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November 28, 2004

I like Thunderbird

I've been using the Mozilla mail client for a couple of years, and I've been pretty happy with it. I've even set up non-tech friends with Mozilla mail in preference to having them use Outlook Express.

But I've now been using Thunderbird 0.9 for a little over three weeks now, and I've been very happy with it. If I was starting my non-tech friends on email today, I'd give them Thunderbird and Firefox.

It's hard to quantify why I like Thunderbird better than Mozilla mail - it does have a few more features, but mostly it's a fit-and-finish kind of issue: both Thunderbird and Firefox pay a little more attention to the look and feel, and both feel a little less geeky. Most everything that works in Mozilla mail works in Thunderbird - all the shortcuts.

The one thing I use about using the combination of Firefox and Thunderbird is the one-keystroke back to mail from Firefox. That's picky - you can do it with Alt-T M - but that's two keystrokes. Picky, picky. (In Mozilla it's Alt-2.)

The only glitch I've had with Thunderbird so far is a conversion issue. I apparently installed an old release of Thunderbird on my laptop. Usually Thunderbird does a very clean job of importing mail and settings from Mozilla. However, when I installed Thunderbird 0.9 on the laptop, I could not re-import my Mozilla settings - it had old settings that I'd used before, and the 'Mozilla' import option was missing. Still haven't figured that one out, so I'm still using Mozilla mail on the laptop.

It's also worth saying that I use IMAP for email everywhere. Read on for my mail setup ...

I do secure IMAP to my FreeBSD box which hosts bluepenguin.us. I've also got an IMAP setup at work, so I basically set all my Thunderbird or Mozilla mail clients up with two accounts - one for work, one for home.

Oh, and one more annoyance - you can ask Thunderbird to watch an IMAP (or any other kind) folder for new mail (right click over over the folder), but at least for IMAP folders, that setting is lost when you close Thunderbird.

Another thing I'd like from Thunderbird with IMAP is what the old mail client Pine used to do - it used to store a shared address book on the IMAP server.

Thunderbird claims to support IMAP disconnected mode. I haven't really tried it yet; I'm still using Mozilla mail on the laptop, and that's where I'd want it.