Calendar Sneak Preview Part 1 – The event dialog

As you all know, the guys from Sun have been
the Calendar Project
for some time now. Most of the stuff that they’ve been working on, has been work on the backend (e.g. the WCAP Provider) and general bug-fixing work.

But they’ve also begun to work on the Lightning user interface and while their work has not been publically released just yet, we’d really like to give you a sneak preview of what is to come. We’ve decided to present you the new stuff in bits and pieces over the coming weeks and to concentrate on one element per blog post.

Please be aware, that these new features have not been fully implemented yet and have also not undergone a complete code review by the Calendar developers. Therefore the features and screenshots described may be subject to change.

We would also like you to give us and the Sun guys extensive feedback about what you think about these new UI features. Please use the comments section for this.

In the first installment of this series, we’ll talk about the new advanced Event Dialog and its features. Here’s a screenshot of the new dialog.

Event Dialog Screenshot

The design goal of the new event dialog were:

  • A seamless integration into the Thunderbird UI. The user should not get the feeling that he is in a different application, when he is using the calendar part.
  • Evolution and Outlook users should also feel at home
  • The new dialog should be more powerful in terms of features, while still presenting a simple and lean UI

The following new features were developed for the new dialog:

  • Integrated timezone support
  • Integrated display of recurrence patterns, reminders and attendees
  • Custom Recurrences
  • Custom Reminders
  • Clear separation between tasks and events
  • Free/ Busy support
  • Show time as Free/Busy

Here are two more screenshots of the event dialog with some more of the new features visible and of the new attendee dialog:

Event Dialog Screenshot 2
Attendee dialog Screenshot

The new event dialog can be used with or without using the WCAP provider, but free/busy-support is only available for WCAP calendars at the moment, because the other providers (e.g. ICS or CalDAV) have not implemented this feature yet.

Further information regarding the attendee dialog is available at and


  1. Wow, what a difference! This makes all my bugs filed against Calendar pretty much moot now. Way to go, Calendar team! I’m looking forward to test this greatly improved dialog.

  2. The first image link ( doesn’t work if you click on it.
    And I should probably have said way to go Sun as well! :)

  3. Hallo David,
    the image link that was broken should be fully functional now.

  4. Hey Simon,
    This looks like good progress and regardless of any suggestions I might make below, I hope you will take the overall tone of the note to be “Great work!” because my reactions are by and large quite positive. Having said that then, I offer a couple of points for your consideration:
    – The event editing dialog is just that – a dialog. Your attempt to create a tight, simple UI is, I think, unnecessarily complicated by your inclusion of a File/Edit/View… menu bar up top. I suspect that these menus are either sparse enough to just drop, or complex enough to be overkill (or just an artifact of the mockup process and not actually part of the dialog, in which case pls disregard. :)
    – This may be my status as a Lotus Notes survivor showing through, but I think of Document attachments as being part of the event “Description” (since, e.g., agendas are often attached as word/powerpoint docs instead of just inlined as text in the description field) and hence I would expect to be prompted down there for attachments, rather than up in the button bar. In fact when I first saw the dialog I thought momentarily “That’s odd – no way to attach files in the description?” before noticing it up top. I don’t have a mockup for you to point to here, unfortunately, but I thought I would throw it out as a concept.
    – Having an additional level of indirection (a button-click followed by, I presume, another dialog) for adding invitees seems to complicate a very common workflow (since most meetings have invitees) and I would encourage the team to consider providing a way to specify invitees in-line. If your invitee list was a text box with auto-complete and a comma-separated list (like a thunderbird to: field, for instance) instead of the non-editable hyperlink presentation we see in the snaps, then users who wanted a picker dialog would have a way to get there, but those who know who they need to invite have a lower-resistance path.
    I really like how you display repeat details, with a combo (that probably launches a dialog on custom…) and then hyperlinked text which summarizes it at a glance. Sharp.
    Once again – I aim only to improve what I see as great progress, not to diminish any of the work you’ve done, and I hope my suggestions are taken in that light.
    PS – While I am a usability guy with IBM, I promise I had ntohing to do with Lotus notes, so please don’t hold it against me. :)

  5. this is really great!
    in my company we use and support JES groupwares and we want a real alternative to Outlook.
    pls, go on with these improvements.
    btw, any news on shared calendars?

  6. Looks great, not a fan of the drop down zoom control though, those things always disorientate me. :(
    What about making it a normal slider or something similar to the Google finance timeline?

