Posted September 24, 2007 2:11 pm by with 61 comments

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As an Internet marketer, I do a lot of Internet based research every day. Opening and closing applications to get to the content I need can be a huge pain. Luckily, Thunderbird has a whole host of features and add-ons which together provide an all in one interface for reading and organizing email, RSS, web pages, and newsgroups.

1. Open Source Add-ons: Forget waiting around for Microsoft to update Outlook with that killer feature you know would rock. There is a whole community of developers out there doing just that with Thunderbird add-ons. If someone else hasn’t gotten around to developing your ideal feature, you can always do it yourself!

2. RSS Management: Sure, there are a ton of RSS readers in both software and web form, but wouldn’t you prefer to read your RSS feeds in the same application as your email? Thunderbird has integrated RSS support. Even better, you can browse through the list of messages for each feed in its own folder and delete the posts you’ve already read or don’t want to read. New messages automatically appear the next time Thunderbird checks for new messages. I’m able to keep up with 70 some odd RSS feeds with ease.

3. Unread Folders: If you have tons of email, newsgroup, and RSS folders, you may not want to browse your whole folder list looking for the folders with unread messages. Thunderbird includes an unread folders view which makes it much easier to focus on the folders that need attention.

4. Thunderbrowse: Outside of Thunderbird’s RSS management capabilities, this is by far the best part of my Thunderbird experience. Thunderbrowse is a Thunderbird add-on which turns your email message pane into a browser. Load links in emails directly in the message pane. Of course it wouldn’t be Mozilla without tabs, and Thunderbrowse gives you the option to load links into separate tabs in the message pane. The only drawback to Thunderbrowse, is that it doesn’t handle JavaScript very well so you may have to load certain pages in a browser. Oh, the agony.

5. The Mozilla Foundation: Mozilla is the nonprofit organization behind Firefox and Thunderbird. Besides producing some really great products, Mozilla and their network of developers are just a swell bunch of people. I’ve worked on one project with the Mozilla Foundation and I can personally attest to their commitment to quality and the people who use their software.

6. Subject or Sender Quick Search: While browsing through folders you may have the need to quickly find an email by subject or sender. Thunderbird provides a quick search bar where you can find the message you’re looking for with one click and a few keystrokes.

7. Export Features: Transitioning to a new computer can be a giant nuisance, but Thunderbird makes it easy. Select from built in export / import features or download a whole host of add-ons designed to make sure your experience on your old computer is the same as your new one. The RSS export feature is also a great way to share your RSS feeds with your friends.

8. Usenet Support: While not the best newsgroup reader of all time, Thunderbird is a very capable Usenet program in its own right. You’ll also be able to take advantage of the same sorting and organizing features available with Thunderbird’s email and RSS capabilities.

9. Sort By: Choose from a wide variety of sorting options to make finding messages in your folders much easier. Sort options – date, star, order received, priority, sender, size, status, subject, read, tags, junk status, attachments, ascending, descending, threaded, unthreaded.

10. Adaptive Junk Mail Filtering: By flagging spam in Thunderbird you can use adaptive junk mail filtering to train Thunderbird to recognize spam. Over time, Thunderbird will “learn” what you consider spam and filter accordingly. Adaptive junk mail filtering also works with RSS feeds so you have the option to tag specific types of posts as junk.

  • Any update when the online version of Thunderbird is supposed to come out?

  • Thunderbird is close to being good and I’m eagerly awaiting the day I can make the switch, but the main alternative on Windows (Outlook) is still superior. While the “intelligent” spam filtering should work in theory, after training it against thousands of e-mails, it still failed pretty miserably. I tried giving Cloudmark’s plug-in a try (which works very well with Outlook), but I failed to get it to work properly.

  • I’ve had success with the adaptive spam filter. Combine it with Barracuda and you’ll be in good shape. Of course nothing is perfect.

  • A compelling list David! I gave it a test for 24 hours (about 6 mths ago) but wanted something that wasn’t local. When they get the online version up, I’ll take another look.

  • Andy,

    If you’re able to support IMAP on your email server it’s a whole lot less local. I have the same folders and messages on my laptop (or any computer of my choosing) as I do in my office. RSS and Newsgroups obviously won’t work with IMAP, but at least your email will be in sync.

