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Thunderbird Usage Continues to Grow (blog.mozilla.org)
202 points by wodenokoto on Feb 28, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 194 comments

Thunderbird is great. I use it daily since over 12 years. I do have some issues though:

* The ''Compose Email'' editor is weird. Especially for hyperlinks. Why is it so hard to check the URL of links? (No tooltip? No statusbar hint? Not even a right click menu to copy or open the link in Firefox?)[1]

* Font size handling is also quite weird. [2]

* But you can't ''View Source'' from compose email editor. (You have to save a draft and view source from there.)

* Getting the ''Compose Email'' editor in a tab instead of a window would be great too. (Is the Compose Email editor really the only thing still written in C and nobody wants to touch it?)

* Following authenticated RSS feeds theoretically works, but is completely unusable. [3]

Still one of my favorite applications. Many thanks to anyone spending time to keep it alive and improve it further.

[1] https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=457300 [2] https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=782215 [3] https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=267203

Having looked at it again today after about 8 years:

* The onboarding experience is horrible; tries to sell me a gandi email account, then the setup wizard fails with an opaque error. Had to abort and configure manually.

* Setting a reasonable font-size on Retina requires a 3rd party plugin and results in the GUI getting garbled bad; overlapping items, truncated labels, unusable dialogs etc. Sorry but 12px is not a reasonable font-size in 2015.

* The default conversation view seems to be some kind of in-joke, it only shows the first few hundred chars of each message. A semi-reasonable conversation view can be bolted on with another 3rd party plugin but it feels rough (flickering redraws, ugh).

* Forwarding multiple messages inline is still not possible.

* Search has improved a lot.

* Fully disabling HTML mail is still an exercise in frustration.

* A whole bunch of "wtf" was enabled by default (Silverlight plugin, Flash plugin)

* During setup it tried to connect to about 8 different domains (mozilla.org, CDNs, whatever other crap), none of which was my mailserver. It should not do that.

All that said. It's still one of the best (if not the best) GUI mail clients available. That's how bad the competition is...

> Setting a reasonable font-size on Retina requires a 3rd party plugin...

Thunderbird can handle high DPIs natively, at least on Linux. Hopefully OS X is similar. All fonts and UI elements are scaled up. Go to Edit > Preferences > Advanced > Config editor. Set layout.css.devPixelsPerPx to 2, or whatever looks good to you. It's the same procedure as Firefox.

So, a day later I'm back to Postbox now. Here's what broke it for me this time. It's hard to believe but these things are indeed still unfixed:

* The message list can not scroll to bottom. Neither on startup, nor on arrival of new messages. That bug[1] is open since 2010(!).

* The unread count and new message notification can not be disabled for specific IMAP-folders. Since my spam folder is a regular IMAP-folder (managed by spam assassin) Thunderbird insists on notifying me about every new Spam mail I get. Uhm, no thanks.

[1] https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=539468

This is exactly my experience with thunderbird as well. I'm using claws-mail at this moment. The only thing to complain is, fetch mail in claws-mail is slower than thunderbird

> * Fully disabling HTML mail is still an exercise in frustration.

Shouldn't View > Message Body As > Simple Text do that for you?

Doubtful. If the parent poster is worried about privacy and security, he wants to configure it so as to always read emails as plain text without ever loading images.

Um... that's what the option does: it refuses to display HTML; if no plain text part is given, the HTML parts are converted to plain text for display.

If you're only worried about http image bugs, TB disables all remote content loading by default.

Options -> Privacy -> Uncheck Allow remote content in messages

The default conversation view is not a view, it's a preview.

it checks for plugin blocklist (as mentioned in the article)

it probably also downloads a list of malware websites (called "reported attack site" and "reported webforgeries"in firefox)

Thunderbird is definitely not "great"; the reason why it could appear to be so, is that it's a historical product in a stagnant market (the fact that its user base is growing doesn't necessarily imply that the market is growing as well).

I actually think it's a pretty good example of poor development strategy, specifically, they develop new features without polishing what is a very unpolished product - how on the earth they've spent resources on integrating a useless IM client, when there are tons of things that need work? Who knows. In the meanwhile:

1. using new windows when writing emails, especially in the context of a tabbed application, is a pain in the back. like this wasn't enough, a second window opens with the progress tracker, when transmitting. This means that every time one writes and sends an email, TB uses for a few seconds three separate windows. 2. the address book is buggy, and overall terrible, and it's been clearly untouched for a long time. 2a. it also uses as backend the single most braindamaged file format that JWZ has ever seen in his nineteen year career. as long as it works it wouldn't matter, but it actually does if somebody would like some interoperability. 3. when they updated the look and feel on a "major" release, they made the recipient email search much slower. since that release, I have to deliberately slow down my typing, otherwise TB doesn't find the recipients. 4. with another major release, they broke the shortcut for attaching a file.

All of these are basic functionalities.

Besides, the reason behind #1 is that the code is terrible to work with - some developer offered to work it out, but resigned after some weeks of code-diving.

I surely don't say that it's a terrible product (every product has snags), but I would say that, given the lack of resources, the poor planning, and the landscape of the market, TB is a product that does the job, but nothing more.

You can "view source" by selecting all or part of the message, click on "Insert, HTML".

URL links: If you hover the mouse above a link, do you not see the full URL in the Status Bar at the bottom?

Font size: I hear ya. The mix of fonts make the messages appear amateurish at the receiving end. It's caused by entering text beyond the last </font>. Annoying. I hope they fix it.

Thanks for the "Insert, HTML" trick. (Though I fear I might not remember that. I would never have expected or even tried that.)

URL in statusbar: Sadly no, not in the editor. Do you?

Yes, URL appears in the statusbar on Windows 7 Thunderbird 31.5.0.

Strange. It doesn't appear here on Windows 7 or 8, TB 31.5.0. (I click "Write", "Insert", "Link...", enter a link text and location, click "OK" and hover over the link. The status bar remains empty. I also tried in safe-mode without extensions.)

> you can't ''View Source'' from compose email editor

The EditHtml extension fixes that: https://freeshell.de/~kaosmos/edithtml-en.html

I've been using Thunderbird for almost 10 years now and I literally never had a crash or unexpected behaviour. Once the e-mail accounts are created, everything just works. Software that is this pleasant to use is very rare. It is the only reasonable free e-mail client that I know of. Why I use thunderbird and not a web based client? I have multiple e-mail addresses and it's nice to have everything in one place, also it's accessible if you're offline.

My only nitpick about Thunderbird: If you want to search for a message, you have to go through the menus "Edit->Find". I don't like that for two reasons, a search is not an operation that edits anything so that's really a wrong classification. And searching is not equal to finding. Maybe my search has no results. "Find" is the wrong word here (the equality of searching and finding is a very widespread misconception in software).

I think you will find the Quick Filter toolbar much easier to use. Make it visible from View -> Toolbars -> Quick Filter Bar and then follow the tips here:


I'm not sure if I'm alone here, but while I've been loyal to Thunderbird for many years, nowadays I find its speed atrocious: 3-4 seconds to load the application and connect to the google apps email servers, 3-4 seconds until "inbox" or another folder downloads, and another 3-4 seconds to download and read a specific email. I've seen this behaviour in multiple PCs, and meanwhile Chrome flies in these machines. It's come to a point where I just don't bother with TB and check email directly on the phone even if I'm in front of the computer.

There's several things you could be running into:

* Auto-compaction isn't working and so the .msf files are growing larger than they need to be. Thunderbird's per-folder metadata indices are stored in a weird texty append-only database format known as "mork" that you may have heard of, usually preceded or followed by some cursing. The file must be read completely into memory, and in many cases this ends up synchronously happening on the main thread. The upside to this is that the thread-pane is very fast and allows sorting on all columns, etc. Right-clicking on a folder and choosing "compact" will trigger compaction of the mork database as well as the offline cache (a per-folder mbox-style file where the downloaded messages are stored).

