When it was released and whilst I was still flush with the joy of switching to Firefox, I thought I’d have a go at Mozilla’s new email client Thunderbird. I’ve been using it for about 3 months now, here are some of my thoughts.


Installation and import is easy
The installation is painless as is the initial setting up of your email account. Ohh and the import from Outlook (Express or the full version) is a great example of simple effective software. A few wizard settings and there were my emails from Outlook, all in the right folders.

Have more than one email account to manage?
Thunderbird will make THAT a lot easier. Each mailbox gets it’s own settings, so I can check my everyday email every 60 minutes, Scottish Blogs email every 4 hours, and my GMail account (if I wanted to) every 12 hours.

Handling new email addresses
If you receive an email from someone, and they aren’t in your contact list (address book), when you reply to the email, Thunderbird logs their email address for you. Simple idea but saves you having to remember to add email addresses as they come in.

Email filtering
If you have a filter which moves incoming emails from a certain address to a specific folder, and then decide to move that folder, Thunderbird will automatically update the filter for you. Simple touch but it’s that kind of attention to detail which impresses.


RSS Reader
Thunderbird includes an RSS reader, and my initial thoughts were that that might just be a good place for one… maybe… except you can’t import an OPML file so have to add every single feed by hand. Not clever.

Close that window!
Replying to emails leaves the original email open. This particularly ‘feature’ is driving me nuts!

Labelling emails
I’ll happily concede that Outlook 2003 handles this MUCH better than Thunderbird. I use Outlook at work and have become used to “flagging” labels to make sure they don’t slip out of view, a simple click of the mouse and it’s done. Outlook then offers a filtered view in a specific folder which only shows those flagged emails. Thunderbird allows labelling but it takes three clicks as you need to select the label from a drop down menu. It also doesn’t have an automatic filtered view.

What date is it?
By design Thunderbird has no built-in calendar (Sunbird being the suggested offering). I can understand that decision but for many people like myself, who are used to having both email (incoming actions) and calendar (holds date driven actions) in one application, it does feel like a bit of a loss. At the moment I have Outlook set to open to the calendar page but that’s not very elegant. Fine for everyday use though.

In summary

For the home user I think it’s an excellent client. The settings are much easier to understand and use than Outlook yet it remains familiar enough that a switch isn’t daunting, in fact it’s surprisingly easy to achieve. If you are a “power user” or rely heavily on your calendar/email/task list combination then it’s not for you. I’m currently using Thunderbird at home as my main email application, and have it at work for checking MY email, whilst Outlook handles my work email.

So if you are fed up cursing your email application, why not give Thunderbird a try.

Written By

Long time blogger, Father of Jack, geek of many things, random photographer and writer of nonsense.

Doing my best to find a balance.

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