  • LOL

    I find it funny that people are talking “oh… open source, its a good thing, so lets make it #1 reason in my list”.

    Most of those reasons are just “no sense”. Like it’s from Mozilla… So? Unread folders… Eh, every client got everything what you wrote here. So what are the REAL reasons? I know that you won’t approve this comment and just delete it. Whatever. By the way I am not using Outlook anyway or ThunderBird and I don’t care. Just provide good reasons, not just like Its from Mozilla or “It can send mail…”.

  • LOL,

    > “oh… open source, its a good
    > thing, so lets make it #1
    > reason in my list”.

    It’s the number one reason on my list because it makes it easier for developers to build extensions. Extensions = customization, which is very important to me.

    > Most of those reasons are
    > just “no sense”. Like it’s
    > from Mozilla… So?

    If you’re more inclined to use a product from a conciseness non-profit it makes perfect sense. Mozilla is also the developer of Firefox. To many people, an organization’s track record is very influential.

    > Eh, every client got
    > everything what you wrote here.

    Including message pane browsing and RSS support the way I described? I think not.

  • Bob

    Thunderbird currently is the best email client, I have using it for so long and it has never crash. The only thing I need is a really cool theme, I didn’t like any of those available now.

  • I would never move all my mail back to Thunderbird again until they get legit import/export functionality up to snuff.

    Also, it needs a functional calendar tie-in.

    If both those things are in place, I’d probably give it another shot. It’s not bad…and it’s got Outlook beat in terms of size and speed. But, as for right now, I just bought a copy of Outlook 2003 today (2007 just plain sucks).

  • Chuck – The calendar tie-in is Thunderbird’s greatest weakness. I personally use a CRM package for calendaring so it doesn’t bother me so much, but if you’re addicted to Outlook’s calendaring then Thunderbird wouldn’t be the best fit.

  • good points mentioned, and its great peace of software. but hey, everyone was using desktop mail clients like The Bat, Outlook, and others, then moved to the web with Gmail storage explosion and Yahoo with Hotmail following it, then Gmail says it will offer offline option and I expect other major webmails to folow them.
    with all this trends and everything, what Thunderbird does looks like weird strategy?

  • Seth Fowler

    The Sunbird calender from Mozilla is a fairly good application. It is not integrated with Thunderbird, nor does it have conduit support for Blackberry’s and other smart phones. So I guess we’ll need a “Thundersun” application that merges the two.

  • uncle doodoo

    Here is one reason why I’m not using thunderbird: The ability to add just one lousy smtp server. I’ll never understand why they would limit that.

  • I just started trying out in order to find good alternatives for Windows Outlook, and so far I am satified (check my blog). It does what it has to do. Later I will try out some other programs.

  • Why use a desktop-based email client anyways? Use GMail and forget all of this hoopla for one more app on your PC, Mac, etc. Keep it clean, but still support Mozilla through Firefox.

  • spunky monkey

    Usenet support has not improved since early days of mozilla-mail…

  • Dustin – I find web interfaces a little cumbersome. Also I’ve fallen in love with Thunderbird’s RSS capabilities. There’s no easier way to keep on feeds IMO.

  • Rich

    uncle doodoo,
    You can add multiple smtp servers, it is just placed strangely, so it is not easy to see when you set up a new mail account. In your preferences, tehre is a separate section for smtp servers.

  • — uncle doodoo,
    Not sure what version of Thunderbird you’re using, but mine has multiple SMTP servers, and the ability to switch on the fly.

    — Also you can get thunderbird with PortableApps, which gives you the option to take thunderbird, (and a bunch of other apps if you like) to use on any windows computer from a usb drive. Works without leaving anything on the host computer. Very simple.

  • phil

    @Seth Fowler
    There is an add-on to integrate the calendar into thunderbird: it’s called lightning

    @uncle doodoo
    you can use 1 smtp server, I don’t know what made you believe it’s not possible, but it is. You can set up as many or as little smtp servers that you want and then set each incoming e-mail account to use whichever smtp server your heart desires.

  • Scooter – Good point on the PortableApps item. I wrote a post on this a while back related to something a little different. Do you know if Thunderbird w/ PortableApps supports IMAP configs?

