First look to Spicebird 0.4

Spicebird logoSynovel Techologies has released Spicebird 0.4, the first public release of its open source Mozilla-based personal information manager that integrates Thunderbird, Lightning and XMPP to deliver email, calendaring, instant messaging and other communication tools on a single product.

As expected from the demo revealed a few weeks ago, it adds a few integration features on top of the core components to make it a more efficient communication tool.

For example, Home is a dashboard style view that you can customize to add any of five currently available applets: Mail, a small preview of messages in your selected folder; web feeds, a list of web feed items that displays the full post when you move the mouse cursor over it; Agenda, a view of coming events; Calendar, showing current month with event days highlighted; and, Date & Time, which allows to add as many clocks as you want each showing the time at a different city.

Spicebird Home

The applet approach should make it a very flexible dashboard similar to aggregation pages like iGoogle, Netvibes and PageFlakes where you can add a variety of web content including movie show times, weather, comic strips, etc.

Home is one of five tabs the whole interface is organized on.

Inbox, is basically Thunderbird which brings support for email, newsgroups and web feeds. It adds some brains to emails that include a date and time, offering you to add them as events to your calendar. A handy little feature that could get smarter and more helpful it it was able to detect recurring and location keywords like every and at.

Spicebird detecting an event in an email

Integration with the IM component allows you to right-click on a sender and send a message right away.

Regarding IM, it supports Jabber (and other networks if connected to a server with the necessary gateways), so it means you can connect to Google Talk out of the box. To send a message you need to switch to the Contacts tab, select a contact and press the Instant Message button in the toolbar. The IM window is nothing fancy, just somewhere to write some text, some graphic emoticons and no formatting option.

Spicebird IMIn general it definitely feels like an alpha (despite it being labeled as beta) with several rough edges to polish in the next milestones but provides a taste of its ambitious goal of delivering a unique communication center that consumers and enterprise users will appreciate.

According to Spicebird’s roadmap, next release, 0.7, should bring email tabs (currently in the works for Thunderbird 3), email import/export, a buddy list applet for Home. The final version will bring content management integration (with Drupal, most likely) and a killer feature: Microsoft Exchange integration which could mean finally an option for me and millions of users tied to Outlook.

Spicebird is available for Windows as an 8 MB download and Linux (10 MB) in US English only at this moment.

For more details see Spicebird 0.4 release notes.

3 Comments

  1. lefty.crupps January 14, 2008 9:09 am 

    How about a calendar? Does it support *.vfb or *.ifb files on a newtowk share for Free/Busy? that is the key, the missing component in too many email apps; only KMail and Outlook have this that I know of, making every Windows user at my office stuck with Outlook…

  2. tim January 14, 2008 10:52 am 

    Great. That sounds like an alternative to Evolution. I liked Evolution because of its speed but it was experiencing a very slow development. I’ve just tested SpiceBird and I’m really impressed. There are some things that are missing or not done yet like synchronizing my contacts and appointments with a server. The even bigger problem is that it does not integrate well in Gnome in some cases. For instance, you can access your tasks from the clock applet in Evolution. I haven’t found out yet how to do this with SpiceBird. It’s not possible to minimize SpiceBird to tray but I hope there will be an extension for this. The reason why I switched to Evolution were speed, memory usage, features (integrated organizer, integration in Gnome, etc.). Evolution has a very low memory usage in comparison with Mozilla Thunderbird (I was having about 200 feeds and 5 e-mail accounts) and it’s much faster. I’ve tested SpiceBird with a local IMAP server (which is just being used for testing purposes) with a folder containing about 3000 e-mails (feed items). The speed was very incredible. Even faster than Evolution took getting the headers. Another big problem of SpiceBird is that it loads many features the user might not be use. There’s only one feature (the instant messenger) which can be disabled. The instant messenger is very useful but at the moment I still prefer Pidgin because of its features, extendability and support for multiple protocols. I don’t need the integrated feed reader as I’ll read the feeds over my IMAP server. It’s also very nice that Spicebird is OpenSource (otherwise I wouldn’t have tested it)
    Anyway, all in all SpiceBird is a great application and I will use it as soon as it’s in a usable status and I’ve figured out how to import all the data from Evolution.

    By the way, thank you very much for your interesting review!

  3. tim January 14, 2008 5:21 pm 

    lefty.crupps, it only supports .ics and .csv.

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