  7. Well, I’ve seen many mockups already. I’d really love to see this in the application.
    BTW: Will these just be part of Lightning or will it be part of Sunbird, too?
    Keep the good work goin’!

  8. great job… I’d like to see free-busy info available via ICS files similar to the way Outlook does it. (Internet Free/Busy)
    Tools -> Options -> Calendar Options -> Free/Busy Options -> Internet Free/Busy

  9. Looks great! Thanks a lot and please keep up the good work!!!

  10. First of all, congratulations for all the great work.
    This post, brings great news for me, mainly because of new UI, that solves the most part of the problems that I think that the actual release of Sunbird and Lightning have.
    I am using Sunbird for 3 months now, before that I used intensely Microsoft Outlook, but I want get rid of pirate software ;).
    I really want that the Calendar Project became a great piece of software. I’m trying to get my self more organized, so I have time to learn how to contribute to the QA team.
    So base in my use of Outlook, I leave here some suggestions as asked.
    The UI presented here is great, the only think, that I don’t see, and I would, is the ability of formatting the text in the Description field. This characteristic would allow users to put in prominence more relevant parts of the text. I think basic formatting, for now is enough. Things like bold, italic, underline and strikethrough.
    Another thing, that can also be great, is the capability of choose a color independently of the color that we choose for the category. Imagine that I have a meeting that is very important and I want put it in a strong color, so I can easily identify it, I can put in the importance field that is important, but this characteristic is not in evidence when I look to the day view or week view, what is evidence is the color.
    Relatively for the UI presented in this post is everything. But taking advantage of this opportunity, I will leave a few more suggestions to the developers. They are mainly referent to the tasks capabilities of Sunbird and Lightning.
    I think the new UI of task dialog box should allow the user to choose a date for the alarm independently of the the day date. We can have a task that take several months, and we want to be remind several times during the execution time, so is a lot more easy to the user choose another date for the reminder pop-up, than taking a time calculating how many days, hours or minutes before the due date he wants the reminder pops-up.
    I also think that is important we have the opportunity of seeing the tasks in a view like the week view, not always in the small view in the inferior left side of the main window. This would allow to the users have a better perspective of their tasks, with all the fields showed (or not, but should be a user choice, not limited for the space of the window).
    It would also be great to have the ability of organize tasks for categories or % of completion, not like its now, but with the ability of organize based in two or more items at the same time, just like Outlook does.
    For finalize, I think capabilities of printing should be improved, not always we are near the computer, so we need to print our agenda. What makes fundamental the way information is presented.
    I’m not programmer, I have a few experiences, enough to understand that the that functions that I suggest here are probably complicated, and hard to implement and time consuming (if not it would already been done). But I really think that can improve a lot the attraction of the Sunbird and Lightning. I know a lot off people that would definitely think in leaving Outlook.
    So, keep the great work! I’m trilled with your work.

  11. Great job!
    Firstly, I agree with Johnathan Nightingale, except the Documents near Description (I am a GroupWise user, so no opinion on how it compares to Notes).
    Also agree with Jonathan (different spelling) about setting the time. Some kind of slider control is needed, but is a challenge to get right. GroupWise has one, and Agendus for Palm too, but have their drawbacks. Sliders need to have time input controls as well like you have, mainly for accessibility. Also, not sure how the time control drop down works, but time (text input) controls often have spin buttons for adjusting the time (I could see the date control having that as well, while still including a date picker).
    I think the UI is great for the features it contains, but is a bit cluttered. Maybe having a checkbox for Repeat and Reminder (Alarm) which then shows the dropdown, or maybe the dropdown is disabled until checkbox’ed. I imagine repeat isn’t used often, but maybe a checkbox for Reminder just adds another user step.
    The display of Repeat details is cool, I presume the link takes you to edit the settings. It looks like showing the time in the repeat is superfulous given the time listed in the section above.
    Also, the End date control seems too much given the presumption that most meetings are contained with the one day. Not sure how to solve it, but it looks too cluttered.
    Importance is listed in the Edit dialog status bar, but nothing in New. Do meetings in Calendar/ICS have importance/priority?? Palm doesn’t.
    PS. What about no-timed meetings? Does Calendar/ICS handle that? It’s used in Palm calendars all the time.

  12. Looking great! No recommendations, everything looks sweet to me. Maybe once I get my hands on it I’ll have more feedback.

