One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to only use cloud services when absolutely necessary. Web apps are great tools when you need to collaborate at a distance, but other than that you’re better off keeping your work on your own machines, for privacy reasons if nothing else.
The trouble with the cloud, however, is that it’s too easy. While we know we shouldn’t be putting information that needs to be safely secured on our own computers in the hands of the likes of Google — no offense Google — web apps are only a click away and it’s often easier to just clink-and-use than it is to stop what we’re doing to take the time to look for something that’ll serve our purpose while keeping our data safe and sound on our own hard drives. I’m guilty of this, and most likely, so are you.
This resolve was put to the test a few days after the holidays, when I realized I was having trouble remembering all the things on the schedule I keep in my head and decided it was high time I started using a calendar. My first impulse was to click to Google’s always handy online calendar, which I’ve used from time to time, but just before I clicked I pulled my hand from the mouse remembering my resolution.
It was time to do some calendar hunting. And because I’d saved myself from Google’s always-at-the-ready suite of online tools, I started my search with…well, Google. As anyone who knows me well will attest, sometimes my thinking has trouble getting out of reverse.
Hoping to take the easy way out, I looked first for a calendar extension for Chrome, my browser of choice, forgetting for a moment that a browser’s whole purpose is to access the Internet, which is the cloud when you get down to it. Right away I discovered Sunrise Calendar, which is touted for letting you work offline. I did a little searching, enough to find that plenty of folks are using it and think it’s just fine. Perfect, I thought. Just the thing. I told Google to “make it so.”
The good news is that Sunrise is a perfectly functional calendar that does everything a calendar should do. The bad news is that for about a year it’s been a Microsoft product — a deal breaker for me if ever there was one. But that isn’t its only drawback: It also offers no escape from the cloud.
Sunrise Calendar was originally developed exclusively for mobile devices and is popular on iPhones and Android devices. As you might expect from what is essentially a mobile app, it requires a connection with an online calendaring program, like Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook, to function. You can work offline all right, but as soon as you connect to the Internet it’ll blab all it knows about you to its configured online calendar.
Just to be sure this is the case, I checked it out. Sunrise Calendar and my Google Calendar are now in perfect sync, just as Google — which wants to sync the world — would have it. I should say, they were in perfect sync, since Sunrise is no longer on my hard drive.
Next up I tried KOrganizer, which is basically the calendar component of Kontact, KDE’s personal information manager suite. I was keen to have a look at it, because back in the days when I was new to Linux and running good ol’ Mandrake, I used KMail as my absolute favorite email client for several years, and still have fond memories of it. Although I’m no longer a KDE user — these days Xfce is my desktop of choice — that’s never stopped me from running KDE apps in other environments.
Finding KOrganizer using Synaptic was a snap, and a few clicks later I was ready to see where in the menu Mint dropped it. It was under “Office,” right where I expected it.
After opening KOrganizer I had to click through a couple of error messages to get to the main screen. Evidently the program doesn’t speak Xfce as fluently as it speaks KDE and was befuddled because it couldn’t find the system tray. Other than that, it worked splendidly. I especially like the fact that the work area to the left of the calendar graphic offers thumbnail calendars for three months — four if you want to squeeze the calendar against the right wall — which can come in handy for planning ahead. The calendar is also intuitive and easy to use.
I was ready to adopt KOrganizer then and there, but I thought I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least give Evolution a try. These days Evolution is the full fledged PIM for the GNOME desktop, but back when I started using Linux it was somewhat independent, owned and maintained by Ximian, a company closely tied to GNOME which was eventually purchased by Novell. Evolution’s main claim to fame, then as well as now, is that it can connect to Microsoft Exchange Servers, although establishing the connection is said to be a daunting task.
Evolution is also the first email client I ever used in Linux, and it was never a favorite.
The Evolution calendar isn’t available as a stand alone app, at least not in my distro’s repository, so I installed the entire Evolution suite, including the email client, as a single package. The calendar is functional enough and is just as intuitive as KOrganizer. However, for some reason — probably connected with the numerous crashes of the email system I experienced back in 2002 — I don’t like it and pretty much knew going in I wouldn’t be using it.
Personal prejudices aside, it’s not a bad calendar and not all that different from the KDE calendar. As with KOrganizer, it has the ability to show thumbnail images for several months, although the thumbnails are wider, which means that keeping three months onscreen greatly reduces the size of the main calendar, but two works just fine.
Finally, I took a look at Lightning, which is not a stand alone application but is the calendar and scheduling extension for the Thunderbird email client and the SeaMonkey Internet suite. This is another calendar app with which I have previous experience, as I used it at a business I operated from 2004-2012.
As was the case with KOrganizer and Evolution, the straight forward design is easy to use and is intuitive. To my eyes, it also has the most attractive GUI of all the calendars I tried. On the downside, it only displays one monthly thumbnail in the left screen, although it does offer the ability to navigate to future or previous months by use of navigation arrows. Also, it can only be considered as an option if you’re using Thunderbird or SeaMonkey.
When all is said and done, a calendar app is a calendar app is a calendar app. Except for Sunrise’s propensity for sharing secrets with its cloud based parent calendar, there’s not a nickle’s difference between any of these apps; they all do the same thing in basically the same way. I’ve put my affinity for KOrganizer aside for the time being and have settled in with Lightening, mainly because of its tight integration with Thunderbird. Among other thing, that means I won’t have to remember to open it, as it’ll be there automatically as a tab on Thunderbird, so I might even find myself using it.
I’m not uninstalling KOrganizer however. I might yet change my mind.
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