Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Feeling the thunder

Don’t look now, but…. I have a new default email program. A few minutes with Thunderbird and I’m already won over.

Back in early April I reviewed Minotaur, which was what Thunderbird was before the post-Mozilla 1.4 strategy was announced. Back then, I wasn’t too impressed with what I found to be an overweight, uncustomisable, ugly program, deciding to stick with Mozilla Mail. But 11 weeks is a very long time in the world of Mozilla, and the Thunderbird developers haven’t been sat around twiddling their thumbs all this time. No, they’ve been hard at work, and yesterday’s build, the one I tried, quite frankly rocks.
Firstly, the Qute theme has been carried across from Mozilla Firebird, so it doesn’t look like something from 1997 (although some of the old icons are still around since it’s as yet unfinished). While Qute isn’t quite to my liking, it’s certainly an improvement. And, of course, you can install further themes if you like – currently Orbit, Orbit Retro, Pinball, Phoenity, SkyPilot Classic and an Apple Safari-esque theme have been ported across, and be picked up from the Mozilla Thunderbird Help site.
But the theme is not the only thing it has inherited from Firebird – it also has its new XUL toolkit, which means: customisable toolbars! And this is more than just being able to decide whether 5 of the less used buttons appear – this allows you to have total control over which buttons appear, and in what order, like Firebird does already. The ability to show and hide text is included too, and you can have big or small buttons.
The options dialog, now located on the Tools menu, has been streamlined, and again takes its inspiration from Firebird. While the Advanced tab is a little clumsy in my opinion, it does a good job of simplifying the rather complex dialog that the Mozilla Application Suite carries. The Mail Account Settings dialog can also be found there, though it has remained largely unchanged since it branched from Mozilla Mail. It still seems to work okay though.
And there’s extensions too. You can already get 5 of them from the extensions page, although you still have to download them and then install them manually – you can’t just a click a link and have them install automatically yet. One extension you won’t have to install is the spellchecker – that’s already included, although it’s only for US English. A UK English one would be nice :).
Finally, one big aspect that I like is its memory management and responsiveness – it doesn’t seem to mind running in the background while I browse the net, and pops up more quickly when I need it to. Mozilla Mail can take nearly 30 seconds to properly wake up sometimes, so this is very welcome.
I will admit that I’ve only been using it for about half an hour, but the fact that I felt I could make it my default so quickly is perhaps a testiment to how this client has progressed. Even though it’s not hit the 0.1 release yet, it seems usuable to me.
One feature that is missing – the ability to import settings from Mozilla Mail. Since that has been my mail client weapon of choice since August last year, I’ve got my address book, mail filters, and hundreds of emails to copy across. To be able to do that automatically would be very nice.
All in all, colour me very impressed, bar a few minor niggles which I imagine will be ironed out in due course – after all, this isn’t even an alpha release yet. Mozilla 1.5 is going to seriously rock when it comes out with this and Firebird included.

Comments are closed.