Must Have Thunderbird Add-ons for MS Outlook Users

I have been using Mozilla Thunderbird as my email client for quite some time now on my Ubuntu box & have been more than happy with it.  This post talks about a few add-ons that made my experience with Thunderbird all the more enjoyable. Read on……

Lightning

Lightning screenshot

Lightning screenshot

The first thing that you miss with a plain Thunderbird installation is when somebody sends you a meeting invite. With Outlook it was pretty straight forward – you hit the accept button & you get the entry in your calendar which shows up a pop up at the right time to remind you of the event. Lightning adds just that functionality to Thunderbird. Once installed you get a calender & tasks interface which are pretty easy to use.

To download Lightning or to know more, please visit https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/2313

Buttons!

I remember when I started using Thunderbird, one functionality that I used to hate was that it used to open a Response or Forward in a new window leaving the original email message still open. After sending a response I was required to close the original message window as well. Now this was pretty annoying to me. However a simple add-on called Buttons! came to my rescue. It allowed creating new set of buttons (Reply!   Reply All!    Forward!) to my email message windows and using these instead of the regular ones gave me the desired effect of automatically closing the email message on hitting the Reply/Forward button.

To download or learn more about this add-on, please visit – https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/106

Screenshot-userAgent - ThunderbirdDisplay Mail User Agent

Besides the above two add-ons, I have also been using a simple add-on called “Display Mail User Agent” that I like. This one simply displays the user Agent (email client) used by the email sender. This neat add-on displays a nice logo in the header of the email message depicting the client used. To download or know more about this add-on, please visit https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/562.

What has your experience been with Thunderbird? Any interesting add-ons that you would want to share?

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IIS Does not start – Skype may be the culprit

I come from Java world but was recently trying my hand at IIS. I wanted to learn how easy or difficult is to deploy a simple website on it. During the process faced a problem and figured out the cause, which I think is worth sharing. Read on …….

I was basically following an online tutorial here. Unfortunately after installing IIS on my win xp pro box, I could not confirm that it was running – When I pointed my web browser to http://localhost the default page did not show up. As a matter of fact nothing happened. I did not get any error message, just a simple white screen – I tried with Firefox (my default browser) as well as IE 7.

After reading some more, I found out about the IIS Management Console. Through it, I could see that the “Default Website” on my IIS installation wasn’t started and any attempt to start it would result in “Unexpected Error” window as shown on the right. I had no clue what was going wrong. Tried re-installing IIS but didn’t help.

Next while going through the properties of “Default Website” I realized that it works on port 80. Tried to change it (I thought that maybe the firewall might be causing some havoc) to 8080 and VOILA it worked. Only if the error message could be more meaningful it would have saved me a an hour or two.

Next I Tried disabling Firewall but it didn’t help. Executed the following command on command prompt to find that some process was indeed listening on port 80.

d:\>netstat -a | find “LISTENING”
TCP nucleo-01:ftp nucleo-01:0 LISTENING
TCP nucleo-01:smtp nucleo-01:0 LISTENING
TCP nucleo-01:http nucleo-01:0 LISTENING
TCP nucleo-01:epmap nucleo-01:0 LISTENING
TCP nucleo-01:https nucleo-01:0 LISTENING
TCP nucleo-01:microsoft-ds nucleo-01:0 LISTENING
TCP nucleo-01:1025 nucleo-01:0 LISTENING
TCP nucleo-01:35048 nucleo-01:0 LISTENING
TCP nucleo-01:1026 nucleo-01:0 LISTENING
TCP nucleo-01:netbios-ssn nucleo-01:0 LISTENING

Had a look at my processes but didn’t see any apparent process (Apache or something like that) so decided to kill processes one by one. My first shot was at Outlook (didn’t help), next came various IMs – That one helped. I was able to start IIS after killing Skype, Yahoo & GTalk on its regular port 80.

I later managed to zero in on skype and found that it was indeed running on port 80. On checking up its configuration (Tools -> Options -> Advanced -> Connection) found an option to stop using port 80 & 443. Restarting skype after disabling the use of standard http & https ports solved my problem.

I’m still new to MS world & in the process of learning so wonder if there is something else missing/incorrect on/with my machine configuration. Why wouldn’t a simple error (like port busy or something) be shown otherwise?

Have you faced this problem too and have something to share, please let me know.

Converted into three column layout

Today I spent time to convert my blog from the default 2 column to 3 column layout. I wanted to do that because the side-bar (on the right) was getting too cluttered with information.

First 10 minutes on google lead me to this link here, which provided simple instructions to modify the default blogger template to do what I wanted. Since I had earlier modified the template (to fit the top-navigation-bar) the instructions did not apply as it is, but the explanation provided was useful and I managed to complete this in 15 minutes. Thanks Mr Hans.

Outlook with Airtel can make current window lose focus while send/receive

I ran into a strange problem recently. Every now & then while working on my Windows XP SP2 laptop, I noticed that the active window would lose focus for 3-5 seconds. This was very annoying as while typing I would miss a few words.

Since this started happening very recently, I prepared a list of things that I had done alt-tab[3]recently. Even tried un-doing a few things, but nothing really worked. Today I happen to discover the source of the problem. At work, for a different reason I increased the frequency of automatic send/receive in my Outlook. I noticed with this; the problem started appearing more frequently. As a matter of fact, it happened every time Outlook did a send/receive. This was a good break-through. I tried un-doing a few things that I had done recently in Outlook settings. For example removed a few recently added rules; disabled send/receive groups and used “All Accounts” group instead. However still nothing worked. I tried searching google and found somebody else had the same problem, but the suggested solution on the forums required messing around with the registry & I wasn’t comfortable with the reasoning provided either so didn’t really try them out.