* Not leveraging Thunderbird's offline storage and proactive syncing of messages. If you bring up the account settings for the account, and look at the "Synchronization & Settings" tab, you want "Keep messages for this account on this computer" checked. You also want checkboxes by folders you care about in the list that pops up when you click the "Advanced..." button. With these enabled, Thunderbird will proactively download the message bodies to your computer, making them available for both offline access and rapid message display.

Note that if you only launch Thunderbird when you want to read your mail and immediately close it when done reading, you won't be getting much benefit from this and things may even go slower as you fight Thunderbird playing catch-up with your mail.

* You have a lot of of messages in the folders in question. The message file loading is O(messages) and so is sync without CONDSTORE enabled. (Thunderbird's CONDSTORE implementation regrettably has some bugs and was turned off recently. See https://bugzil.la/912216) Additionally, gmail's IMAP implementation can take some time to open an IMAP folder with a lot of messages because it needs to build a sequence number mapping and do other stuff.

I've been using Thunderbird for almost 10 years now and I literally never had a crash or unexpected behaviour.

I'm also a long time user, for much the same reasons as others here, and for a long time I would have agreed that Thunderbird is generally stable and has few serious bugs. However, I have noticed a serious degradation in quality in the past few months. Basic stuff like looking up names from address books when composing a message just doesn't work properly any more, and worse, sometimes it shows one address it's found as you start typing but then changes it after you've moved your focus elsewhere to be someone else. I don't have a reproducible case or a theory about what triggers this behaviour so far, which makes it hard to file any sort of useful bug report. However, I run into problems in this area many times per week now and have only been doing so for the past few months, far too often for it to just be some sort of user error. I wish I could remember exactly which update I'd just done when it started.

Also, it is more than a little creepy that Thunderbird is apparently phoning home every day to tell them I'm using it. Not cool, Mozilla. (Edit: Remove more general comment that unintentionally read as if targeted at Mozilla specifically.)

> Also, it is more than a little creepy that Thunderbird is apparently phoning home every day to tell them I'm using it. Not cool, Mozilla.

Note that if you follow the blog post's link to https://wiki.mozilla.org/ADI it says "Mozilla measures Firefox usage by the number of Firefox installations that retrieve blocklist updates from Mozilla's servers each day."

The "blocklist" in turn links to https://wiki.mozilla.org/Blocklist which says the following at the top: "Blocklisting is the ability to disable errant add-ons, plugins, and other third-party software for Firefox users. For graphics drivers, please see this policy."

Note that Thunderbird also can send telemetry data to Mozilla for performance data reasons/etc. This is notified by an infobar at first-run or upgrade that says "Would you like to help improve Mozilla Thunderbird by automatically reporting memory usage, performance, and responsiveness to Mozilla? Learn More" and then has "Yes" and "No" buttons.

relevant disclaimers since this touches on privacy stuff: I work for the Mozilla Corporation. I also previously worked on Thunderbird.

Note that if you follow the blog post's link to https://wiki.mozilla.org/ADI it says "Mozilla measures Firefox usage by the number of Firefox installations that retrieve blocklist updates from Mozilla's servers each day."

Right, but the fact seems to remain that Thunderbird is phoning home in a way I can't obviously switch off (I use few extensions, and don't feel any need for such a blacklist) and that wasn't disclosed.

I did turn off telemetry when I first installed Thunderbird, as I do for all software on any device I use where I'm not intimately familiar with exactly what it's really doing.

> Right, but the fact seems to remain that Thunderbird is phoning home in a way I can't obviously switch off (I use few extensions, and don't feel any need for such a blacklist) and that wasn't disclosed.

The privacy policy at https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/legal/privacy/ (which is linked to from the about dialog and perhaps other places as well) does explicitly call out the blocklist at https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/legal/privacy/#blo... and includes a link telling you how to disable it, https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/thunderbird-makes-unreq....

Of course, you may have installed Thunderbird prior to the privacy policy existing in that form with those details. The specific privacy policy is from Oct 11, 2011 and the subversion log at http://viewvc.svn.mozilla.org/vc/projects/mozilla.org/trunk/... suggests it was a newish thing, although I would expect a privacy policy likely existed in other forms prior to that, but that's the limits of my subversion-fu.

Of course, you may have installed Thunderbird prior to the privacy policy existing in that form with those details.

By quite a few years, and apparently I'm not the only one.

But that's really not the point anyway. Burying opt-out phone home behaviour in nothing but legalese small print is a dark pattern. Having no way to disable it without going into obscure parts of the UI that no normal user (or even normal power-user) is ever likely to find is also a dark pattern.

Again, I appreciate your taking the time to share the links, but this is still a screw-up if Mozilla are trying to convince people they care about privacy. I don't think anyone can effectively defend general purpose software that includes covert, opt-out surveillance in any form in 2015. It's not so much that this particular feature is causing clear harm -- maybe it really is just an innocent feature that happens to expose a user count as a side effect -- it's the principle that doing stuff behind your user's back is OK, in a world full of malware that does stuff that very much is not OK.

> But that's really not the point anyway. Burying opt-out phone home behaviour in nothing but legalese small print is a dark pattern. Having no way to disable it without going into obscure parts of the UI that no normal user (or even normal power-user) is ever likely to find is also a dark pattern.

I agree that "Burying opt-out phone home behaviour in nothing but legalese small print is a dark pattern." But I think you're mis-characterizing this specific instance of the blocklist ping as "covert, opt-out surveillance" and the arguably fairly readable privacy policy as "legalese small print".

Specifically, I think the blocklist feature paragraph is quite good and not weasel-words. It explains:

- Tersely what/when/why Thunderbird does the blocklist ping: "Thunderbird also offers a Blocklist feature. With this feature, once a day Thunderbird does a regularly scheduled, automatic check to see if you have any harmful add-ons or plug-ins installed."

- What Thunderbird does with that information: "If so, this feature disables add-ons or plug-ins that Mozilla has determined contain known vulnerabilities or major user-facing issues or fatal bugs (e.g., Thunderbird crashes on startup or something causes an endless loop). You may view the current list of Blocklisted items."

- The information included in the blocklist ping: "This feature sends Non-Personal Information to Mozilla, including the version of Thunderbird you are using, operating system version, build ID and target, update channel, and your language preference. This feature also sends Potentially Personal Information to Mozilla in the form of your IP address and a cookie."

- What Mozilla does with the information (which is indeed not trivially obvious): "In addition, Mozilla also uses this feature to analyze Thunderbird usage patterns so we may improve our products and services, including planning features and capacity."

- A disclaimer about the lack of UI: "Currently there is no basic user interface to disable the Blocklist feature."

And then we have 2 more sentences:

- The link on disabling and why you wouldn't want to disable: "This feature can be disabled by following the instructions in this article. Disabling the Blocklist feature is not recommended as it may result in using extensions known to be untrustworthy."

And that was all of it.

In regards to the UI, if there had been a discussion about whether we should have a basic UI affordance for disabling the feature (there was not, to my knowledge), I think the bulk of the Thunderbird team would have argued against it because the risk to the user of rogue plugins/extensions was and continues to be serious. (Plugins probably more than extensions; Thunderbird tends to pick-up all the plugins that Firefox would see and most adware/malware implementors seemed otherwise unconcerned with Thunderbird.) Now if the checkbox also entirely disabled extensions and plugin loading, that could provide a safe trade-off for the user. But then we run into the whole "supported configuration problem". Every option adds new permutations that can lead to new failures, etc.

But I think you're mis-characterizing this specific instance of the blocklist ping as "covert, opt-out surveillance" and the arguably fairly readable privacy policy as "legalese small print".