  • Hughesco

    As an ISP sys-ad, I have no less than 10 email addresses pointed at my inbox. Ham is 750-1000/day. Outlook 2000,03, and 07 all are doggy with this volume. I can’t type in new messages while Outlook is checking mail, takes to many resources.
    Been running Thunderbird for couple months Combined it with SpamBayes, Thunderbays plug-in, and some filtering on marked spam. 1-5 Spam make it into my inbox/day, 0 are incorrectly marked as spam. Search is fast. Add some other plug-ins for Calendar, Nagios notifies, and a few others, and Thunderbird becomes much more useful than Outlook.
    Imported Gig+ file from Outlook and exported it back out for backup, no issue.
    Why do you need more than 1 SMTP to send out of. More customers cause their own issues by OLE allowing this non-sense.
    For the thift of simply mail, Gmail gets it done.

  • J.R.

    This isn’t a very good list. I fail to see any real reason this tops most other mail products (other than open-source and made by Mozilla which are BS reasons to begin with). I’m not saying Thunderbird is a bad option, but this list is pretty much just wasted virtual space. Junk Mail Filtering, Unread Folders, Export Features… are you serious? Ridiculous…

  • mutt_user

    “All mail clients suck. This one just sucks less”


  • Adam

    Why wouldn’t you just use gmail and have your email on every computer you ever use?

  • Auctoris

    Here’s my list:

    1. Extensions. Just like it’s brother Firefox, you can do about anything with extensions.

    2. You can put into a 100% plain text mode.

    3. You can specify line wrap length but it will leave long URLs intact.

    4. You can specify what text encodings to use and when to use them (some clients fallback to Windows-1252 if there are some higher ASCII characters in the message and there’s nothing you can do about it–I prefer it to fallback to UTF-8).

    5. You can toggle format-flowed to your desired preferences–on or off.

    6. You can use either original quote characters (“>”) or the new fancy vertical bars for quotations.

    7. Through the userChrome.css file, you can make the mail client itself look however you want it to look. Mine looks like Tiger’s Mail.

    8. Supports S/Mime “out of the box” and OpenPGP through the Enigmail extension.

    Basically, you can turn it into the mail client you want it to be.

  • J.R.

    Now we’re talking. This is a MUCH better list. While it doesn’t change my views, I could EASILY see how these list items could turn a few people into Thunderbird fans. Thanks Auctoris!

  • David– The portableapps version of Thunderbird appears to be just a port of the full verson, with very few modifications. I haven’t tested IMAP with it, (personally I hate IMAP) but it allows you to set it up, and will probably work as well as the “standard” thunderbird IMAP, (if that’s any good).

    I’m using PortableApps for a number of applications, and it’s great to be able to plug in to a computer at a client’s business, bring up my entire mailbox, check mail, and leave nothing on their computer, no cache, no google desktop, no trace that I was there, and no chance of messing up their mail client, regardless of what they’re using.

    I know… gmail does the same thing, although I can see my mail a locations where the internet is down, or doesn’t exist at all, (and there’s a still a few places like that).

    IRT Hughesco: I also manage a tech support center for an ISP, and have given up on OL07. It just can’t handle the volume of mail. It actually just stops downloading until I delete some messages.

    I’ve seen similar thunderbird problems, just remember to compact those folders a couple of times a year.

  • I have been using TB for well over a year now but still use Outlook ’03 for calendaring. Why two? Outlook can’t do decent IMAP to save it’s life. It has no concept of server-based special folders like sent, drafts, and trash (I think Outlook 07 might fix this though). TB does a very good job with IMAP and is highly configurable on that note. I manage four IMAP accounts with about 20 personalities without any trouble at all.

  • lol

    ““All mail clients suck. This one just sucks less” -mutt”

    enjoy your eye cancer + LOL WHERE’S MY TERMINAL

  • “”7. Export Features: Transitioning to a new computer can be a giant nuisance, but Thunderbird makes it easy. Select from built in export / import features or download a whole host of add-ons designed to make sure your experience on your old computer is the same as your new one. The RSS export feature is also a great way to share your RSS feeds with your friends.””

    I’m running ThunderBird version (20070728)

    How do I export all my settings from one computer to another? I see Import in the menu; but can’t find the export 🙁 Can you point me to the right direction?

    k, thanks.

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  • LittleMonkeyMojo

    I tried Thunderbird… Hated the fact that I couldn’t “hover” over a message subject without the message being marked as read. I’d like to scroll through my messages without having to grab my mouse to skip the messages I’d like to leave as un-read.

