PalmSync - Thunderbird

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Much of the information below, except for installation procedures, is also relevant to the Seamonkey environment

PalmSync is no longer supported. Synchronizing Windows based PDAs lists alternatives. Mozilla Messaging did not deliver a version of Palmsync starting in Thunderbird 3. Newsgroup posting and blog posting describes the plans and availability of source code. The PalmSync bug reports are still available. And as noted in the postings, assistance is available to those who want to work to keep the code working.

PalmSync is an extension that provides a conduit to synchronize your Thunderbird (TB) address book with the Address or Contacts application on your Palm OS® device. PalmSync works only for PalmOS devices on Windows for address book sync. Visit #See also for solutions about other OS, devices, mail, and calendar.

Read the #Issues and Limitations to see if PalmSync is right for you, and to avoid unexpected, unwelcome results with your data.


  • MS-Windows and Thunderbird 1.5 or higher. (Current version is 2. Version 1.5 is not receiving fixes.)
  • Vista users: See Windows Vista info for Palm devices. Also, you cannot use any Thunderbird version 1.x.
  • Address application on palm device
  • Sync manager, eg Hotsync, already installed on PC to manage the conduit. Ensure you have latest version of sync software for your model of PDA, eg. via (Palm Desktop). Note: PalmDesktop 6.2 and HotSync v7 for newer devices may give you grief. If you have trouble, see the bug 422494 for details and workaround.

Issues and Limitations

Read carefully before installing and working with PalmSync to avoid unexpected results with your data, and to determine whether PalmSync is right for you. Most are just warnings.

  • Some Thunderbird fields do not sync, eg. second e-mail address, mailing address, mobile phone. Categories and Address Books, Fields describes data mapping.
  • PalmSync maps TB address books to palm categories and Palm category names are limited to 15 characters. Therefore, limit TB Address Book names to 15 characters.
  • Palm has a limit of 15 Categories. Therefore, do not establish more than 15 TB Address Books.
  • Palm does not allow duplicate Categories. Therefore, duplicate TB Address Book names should never be used.
  • One (1) and only one TB Address Book name should begin with Personal - TB's default Personal Address Book. PalmSync maps TB's default Personal Address Book to palm's default Personal.
  • Do not delete the Unfiled category from the Palm. If you did, create an Unfiled category on the palm.
  • Treo users. Contacts with category=null do not sync. Hint: Before creating a new contact set category to something other than All, your new contact will be set to the current category. If category=ALL new contact gets category=null, not Unfiled like other PDAs.
  • Ensure that all Palm Contacts are assigned to a valid Category. Contacts not assigned to a category will not sync.
  • Contacts marked "private" in the palm address book will not sync.
  • Avoid renaming TB Address Books after your first sync.
  • Syncing with two PCs is unknown territory - you are on your own.
  • Problem syncing ... Danish letters, umlauts (ä, ü, ö, ß), diacritics, etc in names - regression starting with Thunderbird 1.5
  • PalmSync does not sync non-ascii characters, eg. international language, 8-bit, unicode (bug 237624). Therefore, avoid non-ascii characters.
  • To uninstall prior to Thunderbird 2 see #Uninstall below. PalmSync installs like an extension but does not show in the Thunderbird addons/extensions list and cannot be uninstalled through addons.
  • Limitations exist because Thunderbird address book was not initially designed to be synced. see the bug list, and also next gen sync tools.


Explanation of (1), (2), (3), (4) in #Installation Notes.

  1. Before installing palmsync and making any changes, test sync to your PDA to its supplied desktop software (ex. Palm Desktop). Make sure hotsync manager works out of the box.
  2. Backup: Thunderbird data, palm desktop data. Read data #Issues and Limitations.
  3. Beware - know how many contacts you have, and how many your PDA can hold. If you have over a thousand addresses, or have automatically add outgoing e-mail addresses to my ___ address book, or you sync collected address book, you might need to exclude some address books. See (4).
  4. Do not install extension into Firefox. Save it to disk' with right (not left) click on and select "save link as".
  5. In Thunderbird, go to "Tools -> Add-ons (Extensions) -> Install" to install PalmSync.xpi from disk. (1)
  6. Restart Thunderbird to activate the extension. (1)
  7. Verify conduit settings (2):
    1. Right click the Palm Hot Sync icon in the system tray and select "Custom" to get a list of conduits.
    2. Find Thunderbird/Seamonkey/Mozilla Address Book conduit (near the bottom) - If you do not see "Synchronize The Files", change it and check "Set as Default". If you do not see the conduit then consult #Bugs and Troubleshooting
    3. Find Contacts conduit (near the top) - If you do not see "Do Nothing", set it to "Do Nothing" and check "Set as Default". If you do not see this conduit or something like it (some PDAs use a different name for "contacts") try to get a newer version of sync software so you can switch between syncing Palm Desktop and Thunderbird.
    4. Click OK.
  8. Verify HotSync® - Do a sync and check the PDA sync log (3) to verify palm and Thunderbird sync correctly. If problems consult #Bugs and Troubleshooting.