For a long time, I didn't even know Thunderbird had a privacy policy, and I've been using it for years. Why would anyone expect software they installed locally to need one? Thunderbird is a mail client, so why would they expect it to send data to anyone other than e-mails to their chosen recipients? And even if they knew the privacy policy existed, did anything suggest to them that they might want re-read that policy to find these changes when they were added? I assume the details were also on display in my local planning department in Alpha Centauri.

Incidentally, if you're reading this and thinking that I'm naive and/or over-reacting, you might want to stop and consider the company you're keeping. What other types of people use software that does things the user doesn't expect, collect data without advertising it, and make arguments about implied consent, the relevant disclosure being available somewhere hardly anyone will ever look, or how it's all done to improve the user's experience somehow? How many of those people do most of us like?

In any case, from both a practical and probably a legal perspective, anything that is not actively presented to a user is the electronic version of small print at best. You can rationalise this as much as you like, but the facts are:

1. Thunderbird is phoning home.

2. The user is not informed of this explicitly.

3. The user is certainly not actively giving their consent.

4. This still appears to be the case even if the user has explicitly opted out of sending telemetry when the software was first installed.

IMHO, any such policy is indefensible in 2015 if you want to be taken seriously as an organisation that protects privacy. This particular behaviour may be a minor infraction, but it's the general principle (and, frankly, your enthusiasm for defending it) that is of greater concern.


the risk to the user of rogue plugins/extensions was and continues to be serious. (Plugins probably more than extensions; Thunderbird tends to pick-up all the plugins that Firefox would see and most adware/malware implementors seemed otherwise unconcerned with Thunderbird.)

WTF??!! Thunderbird is apparently automatically running a whole bunch of plug-ins that I only installed for Firefox and have long ago set (in Firefox) not to run automatically, or in some cases that I didn't even voluntarily install at all. None of these things have any business being in any sort of e-mail client at all. When and how the [multiple expletives deleted] did this happen? I thought you (generic 'you') were concerned about someone installing an extension that had a buggy update and caused a hang on start-up or something. The idea that someone could send, say, an HTML e-mail with something like Flash/Java/Silverlight embedded in it and have it run by default is moderately terrifying.

One thing that Thunderbird reports back to servers is telemetry usage, which helps provide feedback on whether or not rare charsets (e.g., VISCII) need to be supported or how much weight should be placed on implementation of, say, NTLM or GSSAPI.

Also, Thunderbird permits neither JavaScript nor plugins to run in emails. It does permit plugins in cases such as displaying an RSS feed inline.

My solution to the plug-in problem (not Thunderbird specific) is to not install Flash/Java RE/Silverlight on my machine at all. Not that that helps you here, but I do wonder why more people don't just remove such software.

As it happens, on the machine in question I have valid reasons for needing all of the above at times, hence their presence in Firefox but with activation on demand only.

But I have eight plug-ins installed in Thunderbird, and some of them I don't even know what they do. Why does Google need an update plug-in that I never requested or gave permission for to be installed in Firefox and Thunderbird?

> it is more than a little creepy that Thunderbird is apparently phoning home every day to tell them I'm using it. Not cool, Mozilla.

As long as it's phoning home to tell them that someone is using it, and not that I specifically am using it, I'm fine with that. From the description in the post it sounds like that's the case, and I generally trust Mozilla to Do The Right Thing™ in these cases, but if you're concerned you could monitor the ping to confirm what it does and doesn't send.

> sometimes it shows one address it's found as you start typing but then changes it after you've moved your focus elsewhere to be someone else.

The problem may be due to a new feature in auto-complete that searches for matches that include the entered string, not just ones that match the beginning of address book fields, which was the old method.

When auto-complete shows multiple options, arrow down till you come to the correct one and then hit the Tab key. This will make sure you have the correct email address in your recipients list.

> it is more than a little creepy that Thunderbird is apparently phoning home every day to tell them I'm using it. Not cool, Mozilla.

You can opt-out if you like:


The problem may be due to a new feature in auto-complete that searches for matches that include the entered string, not just ones that match the beginning of address book fields, which was the old method.

Yes, I'm quite sure it is. At the same time, Thunderbird developed an infuriating habit of matching apparently arbitrary entries in my address book that had the letters I'm typing in there somewhere, with no logical priority order that I have been able to determine, and certainly not prioritising an address that exactly matches what I'm typing over half a dozen others that don't really look much like what I'm typing but apparently match according to whatever heuristics they are now using.

When auto-complete shows multiple options, arrow down till you come to the correct one and then hit the Tab key. This will make sure you have the correct email address in your recipients list.

No, it won't. Clearly that was the intention, but it doesn't work properly if you type/move too quickly. I suspect there is some sort of race condition where some autocomplete-related process is still searching for things if you hit tab too quickly and/or without moving down the list so you just get the default shown, and can then override what you thought you were explicitly selecting. (Again, if this had happened once or twice and I couldn't reproduce it I'd assume it was human error, but I've seen this way too many times to believe that by now.)

You can opt-out if you like:

I appreciate the link, but I'm not sure referring to a page that describes how to opt out of 14 different phone-home mechanisms for a different piece of Mozilla software is a great counter to concern over whether Thunderbird is doing creepy things behind its users' backs (however useful and/or well-intentioned those things may have been when some developer added them).

If you're going to claim to promote privacy, as Mozilla make a point of doing, then I believe you should start from a default policy of full disclosure and requiring opt-in. Anything less on either count and you damage your credibility, even if in reality you thought what you were doing was innocent and users wouldn't mind.

> not prioritising an address that exactly matches what I'm typing over half a dozen others

If you install the add-on MoreFunctionsForAddressBook, it will give you an option to match the beginning of address book fields.


I would recommend always using Ctrl+F when trying to search in a mail/page/document, in any software. Have ran over few places where that didn't work.

Edit -> Find is pretty standard. Chrome has Edit -> Find -> Find.

> Why I use thunderbird and not a web based client? I have multiple e-mail addresses and it's nice to have everything in one place, also it's accessible if you're offline.

This is quite easy to do in Gmail (and presumably other webmail clients) with forwarding.

Which doesn't keep mail on the original server, so you always have to use Gmail. (and might not be allowed if it comes to corporate mail)

It's really much harder to do this with other webmail clients than it is with a proper offline client.

nobody wants forwarding if you want to use the 'replay as' feature. Plus it can get cluttered but with a mail client you got them all separated

Yeah? Now reply to someone with the appropriate From/Reply-To addresses from that mashed up gmail account. Thunderbird does this seamlessly, figuring it out from who the email was To if possible. That's why I still use it.

> Now reply to someone with the appropriate From/Reply-To addresses from that mashed up gmail account. Thunderbird does this seamlessly, figuring it out from who the email was To if possible.

The Gmail web app can do the exact same thing: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/22377?hl=en

Fair enough. I wonder when they added this, it definitely didn't used to be able to do that.

It's 5+ years old. I've been using it since at least the late 2000s.

You can add POP/IMAP and SMTP accounts and read, write and send emails directly in Gmail with the proper headers (i.e. no the "delivered by gmail.com" message on your emails.)

I can't use my domain with Google Apps now, so I use my domain registrar's mailboxes and SMTP servers from my Gmail account for the same effect.

Thunderbird is my go-to client in any company I work at if I can figure out how to make it work.

For those of you at companies with newer Outlook exchange servers( http://i.imgur.com/J31q7xo.png ) or the even newest-newer( http://i.imgur.com/7eX8S1e.png ), get davmail proxy server. http://davmail.sourceforge.net/ ...and you have to get the Lightning plugin to handle the exchange-calendar stuff.


Disclaimer: Don't ask me about how trustworthy davmail is with handling full access to you email account. I just know a lot of people use it and I've never heard negative. Though honestly, I wish mozilla would just acquire the project and provide a verified source & binary on their site. Or just do whatever davmail is doing directly in the thunderbird code.

+1 to davmail proxy; it is incredibly important to my productivity. I actually donated some money to the developer, but I should do it again.

