-in looks very doable and would interface
directly with the Chandler Hub.

Some of the current ideas on what actions the Thunderbird Plug-In  
would perform are:

1. Sync messages in IMAP Drafts/Sent folders with Chandler Drafts/ 
Sent messages.
2. Stamp a message and add it to a list of collection(s)
3. Assign Triage status to message items
4. Map individual IMAP folders to collections
5. Receive notifications from Hub Service when:
        a. New / Edited items in a collection
        b. Items tickled to NOW

If you have any suggestions for features that you would like to see  
in a Thunderbird plug-in now is the perfect time to share them.

The Exchange research sadly did not prove as fruitful.


There are a number of aspects of Open Change that I think
makes it not an ideal project to tackle right now.

First. it has a GPL license which makes it incompatible with
Chandler's Apache license. There are certainly ways to work
around that however, the major draw back of using Open Change
for Exchange connectivity is its huge dependance on Samba.

Open Change is really intended to provide Exchange connectivity
to the Unix platforms. The proof of concept project that Open Change
is working on is an Exchange  plug-in for the Linux Mail Client  

I believe not being able to provide support for Windows users who
are the ones mostly using Exchange in a corporate environment
is less than ideal.

One option is to create an Exchange to Chandler Proxy Server
that could handle data transformation between Exchange MAPI and
Chandler CalDAV / EIMML.

Again it would be limited in terms of the platforms it can deploy on
due to the Samba dependency.

Either way, the investment costs to implement the Exchange
connectivity via Open Change will be high and probably not worth
it at this stage of the Chandler project.

I do have another suggestion which although still not ideal can deliver
a credible Microsoft Outlook / Exchange story in a much shorter  
window using tools already available in the Python community.

It would be pretty straight forward to leverage Python the Win32  
(http://sourceforge.net/projects/pywin32/) to connect via COM to the
Outlook Application Object and via MAPI retrieve Calendar /  
Scheduling / and
Tasks from an Exchange server.

The SpamBayes project already has a successful Outlook Plugin written
in Python for Spam Classification so we can leverage the general  
principles they

The specifics of what operations would be performed when connecting to
Outlook / Exchange as well as whether the functionality would be an  
or Chandler Plugin are still open to debate.

But in a fairly fast development window Chandler could in this scenario
provide a means for Outlook / Exchange users to bring data in to  

In fact, the Outlook Plugin and the Thunderbird plugin could provide  
the same
feature sets.

The limitations of leveraging COM to connect to Exchange are:
1. It's Windows Only
2. The User has to Have Outlook Installed on the System

Thoughts /  comments / alternative suggestions about Exchange next  


Brian Kirsch
Internationalization Architect / Mail Service Engineer
Open Source Applications Foundation
543 Howard Street 5th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105

On Dec 7, 2007, at 1:30 PM, mimi at osafoundation.org wrote:

> Brian Kirsch and I met briefly today to brainstorm re: email/SMS  
> integration ideas we can pursue in the short and mid-term. The goal  
> is to find ways to improve getting data in and out of Chandler to  
> mobile devices and other mail applications, in particular Thunderbird.
> Here's the beginning of our list of ideas. Please add your own!
> Mimi
> Sync messages in IMAP Drafts/Sent folders with Chandler Drafts/Sent  
> messages.
> Use SMS / Email to:
> + Add items to a collection(s) on Hub Service
> + Pull items from Hub Service
> - Today or Some day's events
> - Today or Some day's tickled items
> - NOW items in a particular collection
> - Particular item in a collection
> Ideas for Thunderbird Plug-in:
> + Stamp a message and add it to a list of collection(s)
> + Assign Triage status to message items
> + Map individual IMAP folders to collections
> Receive notifications from Hub Service in T-bird or via Email/SMS
> + # New / Edited items in which collections
> + Who last updated an item/collection
> + Stuff that's tickled into NOW
> _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
> Open Source Applications Foundation "Design" mailing list
> http://lists.osafoundation.org/mailman/listinfo/design

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