Bugs and Troubleshooting

Is Mozilla Address Book conduit listed in hotsync (Hot Sync > Custom) and is set to synchronize?

  • If not, run palmsyncinstall.exe from the extension directory, /extensions/p@m/ of the Thunderbird profile folder. (In version 1.x look in Thunderbird's "'program'" directory.)

If no data syncs:

  • Contacts conduit (if it exists) should be set to "do nothing".
  • Set Mozilla Address Book conduit in hotsync to "desktop overwrites handheld" (do NOT set as default) and hotsync once. If it syncs then the problem was not with PalmSync - it was probably data corruption on the handheld (HH), a condition known to prevent syncing. CAUTION: DT -> HH will clear contact data on your handheld and replace it with Thunderbird's data. Reference bug 261405
  • If using PalmDesktop 6.2 or HotSync v7 see bug 422494.
  • Retest syncing to your handheld's default desktop application, for example Palm Desktop with HSM Contacts' conduit set to sync and Thunderbird Address Book set to do nothing.
  • For non-stable versions/development versions of Thunderbird (nightlies, release candidates, etc) you need a special version of PalmSync. Also check the bug list.

Problems persist:

  • Ask for help at Thunderbird General mozillazine forum.
  • Check the bug list.
  • If running Thunderbird 1.5 - Uninstall PalmSync AND Thunderbird. Reinstall both. Don't be running Thunderbird 1.0.
  • After checking bug list and not finding a good match, file a new bug in component "Mailnews: Palm Sync" of product "Core". Select "Other Products" to find "Core" with
    • short summary and good description - clear and exact steps for someone else to exactly reproduce the problem.
    • versions - paste versions of all of the following into the bug comments : PalmSync, Thunderbird build string at help>about, Hotsync at hotsync>about, hotsync log from hotsync>view log
    • conduit log file - attached as a file (see below)
  • Conduit log
    • To create a conduit log:
      • create a "permanent" environment variable named MOZ_CONDUIT_LOG
        • windows XP classic view: click Start -> Control Panel -> System -> Advanced -> Environment Variables
        • windows XP menu view: click Start -> Control Panel -> Performance and Maintenance -> System-> Advanced -> Environment Variables
      • under System Variables create a New variable MOZ_CONDUIT_LOG with value c:\temp\conduit.log, and click OK
      • click OK
      • restart Thunderbird
      • Hotsync
      • view the log file. If you can't find the file or it is empty then the install did not finish correctly, the conduit is probably not being called for some other reason, or your environment variable is not correct.
    • [An alternative is a "non-permanent" environment variable - set the variable from the widows command prompt (start>run>cmd or start>programs>accessories>Command Prompt), type SET MOZ_CONDUIT_LOG=c:\temp\conduit.log and then start Thunderbird from that window. The environment variable will be "gone" when you close the command prompt window.]
    • about Conduit log: [TODO] conduit log is persistent, appended to, etc

Enhancement requests

The most notable (not just Palm OS® or Thunderbird) are:

Tweaks and Tools

  • Exclude an address book/category from syncing - Go to tools>options>advanced>general>config editor. Put "dirtype" in the config editor filter to see a list of the form ldap_2.servers.<ab_pref_name>.dirType, these are Thunderbird's internal "preference name" for each AB. Then right-click to create a boolean preference for each exclusion with a name of ldap_2.servers.<ab_pref_name>.disablePalmSync with a value of TRUE. Example, the preference name for Collected Addresses (or if you prefer, Collected Address Book) is "history", so the boolean preference for CAB is ldap_2.servers.history.disablePalmSync. (Warning: <ab_pref_name> is Thunderbird's internal "preference name", not the "pretty name". Pretty name is what you see when in the address book window).
    * This preference is documented in Bug 227507. And it has no UI (User Interface), so you will not find it in Thunderbird's preference menus nor in the extension's options.)
  • Choose home or work address - To sync home address information instead of work add a preference with tools>options>advanced>general>config editor, right-click, boolean preference mail.palmsync.useHomeAddress and set to TRUE.
    *This is documented in Bug 226221. This feature has no UI, i.e. you will not find it in Thunderbird's preference menus.
    - You can instead add a line to prefs.js as follows:
pref("mail.palmsync.useHomeAddress", true);
  • HSM version 4 or higher allows switching between syncing to Palm Desktop and Thunderbird. I.E. you can sync to both.
  • MoreColsForAddressBook aka morecols is an extension which allows import/export of Thunderbird AB to and from Palm Desktop via vcard format
  • Conduit Tools - these provide detailed control over and information about your conduits (these tools are not for the faint of heart)