The davmail code even handles Outlook having two-factor auth enabled, e.g. it'll recognize the extra form field, ask you to enter your token once, and then keep the session open, just like keeping the webapp loaded in your browser tab.

Thanks for this, going to try it out. I've tried hard in the past to get thunderbird to work properly and end up just using Outlook in a windows VM, feeling like there is absolutely no good alternative to it.

Davmail was a lifesaver for me in the past. My current client however uses Office365 but authentication happens against the client's AD and that seems to prevent Davmail from being able to log in.... :/

I've used both Firefox and Thunderbird, but ended up 'moving back' to Seamonkey. My reasons for this move were the rather heavy load the combination of FF and TB puts on my - older - hardware as well as the fact that SM is more or less up to par with FF and TB while offering some 'convenience' functionality (eg. CTRL-2 opens mail from within browser, CTRL-1 opens browser from within mail). Another advantage SM has is that it supports the 'original' FF sync (which I use in combination with the Owncloud 'Mozilla Sync' app) without the need to jump through hoops. It also has a 'normal' preferences dialog, normal tabs, normal... everything. In other words, it did not succumb to the 'Chrome copy' trend which FF embarked upon.

Seamonkey happily provides me access to my mail (several accounts), dozens of open tabs in several browser windows and more in about 500MB of RSS. Firefox and Thunderbird together would use almost double that. While this might not matter on a recent system with 8+GB of memory, on this Thinkpad T42p with a maximum of 2GB it is a significant difference.

In general I'd advise against using the MailNews portion of SeaMonkey if you're also using the profile for web browsing. (MailNews is the guts of Thunderbird.)

MailNews results in a non-trivial amount of main-thread I/O that is going to badly jank your browser experience. The good news is that the worst of it will be when using the MailNews-related UI like switching folders for display, but it's still going to have an impact.

Although I'm close to ambidextrous, I have yet to manage the art of actively browsing the web while actively switching folders in the mail clients. Maybe if I had two keyboards attached to this machine it'd work, but I don't really feel the urge to try.

In other words, while theoretically a problem, in practice I don't see this as a viable reason to refrain from using both mail and browser in the same process space, ie. Seamonkey, not even on a relatively under-powered (1.8GHz Pentium M) machine.

Somehow, I didn't realize Seamonkey was still actively developed. I might give it a shot. I have an 8 GB machine, but even that's not enough when I'm running Android Studio and a Firefox with 40+ tabs.

I'm curious to give it a shot at work and see how it copes with large inboxes / mail rates.

When I was looking for a new Mail client a few months ago, I wanted to pick Thunderbird, but did not because I believe I read that Mozilla was sunsetting it which is why I did not go for it. Is that not true? It was extremely disappointing news since Thunderbird was an awesome mail client and with the recent interest in mail clients, I thought it was a great opportunity for Mozilla to provide an O/S alternative to the Mailbox, Sparrows and Outlooks of the world.

Mozilla stopped actively developing Thunderbird a few years ago. It's still being maintained by a small group of developers, but it hasn't received any significant new features in some time, and mostly just gets maintenance and bug fixes. That said, they have did commit to adding more developers to the project a few months ago, and do have some plans for new features in the next few months - https://blog.mozilla.org/thunderbird/2014/11/thunderbird-reo...

That blog post is very informative and encouraging!

Yeah, I remember being disappointed about the Mozilla chairman's announcement[1] that Thunderbird "not a priority" and they were essentially giving up on it. (I don't personally use Thunderbird, but we have a lot of Windows users at work who do).

So this bubbly and optimistic-sounding blog post confused me a little. But then I looked next at the previous entry in this blog[2] and it states that at the end of 2014 they reorganized and elected new leadership to take over from the Mozilla people who weren't working on it any more.

So apparently there are at least some people actively working on it again, and they are hoping for financial sponsorship to cover a full-time developer.

If it works out, then actually it seems like Mozilla's handling of the problem ('we have a standards-based IMAP email client with millions of users, but nobody -- including the team in charge of it -- wants to work on it any more') was pretty good. They did keep the project on life support with security updates, for a little over two years, until they found some people that did want to work on it.

[1]: https://blog.lizardwrangler.com/2012/07/06/thunderbird-stabi...

[2]: https://blog.mozilla.org/thunderbird/2014/11/thunderbird-reo...

Thunderbird is not being actively developed; it is in maintenance mode. You should try it out.


You can customize its UI and functionality through thousands of community-contributed add-ons.


it is community developed.

Love my thunderbird. It is the unsung hero of open source projects. Not as visible and spoken about as web browsers, kernels or games.

Works on Windows, works on CentOS, works on Ubuntu. Never crashes. Gets steady improvement since forever.

Crashes once a month for me. I could not even setup an account [0] until I found a weird workaround. Anecdotes ...

[0] https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1069244

> Germany has long been our #1 country for usage

I also heard that Firefox enjoys a major market share in Germany (a not-that-reliable source is http://www.quora.com/Why-is-Internet-Explorers-market-share-...). I even heard from a fellow German university student that "everyone [in Germany] uses Firefox" - obviously an exaggeration, but there must be some truth in it.

Anyone has an explanation (preferably backed by data) for the popularity of Mozilla software in Germany?

I'm a foreigner living in Germany, and can tell you this is true. 'Everyone' uses Firefox.

They also really like these 2-click-social-media-buttons, because it apparently gives better privacy (load the tracking/tweeting/liking script upon the click of a button, and when clicking again run the like/tweet function) http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Fuer-mehr-Datenschutz....

Which seems like security theatre to me. Why not just load the script on the first click, and then run the tweet function immediately after?

Why not just load the script on the first click, and then run the tweet function immediately after?

Because the tweet function invokes a pop-up window, which browsers won't allow unless attached to a click function.

As a German, not everybody uses Firefox. Chrome is quite popular as well, many people just don't change these things very often and got Firefox before Chrome was a thing. Took long enough to get them off Internet Explorer ;)

> then run the tweet function immediately after?

The site should not be able to do so, because if that worked shady sites simply would trigger "like" or "tweet" for visitors to generate spam. Loading the original widget is the only way that is accepted by the social networks.

No data, but they are unusually allergic to Google.

For example, they have more rules for Streetview. Also, German authorities were some of the first objectors to their wifi data collection:


This is hardly surprising, if you consider historical context. Concerns about surveillance and privacy in Germany, and to some extent across most of Europe, are one of the few topics where Godwin's Law does not apply.

Really, discussions about surveillance and privacy in Germany are one of the few places where nobody ever makes a comparison to the nazi's? That seems surprising.

I rather meant that such comparisons were made for legitimate reasons and so would not necessarily end the conversation on the assumption that the person resorting to them was just trolling.

I have been using Thunderbird for many years now. Previously, I was using Emacs for e-mail, but realized that I needed something that supported HTML. Also, I was switching from Linux to the Mac, and I wasn't sure if I would ever switch back -- and thus not only wanted an open-source solution, but also one that was cross-platform.

Overall, I'm quite satisfied. The program is solid, the interface is good, and it does a great job of handling the many messages I both send and receive each day. It's smart about handling being off-line, many different accounts, and my other needs. Searching for messages within a particular mailbox (which I do a lot of) is fast and easy.

I realize that it's in vogue for everyone to use and love Gmail -- but several of my clients have forced me to do so, and I really can't stand the Gmail interface. Maybe it's just me, but having a standalone e-mail application is just about what I want. (Although I still do miss SuperCite in Emacs...)

There was talk years ago about Mozilla abandoning Thunderbird, or spinning it off. I'm very happy to see that they continue to invest time and money in its development, that it continues to be popular, and that they're proud to celebrate its popularity.

Gnus in Emacs does support HTML! It's not the most beautiful, but it works, and is getting better.

I also use several Gmail-backed custom domains, and that works just fine as well -- no one knows I'm using Gnus (unless they look at the User-Agent header, of course).

