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Some Thunderbird Calendar UX feedback

Making moves

Its been a while since I tried to use Thunderbird calendar on a daily basis but I had fond memories from the years I did use it all the time.  I homeschool my kids so I setup a shared school schedule first using Google Workspaces for School. It didn't take long to get fed up with their system so I decided to run my own iCal server on my local network and have my kids use Thunderbird.  I figured it take them a little bit getting using a desktop app and the new UI and for the most part they've adapted.  After all they don't spend any time creating or editing calendar events, just looking at what they need to do each day.  I on the other had have been been aghast trying to use Thunderbird's UI to create this shared schedule.  I'm using Thunderbird on Ubuntu.

I started by importing what I made in Google and that went ok after spending a few hours searching on how to do it.  The real issues came when I had to make edits to the calendar:

  • For repeating events there is no "edit this and following" option or "delete this and following" option.  This is a pretty common need and exists in every other calendar app I've used... so you really need to have it.  Missing it also becomes a real problem when combined with some of the other UX issues I'll explain later.
  • If I have a recurring event with custom repeat options, like "every 2 weeks on Wed and Fri starting May 1st" and then I edit the series and change the start day to Apr 29th it basically doesn't move the event... because of the Wed and Fri settings... but it acts like it did.  It would make more sense for Thunderbird to either:
    • Warn the user about this inconsistency
    • Turn off the Wed and Fri repeat settings since the event now starts on a Mon
  • If I copy (Ctrl-C) and then paste (Ctrl-V) between different calendars the behavior is completely unpredictable.. to the point that I stopped using copy/paste and just made new events every time.  The behavior depends on combinations of:
    • Was the original recurring and did I copy the single instance or the series
    • What day of the week is selected when I try to paste and if it matches the day the original was on.
    • A random number generator... possibly ?
  • If I have a recurring event, say it repeats daily and it starts in the future, and then I change the start date to today it doesn't show up on the calendar for today.  I can see it for tomorrow and all days after but any event I move to today doesn't show today.
  • The UI for choosing start and end times for events is really confusing.  I see what you're trying to do by having an AM and PM row of hours but I think this is so different from any other calendar app that its hard to get used to.  Maybe it I use it longer it might not be so bad but I'm not sure.  After trying for over a month I'm still often making mistakes choosing the right time.
  • The app is slow and sluggish all the time.  In ways that none of my other apps running at the same time are so its clearly a Thunderbird thing.
  • If I'm doing a bunch of edits in a calendar then create a new event the default calendar selected isn't the one I've just been working in... its some other calendar that I haven't touched in a while.  I can't see the logic Thunderbird is using to pick what to default to and even if I could I'd hate it.  If I'm working in a calendar for the last 10 minutes then that's the calendar I want the new event it.  The default should at least be "whatever calendar I last made a change to"... that would make sense and be logical.

The TLDR; of this is that the UX for the calendar is really painful to use and is missing some pretty common basic features.  I found myself yelling the words "what did Thunderbird just do" over and over and honestly if have to make large edits to my children's calendar again I might just do it in Google, export it and import to Thunderbird just to avoid having to use your UI... which makes me sad.