Installation Notes

(1) PalmSync prior to version 2 is installed via extension manager but it is NOT a true extension. Therefore it does not appear in Thunderbird's list of addons/extensions, nor can it be UNinstalled/removed via extension manager. Use the Uninstall instructions.
(2) Some versions of Palm software retain Palm Desktop's Contacts as the default conduit after PalmSync installs the Mozilla Address Book conduit. This has been documented with Palm Desktop version 4.1.4 with HotSync version 6.0.1. So, to be safe, the final step of PalmSync install is to verify the conduit settings.
(3) PalmSync prior to version 2 does not make an entry in the PDA's hotsync log - bug 183722.
(4) PDAs have limited storage. PC's generally do not. Don't blow your PDA by syncing too many AB records. "Collecting" addresses can cause large address books, which may cause a sync to exceed a PDA's storage limit, especially phones. If you have over a thousand Thunderbird addresses you should evaluate and possibly exclude some address books from syncing (such as collected address book) by creating a Thunderbird preference of ldap_2.servers.history.disablePalmSync set to true. See Tweaks_and_Tools for details.

PalmDesktop 6.2 and HotSync 7 that comes with newer devices may give you grief. If you have trouble, see the bug report for details and workaround.

Palmsync replaces the Palm address book conduit in HotSync Manager (HSM). Installing PalmSync does not affect other conduits and sync options.

DO NOT use Thunderbird 1.0.x, it requires Contacts Sidebar extension to work avoid a bug 234391.


With Thunderbird version 2 you simply uninstall or disable using addons/extension manager.

The items below are primarily for versions 1.5.0.x, 1.0.x, etc. There is no uninstall procedure that removes the PalmSync software from disk, but you can disable or reset conduit and hotsync settings which affect the connection to Thunderbird. Choose a method depending on the results you need to achieve.

  • To disable the PalmSync conduit, keep it available for future use, and switch the sync back to Palm Desktop:
  1. Right click the HotSync icon in the system tray and select "Custom" to get a list of conduits.
  2. Edit Mozilla Address Book conduit, change to "Do nothing", check "Set as Default", click OK. (If you do not see Mozilla Address Book then the PalmSync was not activated or not completely installed.)
  3. Edit Contacts conduit (i.e. Palm Desktop), change to "Synchronize The Files", check "Set as Default"., click OK. (If you do not see Contacts then you must restore the Palm conduit using the clean and restore method below).
  4. Click OK.
  • To remove PalmSync conduit programatically so Mozilla Address Book will not appear in the hotsync list:
  1. Find PalmSyncInstall.exe in your Thunderbird profile (Thunderbird v2) or program directory (prior to v2)
  2. From a DOS prompt in that directory, do PalmSyncInstall.exe /u<br\>Seamonkey users can remove the palmsync conduit from hotsync with Start > Program > Seamonkey > Palm Tools > Uninstall
  • To remove PalmSync conduit manually so Mozilla Address Book will not appear in the hotsync list, use a tool from Tweaks_and_Tools, or do the following:<br\>WARNING: Do not proceed unless you are experienced at modifying registry values.
  1. Make a backup of your registry prior to making any changes (File > Export).
  2. Run regedit (Left click on the Start button > Run > regedit).
  3. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\U.S. Robotics\Pilot Desktop\ApplicationX (Where X is an integer - look for the entry that has a value "Name" with data of "Mozilla Address Book".
  4. Delete this Application X entry where "Name" value is "Mozilla Address Book"
  5. Exit regedit.
  6. Shutdown and restart HotSync manager.
  • To clear and return to factory default settings for HotSync choose from several methods:<br\>Warning: You must reinstall any conduits you added after you last installed Palm Desktop.
    • Run HotSyncWizard.exe - see Tweaks_and_Tools
    • Uninstall and reinstall the Palm Desktop. Or slightly less drastic ...
    • hotsync -r<br\>
      1. Get a command prompt (Start > Run > cmd), navigate go to your Palm software root folder (cd C:\Program Files\Palm\).
      2. Run hotsync -r (type: hotsync -r). This will reset the Palm Desktop's HotSync conduits to their factory defaults.
      3. Exit the command prompt (type: exit).

See also

Documentation and References

Source Code