  13. This integration with Thunderbird will it also apply to Sunbird?

  14. Regarding attaching documents: Maybe you have already planned this, but I believe being able to just drag’n’dropping documents into the description area or dialog should behave the same way as it does in a T’bird message compose window.
    I also agree that the menu bar shouldn’t be there.

  15. Well, I’m going a step further, I actually think the /toolbar/ shouldn’t be there :)
    The “Save and Close” disturbs me a lot. I understand it is meant to replicate the “Send” button in Thunderbird (which closes the window), but it feels very wrong to me to put that in a dialog. It should be a simple “OK” in the bottom, like it is done in the other window shown here.
    Another problem I see coming is localizability: I’m part of the French localization team, and any translation I can come up with for “Save and Close” will obviously be way too long for a toolbar button.
    A possible solution:
    – Remove the menu bar
    – Remove the “Save and Close” button and replace it with classic dialog interface (OK/Cancel)
    – The three other buttons (Attendees, Privacy, Documents) could become a kind of tabbed interface, similar to what you can find in the options dialog.

  16. Peter Pennington

    Reading the T/B Support and Build pages shows that it is easy for users to trip over the issue of setting times. Hope the new calendar will make it easy for people who cross time zones to attend meetings and will also cope with kings and presidents who mess around with daylight savings times

  17. Please consider making the freebusy backend accessible to other providers — like the one I’m developing now :-)
    That would mean defining some kind of interface to be implemented by all freebusy-capable providers.

  18. Raffael Luthiger

    About the “Invite Attendees” dialog:
    – The Zoom makes absolutely no sense to me. To what is this 100% related? Font size? Does it only scale left-right or up-down as well? In my opinion it would be better if we could choose there between: week/2week/month/…
    – The “Suggest time slot” function should have an element where I can choose how long this time slot should be. Will the meeting last 1 hour or two?
    About the New/Edit Event dialog:
    – Having the attendees list as a list of links is maybe not the best thing. Unless they behave like normal links. E.g. If I right click on them I get a menu where I could delete one out, or (maybe) send an email/reminder to this person.
    – The save-button should be at the end. If I create a new Event then I fill this dialog out like a normal form. (From the top to the bottom) And at the end I want to save it. Right now I have to go with the mouse and my eyes to the top of the dialog again.
    – And I see no reason at all for the menu-bar at the top.

  19. To be a little more abstract than comments above, it “feels” like the add event box is a bit heavy. I don’t think of adding events as something of the same gravity as composition of email, so I would be more comfortable with a lighter dialog box.
    Of course sometimes events ARE such hassles, grand orchestrations if you will, in which case a heavier dialog is called for.
    Perhaps there’s justification, then, for separate quick entry and full entry “skins”? I realize that such a suggestion is not one to be made lightly, but calendaring presents such different needs to different people…

  20. This new windows look very great
    But you are wrong when you say that freebusy is not supported by Caldav
    rscds at is very promising and is evolving very rapidly
    it’s support freebusy, rights management, private events
    It’s looking for clients with more caldav support, and quite everything in WCAP is feasible with CalDav
    Have a look !

  21. Whaoo !
    Very impressive
    But you make a small mistake
    CalDav protocol supports freebusy
    and rscd ( ) already supports this feature
    but rscd supports already more feature such as
    * right management
    * private events
    * read only calendar
    * shared calendar
    * freebusy
    rscd is very active and want to support all the CalDav spec

  22. FYI: The dialog is already implemented in recent Lightning nightlies, though free-busy currently only works with WCAP. You can switch it on via the following pref:
    calendar.prototypes.wcap → true
    (or use the lightning-wcap.xpi which has it already set).

  23. > Daniel Boelzle
    Yes, I know the freebusy feature already works, but it’s currently tied to the WCAP provider. So it would be nice if the “API” was available to other server-based providers — te be used in a new provider I’m developing for example :-)

  24. Wow, looks pretty nice. Keep on with the good work :-)

  25. I would like to be able to drag and drop anything into the calendar and have it become the basis for a new event or task.
    I would like to be able to select attendees from address book and drop them.
    I would like to be able to drag and drop emails onto a task window and generate a new task associated with it.

  26. i disagree with the comments about removing the toolbar or making the window more dialog-like. the point of this is to make using the calendar more like using thunderbird. in most email applications, an email window is not a modal dialog. it is a document window. you can continue to use the rest of the application and open multiple emails simultaneously. why should events on a calendar be any different? i find it annoying that, in sunbird currently, the calendar can not be browsed while an event dialog box is open. i would love to see this model integrated into sunbird as well.

