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Make An Appointment With Linux

Manage your contacts and a lot more with a wealth of new tools.

Choice forms the hallmark of the Linux experience, and recent developments in personal information managing programs have made this choice better.

The Mozilla Foundation continues work on a calendar add-on for its Thunderbird e-mail application. Since Thunderbird already stores contact information in an address book, this forms a natural addition. But this effort is far from complete. In lieu of a Thunderbird calendar module, most Linux users have turned to Kontact or Evolution.

The KDE desktop provides applications to support personal contacts, e-mail and scheduling. In KDE, these applications are separated, with a combined application called Kontact. Kontact merges the capabilities of the KDE applications KMail, KOrganizer, and KAddressBook into one application, along with news-reading capability. Kontact also provides additional features.

Evolution, part of the GNOME desktop, appears similar to Microsoft’s Outlook. Evolution can even communicate with Microsoft’s Exchange server using a plug-in connector. Evolution can also communicate with Novell GroupWise.

But Evolution doesn’t offer much that’s new or innovative to managing your e-mail, schedule, and tasks. While this is good for users migrating from Outlook and Windows, it still puts Linux in the position of playing catch-up to Windows.

Chandler provides a new type of application with a new type of architecture on a new type of platform. Chandler, written in the Python scripting language, is the new architecture in Chandler targets info-centric users. These are users who collaborate and communicate a lot. These users send and receive a lot of e-mail (not just spam), meet with others, and generally perform more work on the computer than most users. Such users need better ways to manage all the information they create and acquire.

That’s where Chandler comes in, providing innovative features such as the ability to interact with scheduled items as objects you can stretch, mold, and reform in ways not supported by other calendar clients.

At version 0.6.1, Chandler has been a long time in coming. The 0.6.1 version provides an experimental calendar component and not much else. Future versions will add e-mail, contacts, and support for other personal information application features.

All the new architecture and features in Chandler takes time to develop, years in this case. That’s unfortunate, because Chandler shows a lot of promise, even in its early stages of development. The ability to classify meetings under a number of categories at the same time, and to manipulate appointments really makes Chandler stand out.

Furthermore, the Chandler developers realize their new tool won’t take over the world overnight. To communicate with other tools, Chandler supports, or plans to support, all the common standards such as IMAP and POP for e-mail. Chandler also supports up-and-coming standards such as CalDAV . CalDAV acts as an extension to WebDAV, a Web-based method for managing and versioning files. WebDAV and CalDAV both run as extensions to HTTP, the protocol used by the World Wide Web. This means that CalDAV will run through most company’s network firewalls, which is very important for most desktop computer users.

Hula is a server-based Web groupware solution from Novell. Hula provides e-mail and calendar support. Based on the older commercial NetMail product, Hula is built from a base that supports scaling up to massive numbers of users.

Hula includes a Web interface. Or, users can run their existing clients such as Outlook or Evolution, to communicate with the Hula server.

With all these choices, Linux continues to improve for business users –Eric Foster-Johnson

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