Mozilla Thunderbird 14.0 Review

excellent
key review info
application features
  • Adaptive Junk Mail Controls
  • (6 more, see all...)

Mozilla built the best non-commercial email solution and called it Thunderbird. Now, they announced that Thuderbird would have its development slowed down in the coming years, but all it’s not lost and I hope this review will make you a faithful user of Thunderbird and convince Mozilla to not abandon it.

Mozilla is best known for its two flagship products, Firefox and Thunderbird. The first one is a browser that wrestles with Google Chrome for the crown, and the second one is an email / RSS application that is nothing short of amazing.

It was released back in 2004 and, like all Mozilla products, it spent an eternity in development between major releases. In 2011, when Mozilla went nuts and sped up the development process, both Thunderbird and Firefox saw more updates and new features in two years than in the past seven years.

Installation

Most important Linux distributions already include Mozilla Thunderbird in the default installation. We ran Thunderbird 14.0 on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.

Officially, Mozilla offers two types of packages for Linux users, one containing all the necessary files to run it out of the box, with no installation, like a portable edition, and a second one which has to be compiled.

The developers also have an official PPA (Ubuntu repository) and we believe that this is the best way to install Thunderbird, for all users to be able to get the updates in time. To install it, just open a terminal and enter the following commands (one by one, hitting Enter after each one):

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mozillateam/thunderbird-stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install thunderbird


Usage

After installing the software, users will be prompted to define an email account. This is done easily by filling the required information. Users can also choose between a POP3 and IMAP4 accounts. If able, you should choose IMAP4 protocol, as it’s a lot more versatile.

Before detailing a little bit more about the email function, we’ll take the time to explain some of the options that can be found under Edit / Preferences.

The options are tabbed for better access and each one contains a lot of various functions, which are hard to enumerate, so we’ll just list the more important ones.

The first tab worth mentioning is Composition. Here, users will find options for Spelling, Address Autocompletion, and various general settings to control forwarding, autosave and so on.

Another tab is called Junk. This is important because it’s a feature that is extremely essential in the everyday use of an email client. Mozilla calls it “adaptive junk filter logging.” Whenever the user marks something as spam, the application slowly learns what is junk and what isn’t. In time, the database created by users is good enough to filter 99% of all spam emails.

The third tab I want to mention in this review is Advanced, which houses functions such as timeout for read messages, offline settings, disk space usage, update settings and so on.

When it comes to the email function itself, I have to say that it works just like any other email client out there. Of course, there are some missing functions that can be added through add-ons.

Thunderbird wouldn’t be such a great software if it weren’t for the RSS capabilities. The great thing about the RSS reader is that it integrates into the software just like an email. Moreover, users can move items from the RSS feed into any email account, with a simple drag and drop. This function alone makes Thunderbird unique!

The Bad

There are several problems with Thunderbird, but most of them are minor and can be fixed with add-ons. The thing I miss the most is a sort thread shortcut. It existed three or four years back, but the development team removed it for unknown reasons. Users could sort emails by arranging them after date, and then pressing the G key. This provided an additional sorting that looked a lot better, with the messages arranged by Today, Yesterday, Last Week, Two Weeks and Old.

Another minor limitation is the fact that users can't mark an entire account as read, using right mouse click. You would think this must be a given in any email program, but Mozilla decided otherwise.

There is also a small issue with the RSS reader, as it fails to import some valid RSS feeds. It doesn’t recognize the link, but the RSS feed can be added straight from Firefox.

The Good

By integrating both Email and RSS functions into a single client, Thunderbird becomes the most appreciated app by many users worldwide.

Mozilla thinks that the rise of great services such as Gmail will make this type of client obsolete, but anyone who works daily with hundreds of emails and RSS feeds will know that no matter how good a web interface is, there’s no substitution for a versatile client that can be improved through add-ons.

Another praise I have to reiterate is for the Junk filter logging. I find it to be essential in today’s conditions, where a lot of emails are about watches, Viagra, and failed Ebay auctions. This simple function makes my life a lot easier and it hasn’t failed me once.

Conclusion

I can’t stress enough the importance of Thunderbird in our daily lives. I understand the world is changing, but Mozilla must adapt and change its applications accordingly. Shutting them down is not really an option. The day that Thunderbird will be officially gone, a lot of people will mourn over it, while cursing the gods and the Mozilla developers. Save Thunderbird, save the world!
user interface 5
features 4
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5


final rating 5
Editor's review
excellent
 
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