Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Thunderbird 1.1 Alpha 2 tour

It’s been a while since I did one of my product tours, and since I have a free afternoon I thought I’d do one for you. Six Apart are already doing a very good job of introducing the new features in Movable Type 3.2, so instead, here’s a guide to the new features in Thunderbird 1.1. The review is being done in 1.1 Alpha 2 so it’s possible that the final version will be different, but there’s some nice changes.

Email attachments

Remove attachments It can be annoying when someone sends you an important email full of unnecessary attachments, especially if you’re using IMAP and only have a small amount of disk quota for your messages. Thunderbird now lets you strip attachments from emails, so that you can retain the message body but remove the attachments.


Compose email Thunderbird has had a spellchecker since version 0.1 – not bad considering its big brother the Mozilla Browser Suite didn’t get one until version 1.5. Now in 1.1 it introduces inline spellchecking, like in Microsoft Word and other programs. Mispelled words get a red dotted underline and right-clicking on it suggests alternatives or allows you to add it to the dictionary. The old style spellcheck still works as well.


Options dialog There’s been quite a bit said about the new Options dialog that Firefox is due to get in version 1.1, and Thunderbird is getting it too. While looking more Mac-like it still fits well in the Windows environment.
Most of the options in 1.0 are there with only a few extra additions – some of the options originally in Advanced have now graduated to the other screens. There’s also a button on the Advanced page called ‘Config Editor’ which gives access to about:config. Personally I think TB should show a warning before users can view this screen because you have the potential to do a lot of damage in this screen if you’re not careful and it’s now not as well hidden as it is in Firefox.

SMTP Options

SMTP Options Thescreen to configure SMTP servers has been re-designed to make it easier to manage multiple servers. To prevent their SMTP servers being used as relays, many ISPs now block access from outside their IP range unless users are authenticated, so if you have email addresses with several ISPs you may need to use several servers, especially now that anti-spam technology like DomainKeys is becoming more popular.

Email filters

Email filters Thunderbird has very powerful mail filters and 1.1 makes them even better. You can now have filters that automatically reply to messages or forward them to other accounts, based on predefined conditions. So you could have a filter that automatically forwarded any messages with the word “urgent” in the subject line from people in your address book to your boss and have them marked read on your own account, or moved to another folder.

Junk mail and phishing

Junk mail
As well as using its own filtering, Thunderbird can now pick up on headers added by SpamAssassin or SpamPal at the email server and automatically mark them as junk, without needing to create filters to check for custom headers. It will also scan HTML emails for common tricks used in phishing attacks, like obfuscated URLs, and warn you.

Deleting old messages

Old messages
Thunderbird already has an option for deleting junk messages automatically after a number of days (the default is 14, I think) and for emptying the trash folder on exit. But now normal emails can be automatically deleted too. It’s off by default but messages can be deleted if they’re older than a certain number of days (default: 30) or have been marked as read, or only a certain number should be kept.

RSS features

RSS Subscriptions Support for RSS and Atom was added quite late in on Thunderbird’s development in version 0.8 from September last year. A couple of improvements have been made in this release; first of all, you can import OPML files, so migrating from another newsreader is much easier. It also now exports OPML files if you want to move away from it.
RSS enclosures are also supported, allowing Thunderbird to be used as a podcasting client. Enclosures appear in the same way that attachments do in normal email messages.
That concludes my tour of the main new features of Thunderbird 1.1.


  1. That junkmail options form looks badly designed – “Trust junk mail headers set by” sounds like it won’t bother checking for spam if spamassassin claims an email isn’t spam. Now obviously it’s only a matter of time before spammers start marking their email as not spam by adding spamassassin headers.

  2. Neat one! I have resigned from TB 1.0 but I think I’ll return to it in 1.1 as I see here. Small things but useful. 🙂 Hope that issue with missing non-downloaded messages will dissapear like a mist in a wind.

  3. Nice tour!
    Is there any increase in performance or other important bugfixes? I use 1.0 at the moment and am very satisfied, except for the problem that messages with attachments in my IMAP folder have to be downloaded completely before the message is displayed.
    I don’t want to wait until an entire archive of pics is downloaded before I can read the message.
    Anyway, Thunderbird is much better than its competitors. I love that extensibility.

  4. Thank you for this “tour” with highlights from Thunderbird 1.1 (alpha 2).
    about E-mail – attachments:
    The built-in control for attachments is not only good for “unnecessary attachments”:
    example: i get an e-message with a (large) text-attachment that is important – then i save the attachment as a file in an appropriate folder on my computer – and i forward the message with attachment to 3 people, with various comments from me.
    I keep all my sent mail in Thunderbirds “Sent” mail folder, so now i have the attachment (or its content) at 5 places (not counting back-ups etc.).
    Of course i have no need for the attachment to be saved too in the “Sent” folder.
    Even sometimes i get the same (large) attachments from 2 (or more) senders and i want to store both the main messages but not twice the attachment.

  5. How come there’s nobody in the Thunderbird team that has enough judgement regarding user interface ?! Look at the preference window … was it that hard to make it like its brother product Firefox ??
    Thunderbird is a great product but they should now focus on delivering a product with a clean interface.
    Some screenshots in flickr that makes you wonder…

  6. Many thanks for the tour. I hope they could work on speeding up the “Other Systems and Languages” sections. For people like me with shared computers it takes too long to put our hands on the newest releases.