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Nexus Calendars in Thunderbird Using Davmail and Lightning

1. Introduction

Calendaring is an integral feature of the Nexus system. If you want to use calendaring in clients other than Microsoft Outlook, Entourage or Internet Explorer then you will need to perform further setup and configuration procedures. One method is to use Davmail and this document outlines how to use this program inconjunction with Mozilla Thunderbird, and its calendaring plugin Lightning, to access your Nexus account.

Davmail is an Exchange gateway allowing users to connect to Exchange via an alternate email/calendar client. It is available for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems. This particular guide has been written using Ubuntu 9.04, Thunderbird 2.0.0.x and Lightning 0.9. It has also been tested on the beta version of Thunderbird 3 and Lightning 1.0pre.

Mozilla Lightning is an add-on for Thunderbird which adds calendaring capabilities to it.

This guide assumes that you are starting with a clean OS, with nothing but the standard security packages that come through the update manager.

Please note: You will not be able to share your calendar directly through this method.

2. Installation and configuration

2.1. Installing Davmail

To install Davmail go to:

If you're using Ubuntu or another Debian based Linux distribution, you'll want the file that ends in .deb. Click on it, then Open the file. It will pop up the installation box; click on Install Package. This will create a link in Applications -- > Internet --> Davmail

2.2. Configuring Davmail

Open up Davmail and it will prompt you for settings, and also put the Davmail icon (a yellow filled circle with a white lightning bolt inside it) in your system notification area. If it doesn't prompt you for settings, right-click on the Davmail icon and go to [Settings]. The options should look like this:

OWA (Exchange) URL:

  • Local POP Port: Unticked
  • Local IMAP Port: Unticked
  • Local SMTP Port: Unticked
  • Caldev HTTP Port: Ticked - 1080
  • Local LDAP Port: Ticked - 1389
  • Click Save.

Exchange Protocol:

  • Set this to EWS (This is only available with later versions of DavMail - 3.9.6 for instance)

Davmail needs to be running on your system before starting any email/calendaring client. We suggest that it is automatically started at system boot time. In Ubuntu add to System > Preferences > Startup applications

Also see Alerts

N.B. In some newer versions of Ubuntu, within the Default Unity desktop for instance, there is no system tray to launch Davmail. It may be necessary for you to manually edit your Davmail properties file to configure the correct URL and Exchange protocol settings. The settings probably looks something like this:



Alternatively, you can configure the Unity desktop to display the notification area.

2.3. Installing Mozilla Thunderbird and Lightning

At the command line, type:

sudo apt-get install thunderbird xul-ext-lightning

This will create a link in Applications --> Internet --> Mozilla Thunderbird Mail/News

2.4. Configuring Thunderbird for Nexus email

You can do this by following the Thunderbird set up instructions.

2.5. Configuring Thunderbird with the calendar

  • Open up Thunderbird, and click on Calendar. You'll see the Home calendar which it automatically creates.
  • Right click on the Home calendar then click on [New calendar]. A new window will now appear.
  • Select On the Network then click Next.
  • Select Caldev.
  • Location: http://localhost:1080/users/
  • Replace with your primary email address. So for example, http://localhost:1080/users/
  • Then press Next. It will ask you for a name, we recommend using your own name for this (to make it easier if you have multiple calendars showing). Once done, select Next.
  • It will then prompt you for you user name and password (If it doesn't double check that Davmail is currently running). Enter your single sign-on credentials and the calendar should sync.

You cannot share calendars through this; however, if you have already set up shared calendars using Outlook, then you can view other people's calendars by setting up a new one, and inserting their primary email address instead (but see below Alerts).

Lightning also allows the import of .ics calendar data so it's also an option for importing data from an existing calendar to Nexus.

2.6. Configuring Thunderbird with GAL (Address lookup)

  • From within thunderbird go to [Edit] --> [Preferences] to bring up the Thunderbird Preferences screen.
  • Click on Composition then the Addressing tab.
  • Click on Edit Directories then Add. Settings are as follows:
    • Name: Nexus
    • Hostname: localhost
    • Base DN: ou=people
    • Port Number: 1389
    • Bind DN: Your Oxford Username
    • Leave the Use SSL Connection box unticked.
  • Press OK twice to get back to the Preferences screen.
  • Tick the box next to Directory Server and make sure that [Nexus] is selected from the drop down. The Add button will now become active too.

When typing emails now, it will automatically try and do a lookup on a name in the address field. (It may ask you for your password the first time; you can choose to let it remember the password.)

3. Problems/Questions

  • If you use thunderbird+lightning+davmail and make tasks, then any other thunderbird+lightning+davmail installation of yours will see them too.
  • If you use Outlook and create tasks, then later go and use thunderbird+lightning+davmail then it will not see the tasks which you created in thunderbird.

So if a user is only using thunderbird as a solution, then tasks do work.

GAL Lookup
A search will not display more than 100 results due to a limitation with OWA, which cannot be changed.
Make sure "show reminders" is unselected when loading someone else's calendar, otherwise you'll get back-dated reminders for everything in their calendar. If you do this by accident it will probably lock up Thunderbird; force quit, open again, go straight to calendar, right-click on the offending calendar and change the settings to stop showing alerts.
I get an authentication error when I try to import my calendar
Check that you are using the secure https method in the URL to access the system.
Thunderbird cannot find my calendars
You have to start Davmail before starting Thunderbird, otherwise it doesn't find the calendars (it shows events, suggesting that it caches them somewhere). If you start Thunderbird before Davmail, the Nexus calendars are marked with an alert icon and their tooltip says "The calendar [name] is momentarily unavailable." Reloading them (right-click -> "Reload remote calendars") doesn't work, you have to restart Thunderbird.
Private calendar events
Some clients do not fully support private items and your private items may be revealed to those you share your calendar with. Please see the "How private are my private calendar entries?" entry in the Nexus FAQ for more details.


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Written by IT Services. Latest revision 23 October 2017