Hmm, I'll take a look... it would be fun to return to Emacs as a mail client, although I must admit that without working HTML, it might be a bit annoying. That said, I so so so miss having all of my favorite Emacs commands at my fingertips in e-mail...

How do your clients force you to use gmail?

I have had two clients over the years who run their own domains, and wanted me to use an e-mail address within that domain. They also insisted that all of my outgoing e-mail be under their domains, rather than the lerner.co.il domain I've been using for 20 years.

I have all of my GMail forwarded to my regular account, so it's mostly just a bother with sending out messages. Twice in one week, I responded to e-mail from Thunderbird, rather than GMail, and thus ended up exposing the fact that I'm a consultant rather than an employee of the company. The client went totally ballistic on me over this.

I'm pretty sure that there's a way for me to configure Thunderbird and/or Gmail such that I can use Thunderbird as a front-end client to their Gmail domain, but I didn't bother. Mostly, I just found it to be a foolish and controlling way for them to run their businesses, and hide the fact that I'm a consultant (when the simplest search on Google or LinkedIn would reveal otherwise).

You can configure your clients' Gmail accounts in Thunderbird.

When composing an email, pay special attention to the "From:" field. It is a drop down list that shows all the email accounts configured in your Thunderbird. Choose the one you need to use to save your client's face.

A more sophisticated approach is use the Identities feature of Thunderbird.


Best email client out there, hands down. I use GMail on the web for quick checks, but it's impossible to do serious email management in GMail. If you're serious about managing your email, you need a real email client and Thunderbird is the best I've seen. VERY happy to hear it continues to grow, and thank you very very much to those who continue to hack on / maintain it.

It's impossible to serious email management in Gmail? Are you trolling?

Gmail was built by engineers to manage email efficiently. Everything can be keyboard driven. Labels work better than folders. Filters super easy to create. I receive 200+ emails a day, and Gmail keyboard shortcuts are my go-to tool. Aside from sub-optimal (usually chorded) keyboard shortcuts, every local client I've ever tried has simply choked on the volume of mail I deal with, Gmail doesn't.

I use MailPlane to get the Gmail UI but with smooth integration into OS X and multiple Google accounts loaded in parallel with the Google multi-login nightmare.

I am not learning new Keyboard shortcuts only for Gmail.

Thunderbird (and other decent desktop packages) allow me to reuse the over a decade worth of training I have with my OS's KB shortcut semantics.

In addition, using the keyboard in a browser is a mess. It is very easy to not have the current context set to a different application, and Gmail's non-standard K/B shortcuts can lead to unpredictable (and destructive) changes in other applications (for example, accidentally entering random text in a document open in my text editor). Using standard OS K/B shortcuts means that if I am doing a search, and even if my current app is not the one I think it is, it's likely to still do a search, and not enter random characters.

That's a nice post hoc rationalization but in practice it doesn't actually come up. I don't have any other app with the same semantics as Gmail. For instance, what app combines forward/next navigation with selecting, labeling and archiving? Unlike vim which I miss in native text fields, there is no context outside of Gmail that the muscle memory wants to kick in; the corollary being that there is not a comprehensive set of OS default shortcuts that maps cleanly to the set of things I want to do in email. In fact Mailplane does attempt this for Gmail so you get ⌘-n, etc, but the common ones are really not sufficient to cover a power user's email workflow—you're going to need to learn a few things specifically for your client of choice regardless of what that is.

>That's a nice post hoc rationalization

Come on, you did sort of ask for clarification didn't you?

Except that managing any number of messages between the max 100 view and the "anything-that-matches-search but you can't actually see them" is not very efficient. In any real desktop mail client, like thunderbird, I can load up and easily skim through all the messages in a folder/label. In Gmail, I can see at most 100 at a time and each load of the next 100 is terribly slow compared to scrolling the message pane in a real mail client and makes actions on the previous 100 unavailable.. This is far from efficient, IMO.

Just curious if you've ever tried a non-GUI client like Mutt[1]. I used to love Mutt, but switched to Thunderbird at work as I was increasingly having to deal with a lot of attachments and it was just easier to handle with the GUI. At home I still use Mutt though.

[1] http://www.mutt.org/

I used to use thunderbird before switching back to apple mail - I thought they had discontinued work on it? I know I heard something about that. It also doesn't do a few things apple mail seems to do; i think it was a matter of rule execution and multiple from addresses.

The UI could also use some cleanup. While I don't like apple changing things because they can change things (when they do), i feel like Thunderbird UI has room for improvement in usability and aesthetics.

Well, i've been thinking about setting up a mail client in my linux VM, guess I could install it and see how it fares.

Are there any other open source email clients that people use, that are maintained?

Claws, formerly Sylpheed - comes standard on lightweight distros like Puppy Linux.

There's also Geary by Yorba, which has a similar look and feel to the mail client on OSX but for Ubuntu-based distros. It is standard on ElementaryOS.

Geary is a fantastic new email client. It gets a lot of things right.

There is Evolution and Kmail, the official Gnome and KDE mail clients. Then there is the lightweight underdog Claws. Finally, for terminal users there is mutt and a few others.

Imho, none of them is very good. I prefer gmail for its UI. At work, I use Thunderbird because it sucks the least.

The rumors of thunderbird's death are exaggerated.


I've heard praise for Slypheed.


I think you're looking for Claws. It used to be the development version of Sylpheed, but they're now separate. It has a lot more active development.


I wonder is one of the reasons this is happening because Thunderbird works well with PGP, Enigmail and Torbirdy etc and that many of the online guides which show people how to use this?

Wouldn't surprise me if that's the case, or at least if it's a factor in increased downloads. My default mail client on Windows is Postbox, but ever since I started using PGP, I switched to Thunderbird because Enigmail doesn't play nice with Postbox.

Thunderbird's UI could be a bit better but it performs well and does its job without causing too much trouble, so I'm quite happy with it.

Yeh, the UI could really do with an update. It would be great if it looked like OS X Mail etc but I guess most open source stuff often looks a bit dated - and Thunderbird does the job pretty well.

> My default mail client on Windows is Postbox

I've considered PostBox but never got as far as installing it. What are your experiences? How does it compare with Thunderbird?

Thunderbird is great as a cross-platform mail client; I run it on FreeBSD, Linux, and Windows. The Windows version has a slightly different menu layout, but I don't really mind this and it rarely comes up in regular use anyhow.

I do however have two gripes:

1) When saving an e-mail as a draft, and then re-opening it another machine, it often changes the From mail account. As such, I end up sending mail from my personal mail account when intending to use my business mail account. This was reported as a bug years ago, but has still yet to be fixed.

2) When logged into the same IMAP account from several machines, sometimes a mailbox created on one machine doesn't show up on another, and the only way to get it to show up is to toggle "show subscribed folders only", restart Thunderbird, toggle it back, and restart again.

Have you reported the two problems, or at least asked about them on the Mozilla support website?

There was already an existing bug report in Bugzilla when I first ran into issue 1) years ago, and I added my comments to it.

Issue 2) I haven't. As annoying as it is when it does happen, it's not that common and although requires some extra steps, doesn't result in looking unprofessional to clients like in 1). However, there has been a few instances lately where my staff have created new subfolders within a shared imap folder and moved e-mails into them, and I've been unable to find those emails until I recall this issue. So it's probably worthwhile to start gathering details and file a report to prevent this interruption in workflow.

This will probably get voted into oblivion. I think it's great that people like Thunderbird. I use it to back up my email once in a while.

But, I do find it interesting that anyone would chose an app mail reader over an online mail reader, one that I can access all my mail from any device anywhere in the world. (should I choose to trust that device).

Yes, I get that maybe you don't trust gmail/hotmail/yahoo but I guess I just wonder if maybe the time and effort making Thunderbird would be better spent on an open source email server that's as easy to install as something like wordpress but more secure.