    Also, I’d like to use a different editor, such as ‘vi’ or ’emacs’.

    I guess I’ll stick with mutt till something else sucks less.

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  • A Mail client for personal use? What’s the point?

    Email – Gmail
    RSS – Google Reader
    Usenet is all but dead IMHO and can be accessed by Google Groups anyhow.

    Everything else is covered by above services all one needs is a browser (Firefox) and you’re set.

  • Jason

    I’ve tried it several times but deinstalled it each time because it just doesn’t add up to Microsoft Outlook. I don’t want to have several different programs for email, tasks, calendar, notes, etc. Outlook’s calendar function for one is superior to Sunbirds. But, I love Firefox and am willing to give the Mozilla applications another try when they’ve matured.

  • Bob Smith

    I found Thunderbird to be very, very unstable. I tried it, but couldn’t trust it. That was maybe 6 months ago.

  • John

    for me thunderbird will be great when they get the memory usage down to a minimum. there is absolutely no reason for an email program to use upwards of 135mb ram. now ive heard a few people say in other places, “get more ram then” i have 1gb and thats not the point anyway. another program im using right now has a few glitches but idling it uses under 1mb ram and ive never seen it go above 5-6mb ram when checking mail or anything else. other than the ram issue id love to use it again. although im not a fan of the directory size being 35mb i can live with that.

    i dont even care about all the other features i just use it as a one stop shop for checking all my mail. i just read and delete mostly so anything beyond that i dont even need. it would be great if i could figure out how to cut down the directory size by removing features i dont use.

    oh and about ram usage being extension related i only have minimize to tray and Webmail for my hotmail account installed. thats it.

  • News groups? a reason why i should use thunderbird? are you kidding me? newsgroups support sux. no multi-part decoding for binaries… dont get me wrong its my mail client of choice just i have to revert back to outlook express for newsgroup access 🙁

  • alo

    I personally use Thunderbird and am quite satisfied with it, but – to be honest – the RSS reader is quite crappy. Switched to Google Reader a while back and that’s just so much more comfortable. No problems, no hassle.. and you can access your feeds from any computer 🙂

  • Daneeeh

    I still don’t see much reasons for moving from Outlook 2003, import and export emails is not complicated and I like its flaging system.
    Regarding search, google desktop complements outlook limited search capabilities quite pretty well.

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  • Hughesco

    Tools > Options > Advanced > General Tab > check “wait (#) seconds before marking a message as read”

  • John

    reason i stopped using Outlook is cause i couldnt figure out how to backup the email account settings in case of format i dont want to have to reset up the accounts and try to remember the server settings. plus i like that thunderbird is portable but i just dont like the ram issue it still is having.

  • Oulook is a good mail client but it tries to do more than just that. The reason why I like thunderbird is the fact that they realized that they were making an email and stuck on that idea. the only thing i expect from a mail client is to send and receive mail and nothing extra….when you start adding all the other features then you start having problems. To summarize the mozilla foundation has a good product.

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  • I have my parents and grandparents set up on Thunderbird, and they all love it. My parents moved from Outlook 2000 (I also gave them the Lightning extension recently) and my grandparents moved from Outlook Express. I personally use K-Mail inside of Kontact however.

  • Mike

    I won’t go about touting G-mail and all the other eb based e-mail programs. ost of them are cumbersome at best and as a general rule the level of spam filtering for “free e-mail” services is minimal at best.
    As a sysadmin I am always charged with finding more cost effective ways of doing business. We are currently transitioning our office automaton fro m Miscro$oft Office to Open Office and evaluating e-mail replacements for Outlook. Needless to say I have spent countless hours evaluating, testing and writing business opinions on what direction should be taken.
    I can say that given the profound cost of M$ office and outlook, we will be moving to Thunderbird. It looks and feels so much like outlook that the learning curve for our client community will be next to none (they are mostly the ID10T types). As for why, simply it’s open source and for the most part stable.
    Anyone who would sit and complain about touting a company name as a reason for approving a particular product truly needs to re-evaluate thier own machine, chances are they bout it because of name recognition, as for being free, you;re a fool if you would openly pay for a product when you can do jst as well in the open source world.
    And before some half baked junkie starts calling me an open source freak or a *nix geek, I make my living off Microsqish. so long as Bill Gates writes crappy software I have a job 🙂 But I won’t pay him for his mistakes.

