Thunderbird is go

by Giles Turnbull

Finally, and with less fanfare than the release of its sibling application, Firefox 1.0, a few weeks ago, the email client called Thunderbird has reached its coming of age.

You can now download Thunderbird 1.0 from Mozilla and try it out on your Mac.

My first impressions are pretty favorable, on the whole. The look is much sleeker than I remember from previous versions, and more in tune with the outward appearance of Firefox.

I really like the three-vertical-panes view, which is a great way of reading and managing mail at the same time, but on my little iBook screen it uses up too much screen real estate (as in, all of it) to be useful.

Best news of all, is that everything works much faster now. Last time I downloaded one of the beta versions (this was several months ago), every task from launching the app to creating a new message meant an agonising wait. That's all gone now, and the interface is snappy and responsive.

There's plenty of interesting extras to keep even the most cynical of software obsessives happy for a few hours, trying things out.

I love the Message Grouping feature, which lets you cut through the clutter of a typical inbox (OK, my inbox) and drill down to stuff that matters. Customising it is easy, and presents all sorts of intriguing possibilities (using Thunderbird to manage projects and todo lists, perhaps?)

There's also a built-in RSS reader; I haven't tried this out myself and I wonder whether it's really necessary in a mail client. That said, at least one acquaintance of mine has been raving about it, pointing out how useful it is to treat RSS feed items like mail messages.

There's not much to be unhappy about with this release; some users may find the lack of import options a bit troublesome. Thunderbird can import from Eudora and Communicator without a problem, but for many users of Entourage and Mail, there's no built-in support. Mac OS X Hints has a hack for importing Mail archives into Thunderbird. Just promise me you'll back up first.

Got any Thunderbird tips or tweaks to share?


2004-12-08 16:15:04
2004-12-08 18:32:01
Since you mention backup.... how is it that you would backup emails in Thunderbird? I dont see a direct feature...
2004-12-08 20:38:22
Tried it, still not for everyone.
I was happy to hear there was a client from Mozilla, way back when, and really happy to hear from everyone how fast this program has become.

Two reasons I've left on the site why Thunderbird still doesn't work for me, and probably some others:

1. Doesn't use the native OS X Address Book, and I don't mean importing. We use one Address Book on 8 computers by using iSync & .Mac, so importing is not an option.

2. Doesn't import mailboxes and preferences. This doesn't even matter because of issue 1, but I've got ton's of folders and mail rules I'm just not willing to re-enter.

3. profit!

2004-12-09 03:00:36
Great app
It's a great app. I switched easily from Apple Mail but I use IMAP so getting to all old email was no problem. It is faster than previous versions but still has some work to do to catch up with Mail it seems. Also with this new version it doesn't crash as much on my Powerbook. Previous versions has a tendency to crash a lot for whatever reason.
2004-12-09 03:01:40
Great app
Forgot to add... I wish it had better integration with Address Book though. I iSync iCal and Address Book with my cell phone.
2004-12-09 03:23:45
Some Glaring Faults
For the average Mac users there seem to be some glaring faults in Thunderbird. First and formost is lack of support for Address Book. That is a non-starter, made even worse by the lack of support for vCard import.

Second is lack of support for the Keychain. I will not use any app that has it's own password storage function. I want to know where my passwords are and to be able to manage them easily. I have the same problem with Firefox and will not use it either as a result. I don't understand why developers do this.

When using my .Mac account in IMAP mode, it did not handle my server folders correctly, nor was I able to easily set up to send from my .Mac email aliases as I am in Mail.

And finally Thunderbird does not take advantage of the real-time system wide spell checker, which I have come to rely on.

It is a shame because some people clearly worked really hard on Thunderbird and it does have some promise. Saved searches are nice, and RSS is neat, but we'll be getting those with Tiger Mail and Safari respectively in a few months plus a lot more. This app has the look of an OSX app, but under the skin the feel of a PC port.

I can see how Windows and Linux users would consider this a viable client, but for me at least I'll have to wait for 2.0 and try again.

Perhaps in organizations with heterogenous platforms there will be an appeal for an app that is standardized across all the platforms, but that approach has its perils too. You can end up with the jack-of-all-trades but master of none scenario, not to mention that a security flaw can grow more easily into a huge problem if all the systems are running the same software.

2004-12-09 05:08:12
For new users:
MozillaNews has a Thunderbird migration guide for Windows users.
2004-12-11 18:03:08
Ditched Lotus Notes for Thunderbird
I recently decided that I should have a personal copy of my work-related email (I'm leaving for a different job). One problem I had was that we used Lotus Notes as the corporate email (and much more) client. Our analyst enabled IMAP on my Notes account. Then I installed Thunderbird. Within minutes I was accessing my work account through the network.

That is only a temporary measure, of course, since on my last day IMAP won't even work :) So I also enabled Offline message storage and just sync it with the IMAP account. I'm looking forward to putting Thunderbird on my home PC and bringing over my mail files. I'll cross my fingers and see how it goes.

I did a similar task earlier when I wanted to dump Outlook emails from a Windows system, into KMail on my Linux system. This was a bit more convoluted back then, but I was able to do it by installing Netscape Mail, using the Outlook importer. Then transferring my data onto the linux machine and importing the files into KMail.

2005-01-01 14:02:12