The next good thing that just happened was that in one of those 3-5 seconds I pressed ALT-TAB & noticed a new window in the preview which shouldn’t have been there. I could identify the logo was for Airtel; my new Internet Service Provider (I had recently shifted from BSNL to Airtel). Along with the router, Airtel guys had installed this program called Airtel NetXpert 2.0 on my machine which I thought was a single point of resolution for all my Airtel related problems (So far I really haven’t got a chance to look at what it really does so not sure if I’m correct here). Next I tried killing this program, which was quietly running in the background but accessible through Notification Area (where you see your clock) & VOILA my problem got resolved.

I guess this NetXpert program is monitoring outgoing & perhaps incoming traffic from my machine (even if I’m not on Airtel network). So when Outlook tries to connect to my mail server somehow this program gets activated which for some reason tries to steal focus from the current window. Though this is just a vague guess theory & there are still a quite few open ends here, but I guess I’ll leave this here.

If you faced this problem too, do let me know by adding a comment here.

Salesforce Native Functionality

Now that you understand what salesforce is, it is time to dive in. This article (second in salesforce series) talks about how to customize/extend salesforce platform using its native functionality that does not requiring any coding.

An organization account in salesforce at the root level comprises of various data objects. While the platform comes ready with some pre-built objects (like Account, Contact etc), it also allows its users to define new ones. This process of creating a new Custom Object is similar to that of creating a table in a database where the definition of the object is captured & requires special privileges. Salesforce provides simple web based UI tools to administrators that allow them to define an object & add attributes to it through a UI wizard. The following section talk about various concepts that are involved related to salesforce objects.

Custom Fields : Once an object is defined, it is not of much use till you add “Fields” to it. These fields are elements that would be required to be filled with data with every record of the custom object. You might want to think of these as columns of a database table. These fields could be of different types like numbers (integers as well as floating), text, date, Boolean, currency, lists etc. While defining the object, one is required to specify the “record name” – a field that would uniquely identify a record. This field of type Text or auto-generated number can be thought of as the “primary key” for the object.

Constraints :  Once an attribute has been defined, the platform allows adding simple constraints on them. A constraint comes handy when you want to impose restrictions on the possible values that an attribute can contain. For example if an attribute represents a percentage value, you would want to impose a constraint that it can be between zero and hundred. You also define an error message that is displayed if the constraint is violated.

Dependent Fields : Fields can also be marked dependent on one another. For example if you have a drop down (or pick-list) that stores a list of countries and another drop down that stores a list of cities; it is possible to show only cities of the selected country by marking the “city” drop down dependent on the “country” drop down.

Relationships : When adding an attribute, one can also set up a relation between objects. For example – When defining a “Student” object, it might have an attribute called “School” for example which might have its own set of attributes. These fields are known as “lookup” fields. You might want to think of this as a “foreign-key” relationship.

Triggers : Another interesting feature that can be used for manipulating custom-objects is triggers. These are call back methods that are executed by salesforce platform when data is inserted, updated or deleted. The logic to be executed is written in Apex (to be discussed later).

Security : When creating an attribute, security is also defined for that attribute. This essentially involves who all have permissions to view/modify/delete data in the field. More on security later.

Tab

sf-tab[8] Once a custom object has been defined along with the associated relationships, dependencies & constraints one can add that object to a new “Tab”. A tab is a UI element that provides visibility for the object to a user.  A tab can show a list of instances/records of a particular object; clicking each item in the list provides more details (Fields of the record) which can be edited if desired (assuming edit permissions are granted). A tab also provides buttons that allow a user to do standard operations like “New” which presents a user with a form that takes input for all the attributes defined. One can also create custom buttons to do custom actions – For example you might want to have a custom button that modifies an attribute of multiple instances in one shot (this would require Apex programming though which I’ll talk about in later sections).

Page Layouts

As mentioned above a Tab associated with a custom object provides information about instances of that object. All UI related aspects of this object are decided by the Page Layout. One can define different layouts and associate them to different roles (therefore controlling the amount of information visible to any role). A Page Layout manager is the place where one defines what all fields would be shown & in what order. This also allows a user to select the buttons that are to be shown.

Note – This post only introduces various concepts as used by salesforce & is by no means complete. If you like to read further, here is an excellent document that should help you – http://wiki.apexdevnet.com/index.php/Members:Creating_On-Demand_Apps_PDF. This points to a document titled : Creating On Demand Apps and is an excellent read. You would need to signup (free) as a developer to download this.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post the same in comments section and I would try to help as much as possible.

Firefox 3 download to be made available tonight IST

Firefox 3 – the latest version of web browser from mozilla would be available for download tonight here. These guys are attempting a World Record by clocking 1 million downloads in the first 24 hours. By the no of pledges that they have received so far (~ 1.5 million) I wouldn’t be surprised if they manage to do it.

 

World Record or no, I’m really looking forward to this newer version of the web browser which apparently has a lot of improvements. I have tried the beta version and it *looked* great. Unfortunately didn’t use much since my add-ons were not supported. Hope that the release will come along with all popular add-ons

Windows Live Writer

I just downloaded Windows Live Writer and the tools looks great.

It allows basic editing capabilities that I get directly from blogger. I’m hoping to use this as a single window for managing my own and chahiye’s Blog. Setting it up against my blogger account was a breeze and I hope it would be as easy with chahiye’s blog (wordpress based) as well. It appears to support features like editing & supports adding tables and provides a neat way to organize un-finished posts. It also allows to publish at a later date (I’m sure I can use this feature sometime).

I’m sure there would be plenty of other tools out there doing similar things. If you know of other such tools, please let me know about it and your experience of the same.