Mozilla on Tuesday launched Thunderbird 3, a revamped version its e-mail application, hoping it will do for Mozilla Messaging what Firefox 3 did for Mozilla's browser. With the same web-page rendering and graphics infrastructure as Firefox, Thunderbird is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
The free program supports 50 languages and allows each message to be opened in its own tab, rather than a window. The tab system is also Firefox's claim to fame. When the program is restarted, it remembers which tabs were open.
But the highlight of Thunderbird 3 is its search and tracking abilities. It provides a bar graph for a visual time line of when messages arrive. An intelligent filtering system allows users to display messages by month, date, year or recipient and receiver. Search results are saved in a virtual folder.
According to Mozilla's web site, the search feature will allow users to "accurately pinpoint the exact e-mail by word matches, correspondents or even attachment types at the moment they need it, all based on analysis of the user's own e-mails."
Thunderbird 3 also boasts a quick address-book update that allows users to add contacts just by clicking on a star icon in the new message. Numerous available add-ons, such as the Google calendar, can also be displayed by tab.
"We have some of the most passionate users on the planet who want a personal and familiar e-mail experience -- they choose Thunderbird because it's flexible and they can customize it to be exactly how they want," said David Ascher, CEO of Mozilla Messaging, a subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation.
Simplicity is a selling point, and Mozilla said getting started with the setup wizard is easier than in previous versions. The new wizard works with e-mail addresses and passwords instead of torturing users for their IMAP, SMTP and SSL/TLS settings.
Geared Toward Home Users
According to ARS Technical blogger Ryan Paul, who tested the program, the only weakness is that there isn't enough room to display all the search results.
"You have to click a 'More' button at the end of the excerpts to retrieve additional items," he wrote. "This can be frustrating in cases where I don't remember enough specific details about a desired message to get to it quickly with the filtering features."
Thunderbird isn't likely to put a dent in Outlook or Exchange usage.
"Typically these types of e-mail clients are for the home or casual users, for personal e-mail, not corporate stuff," said Mordy Hackel of New York-based KJ Technology, a consulting firm for residential and midsize businesses. "Although I'm sure it can be integrated to a Linux Notes or Microsoft Exchange server, you are better off with the native client."