Of course maybe it's just me. I haven't used an email app since about 2003. First it was oddmail, then yahoo mail, then gmail. There's no way I could go back to having access to my mail stuck on one machine. If you like your setup good for you.

I guess I'd be curious what you get out of it though. Do you run Thunderbird on all your devices? Does each device have access to all your email? Can you search it quickly? If you don't have thunderbird everywhere do you find yourself waiting until you get back to device that does have it to use email?

Since the 1990s, IMAP (an open standard with hundreds of implementations covering virtually all platforms) has allowed you to access all of your mail, from anywhere, on whichever device you want.

You don't have to use just one IMAP client, you can use many clients, just as you might use several different web browsers or text editors. They all access the same mail store, and the message state (read, flagged, replied to, etc) is synchronized among all the clients (this is what the IMAP protocol is for).

On a decently powerful computer, searching is typically faster than any online service, including Gmail (though it depends on the mail client).

Thunderbird's search is fairly poor. On OS X, I mainly use MailMate and Apple's default Mail.app client software. Both of these can search through my 500,000-message email archive (all my personal email in/out since 1995) much faster than any online service I have seen.

With a dedicated mail client, you can also have all your mail without being online -- to me, this is essential for working on international flights.

Being able to use multiple standards-based clients also lets you avoid keeping all your eggs in one basket. You can use the best client on each platform that suits you.

I only ever use Thunderbird on Windows, where there are not many good email clients. OS X, Linux, iOS, and Android all come with better (for my needs, YMMV) email clients than Thunderbird.

Finally, IMAP is a real standard with a huge body of work behind it. I look forward to even better standards emerging, e.g. something like JMAP[1] maybe, but for now we do have IMAP, and it solves every single problem that web-based email solves (indeed there are many webmail UIs that give you online browser access to your IMAP email store). But with native clients you also gain several advantages over typical webmail service from Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, etc.

Plus no ads.

[1]: http://jmap.io

Well, as long as you have credintials, any email client will let you use your account on any system

I think the main thing is that you can't really add on a lot of things to webmail. Look at the success of outlook in office, because you can add so many things to an exchange server that IMAP doesn't support. Reserve rooms for a meeting, schedule events, and more.

Or, small organizations often have a single IMAP server, and do not use gmail. If you are part of several servers(graduate students/scientists/professors), a client allows you to access your mail from all of these systems. If they have webmail at all, it's awful(Think Squirrel Mail). I sort of tried adding my university email to my gmail account, but the feature always broke in weird ways.

IMAP solves these problems and is older than the web, by almost a decade. Any mail service of note supports it.

There's no way I could go back to having access to my mail stuck on one machine.

Curious that you should say this, because with webmail, your mail is on the server. With IMAP, it's on the server and on as many clients as you want it to be on.

one that I can access all my mail from any device anywhere in the world

'anywhere in the world'? Good luck reaching your webmail from a place that doesn't have internet connectivity, of which there are a great many places in the world. Or if there's network issues. Offline clients still give you access to email history during network outages.

With any IMAP client your mail will not be stuck on one machine, you can maintain a copy on the server as well, and access it from any other IMAP client.

Right. I can't see why anyone uses Gmail. The built-in mail client in Android works just fine with IMAP servers. I have two desktops, a laptop, and an Android phone all using the same IMAP server. Everything but the Android phone runs Thunderbird.

It's rather nice that Mozilla maintains Thunderbird but doesn't change it much. The Firefox UI keeps changing, but not improving. Over three years, Firefox moved add-on icons from the top to the bottom, then hid them, then moved them back to the top again. I'm worried that if they change Thunderbird, they will "add social features", make it send your contacts list to Mozilla HQ for "syncing", or something like that.

> I can't see why anyone uses Gmail.

For a relatively consistent experience across platforms, without having to depend on a local application.

These apps have long supported IMAP, your email won't be stuck to your machine.

For me really I have my personal mail on my home desktop via thunderbird and there is zero reason to ever have it anyplace else.

Nothing is life is so important it can't wait until I get home for an answer. If it is so important like work email then they will provide me with a phone and an email account which they do. I'll gladly carry that. But for my personal use. I just don't see the point. Do I really need to see that recruiters email right now? Do I really need to see the amazon shipment confirmation right now? Nope.

I have all of my passwords in a keepass db which is also only accessible via my home desktop. I can't access anything even if I needed to since everything has its own pw which I don't know.

As I said. Nothing is that important.

I use IMAP and I use it regularly from at least 4-5 regularly used devices, through Thunderbird on the computers and whatever native client is on smaller devices. I have done this since well before 2003 as well.

POP hasn't been the only game in town for a very very long time.

I use Thunderbird to read email that's hosted on gmail, via IMAP.

That way I get an interface that allows me to open multiple emails at once, and all the keyboard shortcuts I like, that uses a lot less CPU than a gmail window.

It's faster, and less susceptible to phishing. Also, if you are not using Gmail, how great are the web email clients really?

It's in maintenance mode, so unlikely to happen, but ...

please please add support for something which is not mbox format storage.

Maildir, sqlite, whatever. I hate "From" inside an email becoming ">From". It's fragile as hell (although, last time I suffered corruption was in 2006 in Windows; never had my mbox corrupted in Linux).

Even with this, I prefer it to all other email clients, native or web, that I've tried.

> please please add support for something which is not mbox format storage. Maildir, sqlite, whatever.

Support for maildir format has existed since Thunderbird 12.


You can follow the steps outlined here but to minimize the risk of data loss, please back up your profile first.




I'm kind of ashamed I missed this ..


They do have a maildir-like format implemented, but I don't think it's yet the default or easy to convert to:


I use Thunderbird since eons. IMHO it's the definitive email client - nothing beats it; hence, it has no "export" features. :-)

Very annoying that the latest versions on the release channel 31.5.0 still shows nothing on standard calendar invites. Yes, I might install a big ass plugin, but what about just showing me the stuff that is actually in the email (that can easily be verified with "view source")? It's been like this for ages as well. Not very promising unfortunately.

I am glad that Thunderbird increases in popularity. But this makes me wonder even harder why they don't work towards a features that allows syncing Thunderbird (and it's calendar [sunbird]) with their FirefoxOS apps. Apparently there aren't many people interested in offline-synchronizing anymore these days. :(

Firefox OS has a dedicated Email app which supports multiple email accounts and offline mode.



What exactly do you mean by syncing Thunderbird with Firefox OS apps?

I would especially like to synchronize Firefox OS with my Lightning calendar. As far as I know, you have to publish your Lightning calender online to make it accessible for Firefox OS.

You can publish your Lightning calendar only on your home intranet and then sync with the calendar app on your Firefox OS phone over your home wifi. Once you step outside your home, the calendar app on your Firefox OS phone will continue to show you your calendar entries because it has offline support.

In my opinion they should improve Firefox Sync to work with Thunderbird as well. It could remember add-ons, email addresses (although in my opinion it should not remember the passwords and should prompt the users for their passwords once more) and RSS feeds. I think that we miss that feature more than any other.

Why are there annual bumps in the graph?

They seem to be in July/August - perhaps it's summer holiday season, and people don't open their email as much?

Schools and Universities would be prime candidates for that and I bet the user base has a large proportion of those users.

I haven't thought about Thunderbird in years! This is rather surprising to me. What's the draw for using Thunderbird over the web- and mobile-based clients like Inbox?

I started using Thunderbird for the first time in many years a few days ago. I honestly really like it. I don't know what's motivating the many others to switch back, but privacy concerns have to be one of them.


  * For times when I have slow or no internet, I can still read and compose email, and it will be quite responsive
  * It works with all the mail accounts I use, like my gmail account I'm trying to depricate, and the fastmail account that now hosts my own email address
  * The Enigmail plugin is probably close to the best UI one can create for GPG
  * While the UNIX romantic in me would prefer to use Mutt all the time, even my finely tuned Mutt setup can't seamlessly deal with things like HTML emails all the time.

