Mozilla Thunderbird: The Wholesome Email Client

No matter how fast the web and the web app ecosystem is progressing, people still love their desktop apps. A major chunk of them love to use desktop email clients and some even pay good money for bloated versions of Microsoft Outlook. There could be many reasons for a person to opt for a desktop email client – store their mails locally, access multiple inboxes simultaneously, a GUI for their own mail server among other things.

All of them are valid reasons and add a bit of calendering to it, you have got one perfect system at your disposal even when your Internet connection goes down. From Outlook Express that is bundled with Windows to premium apps like Postbox, the choices are plenty. Mozilla’s Thunderbird is a tried and tested client and after the break, let us take a look at its features.

Ease of Use

Setting Up a Mailbox

Setting Up a Mailbox

Configuring your email client used to be a painful process, particularly finding out the mail sever connection info from your ISP. Earlier, you had to know your IMAP, SMTP, and SSL/TLS settings. That has all changed now. Now all you need to provide is your name, email address, and password information. The Thunderbird email account set up wizard will check its database and will find the email settings for you. It just took a few seconds!

User Interface

User Interface

User Interface

Thunderbird sports a cool and minimal user interface that takes advantages of the Aero Glass features of the Windows 7 system. Like a trademark, mail clients have always sported a boring multi column layout. Thunderbird does come with a multi column interface too, but is much more refined. It surprised me with a clean menubar (usually there will be a couple) and only displaying the most often features at the top.

Folders and Tabs

We cannot live without tabs. Thunderbird lets you read multiple messages, thanks to its tabbed interface. Double clicking or hitting enter on a mail message will now open that message in a new tab window. Right clicking on messages or folders will open them in a tab, in the background.

Take advantage of the tab menu on the tab toolbar to help you switch between tabs. Not only that, when quitting Thunderbird, all open tabs are saved and can be restored when you open Thunderbird the next time. Neat!

Tabbed Interface

Tabbed Interface

The folder structure of your mail account is faithfully recreated in your desktop too. Thanks to the Smart Folders feature, you can now manage multiple email accounts by combining special folders like your Inbox, Sent, or Archive folders. The unified inbox feature cuts out the hassle of jumping between the inboxes of various accounts everytime you receive a new mail.

Search and Attachments

Search Results

Search Results

The search box at the top helps searching through a ton of messages and contacts. Results will start showing up as you type in.

One click additions to address book is another noteworthy feature. Add people to your contact list by simply clicking on the Star icon in the message you receive. Two clicks and you can add more details like a photo, birthday and other contact information.

Attachment Reminders

Attachment Reminders

How many times have you intended to attach a file to an email and forgot to do so? Thunderbird scans the messages you are composing and will alert you if you have failed to attach files despite mentioning the same in the mail.

Privacy and Security

For those using a email service that doesn’t have an effective spam filter system, Thunderbird offers a robust spam filtering engine. Potential phishing emails are duly notified and Thunderbird warns you when you click on a link which appears to be taking you to a different web site than the one indicated by the URL in the message.

Addons

Addon Manager

Addon Manager

Mozilla single handedly pioneered the third party plugin concept and Thunderbird has a brilliant collection of addons to extend the core functionality. You don’t have to open your web browser to search and install addons. Simply open the Addon Manager (just like in Firefox) and install as many addons as you please.

Final Thoughts

Cloud is the future and one cannot afford to stay away from it. But, given the mishaps that occur now and again, it doesn’t hurt to get your email backed up locally too. Unless you connect with your company’s corporate email and use a whole bunch of ninja power user features, one can always forego Microsoft Outlook for Thunderbird. Not that the latter isn’t capable of competing head on with the former.

I’m not saying that Thunderbird isn’t without its quirks. Their release cycle isn’t rapid enough and the plugin selection isn’t comprehensive enough when compared to Firefox. At times, it makes me think if Thunderbird is a hobby project for Mozilla. But, those concerns are small potatoes when you take into account the steady progress the app has made so far with regards to the featureset.

With such a dynamite app available for free, I don’t really see a point forking out money for any other desktop email client.


Summary

Thunderbird is a free desktop email application that's easy to set up and customize and it's loaded with great features.

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