For software that isn't tied to one machine.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Thunderbird Beta 3 Review

Thunderbird is already an excellent e-mail client that has steady yet slow improvement over the years. Its plugin structure has really made for a far better email client than many alternatives and its open nature makes it easy to plug into other email systems and of course for backing up. Integrated compression allows it to save lots of space, as text frequently compresses by 50% or more.

Great updates:
  • Threads - A fix on the problem with Thunderbird 2.0 staying in the "thread" format (like Gmail's system) when you restart. Do this by selecting "View - Sort by - Threaded".
  • Integration with Gmail. Allows you to get both POP and IMAP settings, which download all your email and download just the headings respectively. This was very welcome and seems to work beautifully.
  • Activity Manager gives you a rundown of the actions Thunderbird has taken. A problem in the previous Thunderbird left me wondering if it was actually checking my e-mail every 5 minutes -- now I know.
  • Message Summary View - extremely cool. From the release notes: "Selecting multiple messages will give you a summary view of the emails you have selected." Just try it -- its terrific.

  • Similarity with Firefox
  • Tabbed View - really slick -- I'm surprised this wasn't already present. Overall the interface is much smoother and cleaner.

  • Back and Forward buttons -- awesome.

More updates are on their way and I look forward to the finished product. Notably, a global search and index tool will be included in the final version. (I'm assuming global means all Inboxes, not the rest of the computer.)

  • User Interface: the formatting of email for 2nd and 3rd layer quoted text is a big "loud" and cluttered. Should be grey rather than blue.

  • Same for the progress bar: a light grey is more than enough.

  • To get messages in Plain text only, you have to go to "Options - Format - Plain Text only" Doesn't appear to be an option to set this by default in the Preferences like there was in Thunderbird 2.0.
  • Selecting "File" and "New" should allow you to add an RSS/Atom feed.
  • "Import" should allow you to import from file, as well as directly from Outlook and other email clients. That way you can grab stuff from backups rather than having to reinstall apps.
Plugin options that should be standard:
  • Calendar and TodoList integration, like Lightning. Should be something you check to enable at startup or in the options menu. Who wouldn't want that?
  • Better security options such as easy PGP/GPG tools and integration or just an "add a password" option of some kind. I know there's Enigmail and its very robust, but I think its important to have something beyond the very inaccessible "certificate" security.
  • Want a "delete duplicates" option somewhere in there to clean up inbox.

System Requirements: Win 98 or above and very basic hardware
Version: 3.0 Beta
Size: 30 megs
RAM Usage: 6 megs
License: GPL, MPL
Score: 8 of 10. Very voluntary about not being ready for prime time, but a real step up in mail readers. In some ways very superior to Outlook. Looking forward to using it daily when it gets out of beta.
In Kitchen Sink Collection? No, simply because their trademark won't let me redistribute it.

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