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Thunderbird – an email client triumph


So I’ve just taken the plunge and installed the Open Source Thunderbird email client as a replacement for my Outlook Express program. Before you snigger, I’ve stayed with OE for this long because I have a whole email process built up around it. Over 12,000 messages, stored in a huge number of folders and sub-folders, all linked together to improve my working day. So why the move? Because I was hit by a virus the other day (and no I didn’t click on anything), and suddenly I realised that OE was still a weak security link on my system. Yep, just about the same reason I moved from Internet Explorer to Firefox. So am I happy now I’ve changed? Totally!

I didn’t move before because there I had just too much invested in Outlook Express, and more importantly, I had not found any product which let me migrate completely seamlessly and without interrupting my work-flow. And believe me I tried. A few years ago I tried to move from OE and looked around extensively at alternatives. I downloaded, installed and removed Eudora, Pegasus, The Bat and a couple of lesser known name email programs that I forget. Without exception they all failed on the seamless migration issue. Eudora was the closest, managing to import all the folders and address book, but wouldn’t let me re-arrange things to suit my old system.


Well my news is that Thunderbird is the one! I installed it a couple of days ago and it has done everything that I wanted and more. The install and migration of data from OE was flawless. Shall I repeat that? Flawless. Everything moved across, in the right place, and with no lost data at all. Folders in the right order, address book with the right info, everything. But there are two – no make that three – stand out things that make the switch to Thunderbird so satisfying.

1) I got working with the program within seconds, no account set up needed (a couple of passwords is all), and it was just as though I was using the old system. Sure my signature was missing and there were a couple of tiny things to adjust (like message display order), but it was just amazing how quickly I got up to full speed on the product.

2) There are a bunch of built-in features which I was having to use add-on programs for with OE. The Thunderbird Junk Mail filter meant that I could sling Spam Pal, the automatic BCC obsoleted OE Tools and the mail search box lets me get rid of Copernic (since 98% of my desktop search is email based). Amazing. And these integrated features all work superbly, they’re not cut down. In fact the search is better.


3) Third and not least, there’s a large amount of extensions that I can install if I need extra functionality. Unfortunately the one I needed most – the Hotmail web mail access feature – doesn’t seem to work for me, so if anyone has any ideas, let me know.

So that’s it really. If you’re looking for a simply great email client, with a ton of extra features and config options that you can use if you want, which also lets you transfer across from OE without a hitch, then Thunderbird is the one to go for. No question. So here we are with Open Source: 2, Microsoft: 0.


  • I’ve been following Thunderbird for a long time and last I checked it (and its cousins Sunbird and Lightning) still lacked synchronization capabilities for PDAs, Phones, Blackberries, etc. So, until then I’m still banished to the land of Outlook (full version). :-(

  • Ah yes, the Outlook dilemma probably still exists, although I haven’t checked into it fully. I suspect that they’ll sort out the integration problem one way or another quite soon at this rate.

  • Here’s hoping. I escape MS Office. I’m almost free! :-)

  • I’ve been using Thunderbird for a year now. It’s taken big bites out of my inbox twice. The last time it ate _all_ of my inbox. These are emails that go back ten years, imported from Outlook. Thousands and thousands of emails. TB also gets confused sometimes, e.g., double clicking on one email brings up another. I just shut it down and run it again, and it seems to recover, except for the two times it ate my email.

  • Mystech, here’s an interesting article about Open Source email systems taking over from Microsoft products.

  • Thanks for the interesting follow-up link/article, Red. I agree with several of their points. Although I have seen a lot of individual users and small companies abandoning Microsoft Exchange and Office, I think many major companies are still holding off and waiting for the Open Source applications and (more importantly) its support community to develop a bit more.

  • Well that’s a weird synchronicity thing isn’t it. I just upgraded OE a couple of weeks ago. All looks well here although I’m still deciding about a couple of niggles. Is it that it does things better/worse or is it just different. I’m at a funny age – I don’t handle change well!

    As for IE7 _and_ Firefox I can only say PASTE AND GO! PASTE AND GO! PASTE AND GO! How hard can it be? If I paste a URL into the address box of course I’m going to press GO! Why wouldn’t I?

    Opera – that’s a proper browser!

  • I guess what I really like about Thunderbird, your Bobness, is the fact that it’s so extensible with all those lovely extensions and things. And yes it does do things better. Better config options, better account management (by a mile), better message manipulation (like labels etc) and a fabulous inbuilt search as I said. I’ve got MozBackup to backup the database (just in case Paul – heh) and all in all I really like it. Why not do like I do, download it, install and import and see how it feels? That’s what swayed me. :-)

  • Sorry, not being clear. By “upgrading OE” I did in fact mean installing Thunderbird :�)

    Will subsequent versions be known as Thunderbird 2, 3, 4 and 5? I must try and find the music :�) Thunderbirds are GO!

  • Ahh…. and T-Birds are Go was nearly my headline. :-)

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