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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.