Thunderbird with Exchange Global Address List

Why even bother?

So you got a fancy, sharp and fluently working AD based on MS Windows Server along with MS Exchange and plenty, plenty of users using Global Address List?
But not all of them have MS Office, do they? That’s not a problem, as long as you want to bother a little with configuring Open Source alternative from Mozilla, that is Thunderbird.
Most of admins would say: if we decided they don’t need MS Office, I don’t think they need GAL.
I beg to differ. Thunderbird with Exchange Global Address List is for standard user that doesn’t use calendars a lot more closer in terms of usability inside AD structures to MS Outlook.
Of course, it’s still not a one-clicker for user inside domain to have it all like Outlook, still: Thunderbird is free and possibility to use GAL is a big plus.

Configuring Thunderbird

Let’s move straight to the settings we’ll be using. Let’s switch from main frontend of Thunderbird to Address Book.

    Address Book

Then, we’ll need to create new address book for this particular Thunderbird user.
Let’s go to File -> New -> LDAP Directory…

    File New LDAP Directory

Finally, we arrived at our target window: setting up connection with LDAP Directory, that is our Exchange Global Address List.

    LDAP Directory settings

Ok. So here comes troubles. Let’s review few things we will need for working this out:

  • Name: We can name it anyway we want. If you’re not using many address books and I guess you don’t, name it just Global Address List or something like that.
  • Hostname: It’s just the domain name that we’re gonna grab address list; for me, it will be localwire.pl
  • Base DN: Ok, so we’re in the domain already, let’s browse for the container. First two entrances will be our domain name, that is: "DN=localwire, DN=pl"
    Next, we need to find Organizational Unit (OU) where we’re keeping our users in. Don’t know what OU and CU is?
    Microsoft’s TechNet articles are great start for finding out: Technet – Organizational Units
    Ok. Let’s say we’re keeping our mail users inside OU called “Mailboxes”. Of course they are categorized in other OU inside our main one, but if we want them all, let’s skip to the parent one. I’m gonna set this up as "OU=Mailboxes", so my final Base DN field will look like this: "OU=Mailboxes,DN=localwire,DN=pl"
  • Port number: If you’re using standard port for either SSL or not secured connection, just leave it as it is. If it’s not default, feel free to change that.
  • Bind DN: You’d ask what’s left, right? We need to login to our domain for data we need. I’ll use my root user for that, that is: root@localwire.pl

Final settings should look like this:

    Final settings

Last final thing – let’s set Thunderbird to actually auto-lookup for contacts in our brand new LDAP Directory.
While still staying in Address Book window choose Tools->Options from menu toolbar.
Then check the box next to ‘Directory Server’ and choose Global Address List we’ve just set up.

    Final settings options

Wait a second, I’m new to Windows Server – where do I find all the settings?

The fastest way around to find this out is to go to Active Directory Users and Computers (dsa.msc) and check it out yourselves.
Whether you’re fresh Junior Admin or newcomer playing around with AD on some virtual machine, you should have access to that tool.
Let me show you all the info you need is there:

    Final settings options

Troubleshooting

Two most common issues I’ve encountered connecting Thunderbird with Global Address List:

  • Nothing happens at all after setup: You’ve probably set things up wrong as Thunderbird can’t reach your AD controller at all
  • Password pops up but Thunderbird doesn’t look up anything: Ok, Thunderbird is connecting to your AD and if no credentials error appear, you have connected. What could be wrong is that you’ve entered wrong OU where your users and contacts reside. If you’re administrating a smaller OU that’s a part of greater domain or even domain forest, consider asking global admins out if there’s anything non standard that has been implemented there.

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