  * It's a huge software package, and often takes quite a bit of memory
  * I don't currently know how to make it tie into a keyring for storing passwords, so I either have to let it store my email account passwords in plain text, or essentially have a second master password
  * It's not the prettiest software in the world, but it's not bad either. the UI is at this point pretty unremarkable, so while it doesn't amaze, it doesn't confuse too much either
  * I don't know its keyboard shortcuts, or even if they exist, well yet, so I'm using the mouse a lot

> Cons: It's not the prettiest software in the world, but it's not bad either. the UI is at this point pretty unremarkable, so while it doesn't amaze, it doesn't confuse too much either

You can choose from hundreds of community-contributed add-ons to customize Thunderbird's UI, or you could write one yourself.


> Cons: I don't know its keyboard shortcuts, or even if they exist, well yet, so I'm using the mouse a lot


Thunderbird at this point is mostly maintained by community members. Feel free to get involved.

- Sane keyboard navigation between read, unread and mail threads next, previous

- Control over my emails instead of being behind a wall

- Supports all the features of SMTP instead of what the web application guy decided to provide

- Graphical representation of common text patterns used in emails since the early days

- Allows me to store all my contacts information without sharing it with whatever server somewhere in the internet

- Aggregation of multiple accounts

- A very cool feature of editing existing emails as new ones, instead of doing a copy-paste dance

- I favour native applications over web ones when given the choice

EDIT: Forgot to mention NNTP support

I can't speak for everyone, but I've experimented with Thunderbird because: (1) I didn't want to trust a third party with all of my emails, (2) I wanted a client that supported PGP, and (3) I wanted a client that would work offline when traveling.

I've since given up on PGP and offline access for the most part and have been using FastMail's web interface.

It works, I know it and it handles my several GB mail archive with 1000+ folders with grace, on top of that it's simple and does not do more than it needs to.

Having a client for all my mail accounts while keeping them separated. Offline functionality. Also, signed/encrypted mail.

local storage, multiple accounts, separate inboxes, doesn't try to be too clever


Will add no adverts, no 1000s of ajax calls trying to show things unrelated to email, does one thing and does it well, works well on slow connections, does load one day and require me to understand the new UI moving mails to tabs or whatever that stupid thing gmail did a while back, No harvesting of my mails

Question is, why do people use webmail instead of thunderbird

Well except with the new auto-discover when configuring an e-mail account (workaround: work offline, it will skip the wizard).

Or you could just configure the email account manually.


I use it to read mailing lists via Gmane's NNTP portal: nntp://news.gmane.org I wish there was an addon that synced my "read messages". It is difficult to keep up to date on popular mailing lists unless you look at them throughout the day (and that means different devices/locations for me).

I can write code to parse the Thunderbird email files, extract email addresses and upload them to my CRM.

I can backup my email. To anyone who thinks GMail will be around forever, Google "Ozymandias".

I like its RSS feeds management. I follow lots of blogs and discussion forums, and being able to organize them by subject into multiple folder levels is a major convenience for me.

...and still it looks and behaves like we are in 2002.

Don't get me wrong, I like and use Thunderbird but sometimes I wish they would put more effort into improving the UI

NO NO NO. Thunderbird is an email client, it should look and work like an email client. Yes the functionality could be improved (as mentioned below search has some issues) but this isn't a UI issue.

Why programs insist on an UI update every so often - well commerical programs to convince you to buy a new license.

Tool makers don't go, every few years "hey we have this spanner, it looks like a spanner, works well as a spanner, lets redesign it so it no longer looks like a spanner, doesn't work as good as the old spanner but maybe we can convince people to buy it again"

I use Thunderbird every day, and I agree with you.

If they want to kill some low-hanging fruit, search is fundamentally broken. I've almost never found what I'm searching for -- it's reddit bad. It's usually better for me just to go log into that gmail account and search from there.

Really? I don't remember having any major problems with search recently. Search is a few orders of magnitude better than the junk mail classification, at least for me. I don't know what algorithms they use for junk classification, but here are some observations:

1) I mark 100% of the emails from a particular sender or with a particular subject line as junk, yet the junk classifier still puts emails from that sender or with that subject in my inbox. This is the low-hanging fruit -- the stuff that is so obvious that it is spam that a human can figure it out without looking at the message body at all, yet Thunderbird can't seem to get it right no matter how much you train it. I can only guess that they are placing too much weight on the body content (which is easily padded with hidden text to con the algorithm) when a bad sender/subject should trump whatever is in the body.

2) Emails from people that I've emailed in the past sometimes end up in the junk folder. I thought they were supposed to be whitelisted automatically (by automatically being appended to some special section of your address book).

3) I've implemented message filters to detect certain words like our product name and move the incoming message to a high-priority folder, yet messages that should match the filter still end up in the junk folder on rare occasions (and, yes, I have it configured to run the filter before junk classification is applied -- I'm assuming that junk classification should not be applied if a filter moves the message out of the inbox).

4) It sometimes seems to just stop learning, so I have to reset and retrain the junk classifier or it gets to the point where the only emails that it recognizes as being junk are the ones in a foreign language.

Yeah, search is a huge mess. For example, I'm out looking for houses and I've gotten a bunch of notices in the past couple weeks for open houses. I search for "open house" and not a single result it presented was for any of the emails I've previously received. In fact none of the emails it returned seemed to have either "open" or "house" in them, I have no idea why it selected the emails it did.

Actually, I've developed a theory that the search actually uses a stochastic method that randomly samples emails from my mailboxes in the hopes that some of them will match my search result.

Assuming you're using the global search mechanism, a porter stemmer is used which means that the search engine sees all of "house", "houses", "housed", "housing", etc. the same.

The search also biases the results based on recency and things like whether the message has been starred/flagged, whether it was authored by/involves contacts in your address book, etc.

e15ctr0n is right that your best option is to use quotes to do a phrase search of "open house" in this situation, although you will still run afoul of the porter stemmer. (Unfortunately a post-pass filter if you realllly want "house" was never implemented. There is an open bug, however.)

No, I mean, I actually searched for "open house" in quotes. (I tried the terms without quotes as well, but when that first set of results turned up useless I tried the quotes).

The results were literally what I describe, just a random sample of emails from the last few years. I keep using the search hoping I get something useful returned, and even when I do things like put in exact phrases I know are in the message, I get a random pile of junk back.

I should just learn my lesson and stop trying to be honest.

I just did some tests using "Edit > Find > Search Messages" to search (I'm not sure what asutherland means by the "global search mechanism") and based on a few tests searching for "contains" matches on the body text here are my conclusions:

1) If you use quotes, it is looking for the quotes in the text, so I'm surprised you got any matches at all.

2) If you don't use quotes, it is still looking for an exact match (except that it's not case sensitive), so searching for "open house" without quotes should not match unless the words are adjacent to each other.

3) It doesn't seem to pay attention to token boundaries, so a search for "house" (without quotes) matches "warehouse"

So, it is a little unintuitive (and really should have a help button that explains exactly what it does), but it seems to work for me. I don't use IMAP, though, and the comments by qznc about IMAP [1] seem like they may explain why you are seeing what you are seeing if you use IMAP.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9124667

Edit: I just noticed e15ctr0n's link to info on the global search -- I don't have that enabled (probably disabled it to save disk space a long time ago) so if that's where you are seeing problems, that explains why I never noticed.

Thanks for checking it out.

So for fun, I just sent myself an email with the subject "open house" and body "open house" (no quotes).

I then searched for "open house" (with quotes) and got a list back. Sorted by relevance, they return in the following chronological order: 2008, 2012, 2013x7, 2012x23, 2011x12, 2010x12 and on and on. Nothing from 2014 at all, and nothing from 2015 at all.

