Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

DesktopBSD day 16 – Setting up my personal information managers

One of the key applications for desktop users is perhaps the personal information manager. Especially in an office environment it is paramount to be able to keep track of e-mail, contacts and appointments. Today I tried to set up three personal information managers on DesktopBSD.

Thunderbird in conjunction with a mobile hard drive

I have a small collection of e-mail accounts that I need/want to check a couple of times a day. I use my main desktop to download all messages permanently, but I have set up Portable Thunderbird on my mobile hard drive for use at work, on my laptop or any other PC I might use. It’s no problem on Windows PC’s, since I can use the Portable Launcher. But how to do that under DesktopBSD?

It’s quite simple actually. The first thing you have to do is launch Thunderbird for the first time from your desktop. The wizard will guide through the various steps, but you can fill in all kinds of bogus information. We won’t use this account at all, but we need to finish the steps in order to create the proper Thunderbird folder in your home directory. Once you are done, you can click on the Home icon and go to your folder (/home/user). Go to view -> show hidden files. As you can see, your folder just became somewhat more crowded.


You can go the .thunderbird folder and open the file Profiles.ini in an editor. We will change the Thunderbird settings here, so that it points to the Portable Thunderbird folders on the mobile drive. As a side note: make sure it is mounted now. Now let’s have a look at the profiles.ini file:



We are concerned with the last two lines. In my case I had to change them into:

Path=/media/FAT (55 GB)/ThunderbirdPortable/Data/profile

The Path line points to the exact location of the files on the mobile hard drive. That drive is mounted under /media/FAT (55 GB). I have a folder ThunderbirdPortable on that drive and the mailbox files are stored under profile.

Suppose you didn’t set the path line correctly, what will happen then? Well, you could get this message:


Another option is that it will start the wizard again. In both cases, close Thunderbird and fix the path line. The problem is always there.

Thunderbird is a great e-mail client, but it needs something extra to turn it into a personal information manager. I have used the Lightning extension for a while together with Google Calendar. There is a nice extension that synchronizes your Google Calendar with Lightning. I wanted to set it up again, but I couldn´t download the Lightning extension. It appears that there is no version of Lightning for use with Thunderbird on FreeBSD. There is one for Solaris and I thought: “It’s another Unix, so why not.” Another lesson learned, because it didn’t work.


Preparing Thunderbird for mailbox migration

I knew beforehand I wanted to try out Evolution and KMail and knew they could handle mbox files, the files that contain the mail boxes. Thunderbird doesn’t have the ability to import/export mbox files on-board, but you can download an extension to handle that here.

Once it is installed you can go to Tools and select one of the import or export options. For use with the experiment I exported the boxes of one account.


If you want to read up on importing and exporting your e-mail from and to various e-mail clients, there is a good article on Mozillazine. It will help you when migrating from Windows to DesktopBSD as well.

Evolution: a GNOME application on the KDE desktop

Evolution is often presented as a complete personal information manager and positioned against Microsoft Outlook. I have to use Outlook quite a lot and Evolution still has to mature to come close. But that’s just my opinion, feel free to disagree. I launched Evolution and went through the wizard to setup the first e-mail account. The first impression of Evolution was horrible, take a look.


Apparently it takes some more fiddling to make a GNOME application look at home on a DesktopBSD KDE desktop. Under Ubuntu it’s no problem and Evolution looks like itself there. I went to File -> Import and selected the option to import a single file. Evolution gives you the freedom to import the mailbox to one of the available folders.


KMail and mass import

KMail is neatly integrated in the Kontact workspace. By default not all applications are visible in the Kontact workspace, but selecting Settings -> Configure Kontact -> Select components remedies that. In the 30 day series for PC-BSD I discussed Kontact already and was quite pleased with it. You can set up the various components from one configuration window. There is no easy wizard here to help you to setup the e-mail accounts, but for the more experienced user that shouldn’t be necessary. I can imagine it being a bit more daunting to the novice migrator that doesn’t setup his/her e-mail accounts every day.


I went to KMail and selected File -> Import messages. This launches the KMailCVT Import Tool. Okay, the name could use some work, but it is a great tool. It can import directly from a directory with Thunderbird mailboxes.


This make it almost possible for a W2L migrator to simply copy the old Thunderbird folders to a data partition or a mobile drive and import them again using KMailCVT. Almost, because it also tried to import the other files in the folders that were clearly not e-mail folders. The tool imports all folders in a separate Thunderbird folder and uses the TB folder names for the accounts. With this it took me less than 5 minutes to migrate all my Thunderbird folders to KMail, though not the various accounts settings.


If you don’t want the mass import and have somewhat more control, you can also use the option to import mbox files. Those files are stored in their own entries with as naming conventions.

I was more than surprised to see the mass import option in KMail. I never noticed it before, but it is a great tool. If anything, it made me admire the Kontact workspace even more.


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One thought on “DesktopBSD day 16 – Setting up my personal information managers

  1. Pingback: DesktopBSD day 18 - Exploring Kontact | Ruminations on the Digital Realm

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