  • I guess I’m still one of those people that believes there shouldn’t be one app that does everything. Maybe calendar and email go together under certain circumstances, but not always. Why not just use thunderbird for mail and sunbird for a calendar? That’s the way I’m doing things. Sunbird has an addon to connect to your google calendar so your information is always in sync. Just a thought.

  • Oscar Zamudio

    Thunderbird sucks!, How can an e-mail client which is intended to replace other paid ones like Eudora (well, it was!) or Outlook, being almost impossible to migrate messages to TB in a proper way? I tried hard, and tried to convince my partners to migrate to TB. But, no way…
    Most important, Thunderbird team is not interested in solving this problem.
    I tried a tool: Aid4mail 1.9 and I almost get it, but again, some messages (HTML format) did not look good. And I don’t know how many of all the imported messages were broken.
    I want to mention I’m not a newbie, I’m an experienced application developer, so I always manage things to work when software is the subject, I respect Open Source Projects, but this time I quit, it’s an embarrassment for all the community!

  • Jim Tarbuck

    I hate outlook. I really wanted to love thunderbird.

    I’d tried it in the past, but was put off by lack of support from my spam-reducer of choice (cloudmark).

    It’s now supported, so I decided to give it another whirl.

    Honestly, I just think it’s not quite good enough yet – at least if you need something more than a basic email client. There’s no blackberry integration (I know, I know, that’s not Thunderbird’s fault) and the calendar plug (Lightning) is pretty poor compared to outlook.

    It’s just got the feel of something that is a little bit ‘beta’… usability is not the greatest (the issue mentioned above with the SMTP settings is a prime example – I had to google the answer, which is fine, but many people will just give up).

    I’m not saying I’m never coming back, but what I am saying is that for the time being I am going to have to stick to the resource-hogging, turd-like Outlook.

    Word to your mother.

  • I tried Thunderbird…very nice

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  • Ninja

    That ThunderBrowse screenshot should be updated.

  • ChunderTurd

    Had problems with Outlook express, so installed Thunderbird, which quickly became called ChunderTurd (Chunder being Austalian slang for vomit, turd is universally known). In just 3 reasons David

    1) Seach facility would not find any news headers.

    2) Every time I selected a news group, I would be prompted, “Would you like to subscribe to microsoft.windowsxp.general”. Not after the 400-th time.

    3) Mozilla went from It’s you, to not knowing their heads from their smelly bottoms.

    It would be wrong to say Outlook beats Thunderbird easily, cause Mozilla haven’t produced anything competitve this time around.

    – Chunderbird Dumper

  • Alex Krenvalk

    Advise use-import outlook ost,can read *.ost files and extract your mails, contacts, tasks and calendars from it,there are two recovery options: information can be extracted, as a list of files in *.eml, *.vcf and *.txt formats, another option consists in exporting of recovered content into a file in *.pst format, that can be easily read by Microsoft Outlook or any other compatible mail client,allows ost file import, importing ost files into Outlook and repairing *.ost files fast and easy.

  • zlatan24

    For work with outlook files and perhaps more than advise use-switch ost to pst,it has many features and as is known is free,software repair *.ost files and convert it to *.pst files, that can be easily opened by Microsoft Outlook or any other compatible email client,can convert ost 2 pst and recover all of your contacts, emails, tasks and calendars, that were lost,also will convert ost 2 pst and recover all your contacts, emails, tasks and calendars,convert *.ost file into a *.pst file, that can be opened by any email client,extract a list of different files in *.eml, *.vcf and *.txt format, that will be placed to one common folder,recover only critical data from your mailbox, it will save a lot of free space in your inbox,will recover all subfolders, including Deleted Items folder.

  • mutu26

    For work with outlook and outlook files too use-how to open an .ost file in outlook,tool has free status,program open ost file in Outlook 2003 and recover your data from these encrypted *.ost files,it allows to move *.ost files to *.pst ones fast and easy,it has two recovery options, first of all, you can move your *.ost file to a *.pst file, the last one can be easily opened by Microsoft Outlook or any other compatible email client.

  • seems to be ok…i'll try it!

  • rahul

    Is this safe to add all email id in it?