  27. Timezone support + duration
    Just wondering whether the timezone support will also cover travelling across timezones?
    In case events will also have a location set to them there should be a double view of current timezone and event (local) timezone to help frequent travellers.
    → will there be an option to see the start/end times in multiple zones at the same time or at least a display of duration?

  28. Templates, locations and pre/post time usage – getting from a time scheduling software to time-space!
    For the events name and location settings templates or a list of locations associated with real coodinates might prove extremely useful. Right now I haven’t seen any calendaring program covering the issue of preparation and travel, but it has to come in the future. Probably Google will once come up with a direct link to their map-application for calculation of distance and travel duration in their calendar (including optional calculation for car/public transport and reintegration of data acquired from previous similar events). However since most of the locations are reused (after a while) it might also be easy for state-of-the-art software like this one to have an option to specify the usual preperation/travel time and also deal with the fact tht meetings usually do not end as intended – so lets leave an option to specify a fade out time.
    I can imagine that a shaded gradient before and after events could nicely visualize this and handle collisions much better. A simple comparison of distances (based on GPS lcations – for known ones, of course) could help to automatically calculate a guess for the travel time.

  29. I think that BoP has a really good point about travel. I often have to think about the travelling period before and after events, and sometimes add separate “meetings” to my calandar to cover longer periods travelling to or from a remote location. It would be great to be able to specify estimated travel periods for meetings, and have the time automatically marked on my calandar. Being able to attach travel information notes directly to meetings would also be pretty useful.

  30. Hi,
    I’m not sure if I’m in the correct forum, nevertheless I thought I would have a rant and then get redirected by someone who understands and can navigate the labyrinth of forums if I’m in the wrong place.
    I am wondering if it is possible to alter the view of Thunderbird/Lightning calendar? I have Thunderbird layout view in “Classic View”. Set like this there are four major windows: 1. “folders window” (top left); 2. “messages window” (top right); 3. “window for reading email” (bottom right); and 4. “calendar window” (bottom left).
    What I would like is to be able to open the calendar in this bottom left portion of the Thunderbird screen while still being able to see my inbox etc, rather than opening the calendar in the whole screen. Basically the Agenda, Todo and Calendars tabs appear to be superfluous, as is the small calendar that sits above these tabs. The main calendar should just sit in this window, perhaps with an option to maximise it if need be. Using the Classic View it is easy to portion about one quarter to a third of the screen to this corner, which should be sufficient for the calendar.
    Maybe it’s possible to do this, I obviously don’t know, or maybe there are technical problems that stop this from being possible, again, no idea. But if anyone knows of there is an add-on or whatever then please pass it on.

  31. Oh dear,
    I just realised how far from being in the right forum I am…
    But as I say “a labyrinth of forums”, makes it difficult for inexperienced users…

  32. Will this dialogs part of the 0.5 release?
    And we all are eagerly awaiting your article “Calendar Sneak Preview Part 2”. :)

  33. Loaded the nightly (a/o 10 apr 07) and use it in Thunderbird (2.0 now, woo hoo!!)
    I focused on the new event dialog.
    First: a fabulous piece of work so far.
    1. Although custom reminder may be created and saved it does not appear in the Reminder list/menu for later use. I think it should. In general use, I might establish a specific reminder that includes sending me an email (really hoping for this feature) and will want to use this same reminder pattern again without having to go through the dialogs to set it.
    I would suggest that most people who set establish a calendar item would likely use the same reminder pattern.
    2. Either 1, above, or please expose a Reminder Action on the new event dialog so that one doesn’t have to make a custom one each time. (“Reminder action” being the “When reminder becomes due” checkbox actions.)
    Thank you all for creating this excellent resource.

  34. I’m dying using Lightning 0.3.1. I yearn for the new functionality. Please release 0.5.0.

  35. Thank you to the dev team; new event dialogue is definitely headed in right direction. I am an outlook user but desperately want an alternative due to useability and AESTHETIC problems that have plagued Outlook from the beginning and are still there.
    Features I would like to see for events: 0. (highest priority) the default sound, one little beep, is way too hard for me to notice from across the room. 1. Ability to randomly choose sound from several .wav files in a given directory, or at least a drop down list of alarms, or perhaps designating a different alarm sound for each separate calendar (maybe it does that now?); 2. Why not support MP3 as well to make it easy for those of us who like a more interesting and noticeable “wake-up call”? I will try to get around to adding this feature myself, if I can find the time to figure out how to become a contributor (have never done this before).