All of the returns have "open house" (or some variant) in them, quite a few have punctuation or non-alphanumeric characters right next to them, so that's cool. In quite a few "open houses" scores more highly than "open house".

So I filtered down to one mailbox. Now, I get a few from 2014, but no joy on my recent one.

I change the filter to another mailbox. About 10 down (there's only 12 "matching" in this mailbox) I see one of the relevant emails I was looking for earlier, but not the one I explicitly just sent myself.

If I remove all filter constraints and sort by date instead of relevance, the email I just sent shows up at the top, followed by some emails where "open houses" match my query, followed by the earlier email I was looking for.

So it's kinda working if I sort it by date. Sorting by relevance seems to be entirely useless. Sorting by mailbox is kinda useful, but doesn't seem to show most recent.

I dunno, it still seems faster and more accurate to hit each of my mailboxes separately from the web interfaces if I need to search them.

I think qznc might have hit the nail on the head about IMAP and getting weirdly out of sync.

My problems with search:

1) It shows me two search fields and irritatingly I need them both. One is the global search in the index. The other searches linearly per folder without an index.

2) If you disable local caching for IMAP, it does not index the emails, so the global search reports nothing. (if you enable caching it regularly goes out of sync with the server and behaves weird)

3) Linear search through an email folder in 2015? It is slow, for full text search.

Altogether, no fast full text search in Thunderbird for me. Compare that to Gmail, where it works great.

You really should take advantage of the global search index feature of Thunderbird.

It's possible that your index is corrupt, too large and so may not be functioning correctly. You can rebuild it by following the steps here:


Ugh, the search is the one part I find lacking. I use the 'quick filter' instead, which behaves like I want search to behave - quickly, and in the same window - whereas the 'search' results are presented in some bizarre order that has yet to 'just land me' at the results I want.

Try the new message indexing and search system called "Gloda", short for "Global database".


This is definitely true, I also experienced that problem.

As a work-around, the quick filter search seemed to work better for me.

Geary's UI is a lot better than Thunderbird.

You can choose from hundreds of community-contributed add-ons to customize Thunderbird's UI, or you could write one yourself.


Really? :) If TB looks like 2002 than the themes look like 1998

"has come to the conclusion that on-going stability is the most important thing, and that continued innovation in Thunderbird is not a priority for Mozilla’s product efforts. "

I absolutely agree with this. I really don't want my e-mail client to be innovative. I just want it to work, connect to as many of my accounts as possible and keep everything separate (I hate unified inboxes with a passion that could melt the heart of stars).

I do wish it got a visual update every once in a while, and they fixed search. But other than that it does what I need it to do and it gets out of the way the rest of the time.

I know that. My point is if it continues to grow why don't they invest more effort. Just a little bit to fix the search issue everybody is talking about?

The UI was fine for me in 2002 and is fine today. What would you change?

The giant step in usability was the intrusion of a fast search engine. Outbound filters were another nice improvement but not as important. Not UI anyway.

Thunderbird is great and I have been using it forever. I have only recently run into the first real problem at work getting SMTP to work with our Office 365 account.

I have the settings the same as the MS online app smtp.office365.com, port 587, and I can receive mail just fine. I have spent a few minutes here and there googling around and trying to figure it out but so far no luck sending mail (if anyone has any ideas...)

Server Hostname: smtp.office365.com. Port:587 SSL: STARTTLS Authentication:Normal Password

See http://blogs.technet.com/cfs-file.ashx/__key/communityserver...

Then click "Done" and not "Re-test".

I'm not at work and so can't try it out, but I'm pretty sure those are the settings I used. Maybe I clicked "retest". Have to try again tomorrow. Anyway, thanks.

I miss command line mh. While I can still use it, email has gotten increasingly mimey, and using mh these days feels too much like swimming upstream. I also think calendar and email is a natural integration.

That said, TB has been my email client for years and years. It has everything I need, and works well. It also has warts, but if you use any kind of software you get used to warts.

I was a long-time Thunderbird user, but the mail application I really loved was Opera's M2. It had an awesome auto-folder system that would create virtual folders for mailing lists, people you regularly corresponded with and date ranges. It's only downside was that it was tied into Opera and there was no way to tell it to open links in another browser.

Have you tried Saved Searches in Thunderbird?


That's still around, you know, as a separate application. Opera.com/mail

I quit using this at my last job because, although it supports opening mail in a new window, it did not support closing the message when you click reply/reply-all/forward. It's not a big deal unless you have to clear upwards of 50 emails a day.

Otherwise it was a great client, and it was much easier to customize than Outlook.

Love Thunderbird since the days it was the email client of the Netscape suite.

Thanks for all the work invested into it.

The UI could still use polishing. For example, the attachment confirmation dialog is so confusing. I'm tempted to send them a patch that makes the wording clearer.

"Did you forget to add an attachment?" ("Oh, I didn't!", "No, I did!")

I notice that too when it pops up. I wonder if they make it confusing by design, to ensure you carefully read it, and not just blindly click through?

My only complaint with Thunderbird is there is no easy way to backup/restore its database.

Thunderbird saves personal information such as messages, passwords and user preferences in a set of files called a "profile", which is stored in a separate location from the Thunderbird program files.


You can move your profile across computers, or back them up to restore later.


I know about those (these are helpful links, thanks!). They are stored in different locations on different OS's, even different versions of the same OS. There needs to be a menu item called "Backup" where you give a path to back it up to, and "Restore" where you give a path where it was backed up to.

Reading the documentation on those links just proves the point :-)

The beauty of open source is that you can scratch your own itch. :-)


Yeah, I already wrote my own compiler, editor, games, language, etc. How far do I have to go with this? :-)

I have always found the best strategy is to just backup the whole profile. The profile is very portable.

Inveterate Thunderbird user here.

Would like an extension to be able to execute actions in 1 click (such as creating a pdf rather than multi menu clicks) and I'm willing to pay for that. Anyone who can write thunderbird extensions contact me by reply.

Ever had e-mails disappearing in spam/archive or other folders?


A loyal user of Thunderbird here, in fact I recommended it to many other users, who are all using it now I believe.

Keep the good work, and evolve it please!

I keep asking Santa for regex email filters.

The FiltaQuilla add-on supports regular expressions.


If you look on the authors web page it describes how to use either JavaScript or regular expressions in the search field.


Here is a related, tutorial-type blog post with screenshots:


version 38? I am on version 31 and T-Bird says it's up to date.

> our next major release, which will be Thunderbird 38 in May 2015

Thunderbird releases go like 24->31->38...

Any idea why? On the surface, that seems completely insane.

24, 31, 38 represent the version of Gecko that Thunderbird ships with.


Thunderbird now follows an Extended Support Release process, rolling out every eight release cycles equaling every 54 weeks.


This is because Thunderbird is no longer in active development; it is primarily in maintenance mode.


Because codebase is synchronized with Firefox, but Thunderbird team doesn't have the manpower to release a new version every 6 weeks like Firefox, so they only release the versions which correspond to Firefox's extended support releases, which happens to be every 7 Firefox releases.

It follows the same version numbering cycle of Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release), just without the intermediate versions.

To keep parity with the version of Gecko engine that it uses I believe.

AH! Please, don't make me laugh. One of the worst email clients around. One of the best open source email clients around.

That's all. (Why don't they make a new UI and add more stability?!)

Which email client do you use and think is better?

honestly? Thunderbird, but sometimes I'm tempted to give it up and use just a web app or Opera Mail. Why I use it? Proprietary software smells and it is the best in security terms (that's why it's so much popular in Germany).

It has a bad integration with gmail/outlook for students (I know it's their problem). It doesn't have a modern UI (things like a multi line view that would make users happier). Furthermore, I can't use it in background since it takes 300+ MB. I may list something else, but these are things that could be solved with a more active development.

What is better? I would use mailpile (it promises a lot!), but web apps doesn't give you so much freedom.

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