Thunderbird 1.0, by Mozilla
Posted: 19-Mar-2005

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Mozilla Type: FREEWARE

Reviewer: Kevin Zittle Class: INTERNET
     
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Overview
I always thought Apple's Mail program was everything I ever needed in an email client. That was until I got serious about my email experience and found that I couldn't do everything I wanted. I went on a mission to find another option, one that supported more features and would not cost me any money. The results of my search let me to an email client called Thunderbird. Thunderbird supported most of my needs and then some, and comes from Mozilla, the same group that brought us the Firefox web browser.

Features

  • Powerful e-mail client with built in RSS feed reader
  • Download multiple themes to fit your mood
  • Download extensions for more features
  • Easy management of groups, e-mails, and subscriptions
  • Works with multiple types of accounts


Installation
Thunderbird is easily downloaded from the
Mozilla website and comes on a disk image. Once the disk image is opened, you drag Thunderbird to your application folder and run it. That's it!

Requirements

  • Mac OS X 10.1.x
  • PowerPC 266 MHz (Recommended: PowerPC G4 667MHz or greater)
  • 64 MB RAM (Recommended: 256 MB RAM or greater)
  • 72 MB hard drive space


In Use
Setting up Thunderbird is a breeze. Double clicking it for the first time will take you through the basic importing of mailboxes, address books, etc., and the setting up of a POP or IMAP account. Once it is all set up, you have a simple main window with a customizable tool bar on top. The toolbar includes basics like Get Mail, Write, Address Book, Reply, Delete, etc.. The left window pane is a list of all of your mailboxes, folders and subscriptions. The right window pane includes a list of messages in the highlighted mailbox on top and a view of the highlighted message on the bottom.


Thunderbird Mail window

I like to keep up with all of the new Apple stuff. Checking the Apple website while checking your e-mail is another helpful feature of Thunderbird. Under preferences, you can set your Thunderbird Start Page which will show every time you launch Thunderbird. Going to "Go>Mail Start Page" will display your start page again. Another great feature of Thunderbird are extensions. You can download a variety of different extensions from the Mozilla Thunderbird extensions web site. You simply download them and add them to Thunderbird, and they provide you additional features, such as controlling your music or looking up a word in a e-mail. There are many extensions, and they are all free. If you don't like Thunderbird's default theme, you can go and download new ones. You can install the walnut theme, or one of the other many other themes available. Installing a new theme is as easy as going to "Tools > Themes" menu and choosing to install. A new theme can give your email client a totally different look and feel.


Example of a Thunderbird theme


You can import all of your addresses from Apple's Address Book with not too much hassle. Simply use the Address Book Exporter application to export your address book to a plain text file. Then, in Thunderbird, select Tools > Import, select Address Books, click Next and then import a text file. Making new cards (address book entries) includes fields like first name, last name, display name, nick name, e-mail, alternate e-mail, whether they prefer receiving html or plain text, screen name, phone numbers, etc.. If these are not enough fields, it also includes four custom fields that you can use for whatever you need.

Sending is as easy as clicking the "Write" button up in the tool bar. The Write button brings up another window for composing an email message. On the top is your customizable tool bar with send, attach, spell check, and save. Right below that is your "To" field. On the bottom left is your address book with buttons to add each address to the "To" or "CC" field. This is very helpful in that it provides quick access to your address book entries. When composing your email, you can use a variety of tool bar functions for fonts, text color, super and subscript, style, smiley faces, and a whole bunch of other formatting items. Once you are done composing, click send and it will spell check the message. The function to compose email is very versatile. Unfortunatly, one feature it is missing is the ability to choose from a set of signatures. Thunderbird only supports one signature.


Sending an email with Thunderbird

If you find that you are sending the same type of email on a frequent basis, you can use stationary templates in Thunderbird to save you time. All you have to do is compose a message like you were writing an email, including adding backgrounds, text, links, etc., and then choose "File>Save As>Template". This will save your template in your template folder. When you want to use it, simply go to your templates folder in Thunderbird's left window pane and double-click the template that you want. It starts off your email with the template data, and allows you to make changes before sending. I found this very easy and helpful.

Thunderbird also supports multiple personalities (aka, multiple POP and IMAP accounts). As you create different accounts, the become options in your left window pane. You can manage each one seperately, and send and receive email for any combination of different accounts. When you create a new template, Thunderbird automatically saves it to your main account, but from there you can just drag the template into any of your other accounts. Although Thunderbird only supports one signature per account, you can have a different signature for each account that you setup. Using different accounts within Thunderbird was seamless and very reliable.

I also like to keep up on the latest news and events, and the easiest way to do that is through RSS feeds. Thunderbird provides full support for RSS feeds. You can manage your subscriptions just like your accounts and read them just like e-mails. Setting it up is very easy. Simply go to "File > New > Account" and set up a RSS & Blog account. From there you can add your subscriptions by clicking on the RSS mailbox and then on "Manage Subscriptions". Viewing your feeds is quite easy too. One problem I did encounter, however, is that you only have options to view a summary of the articles or the article as a web page. I would have liked an option to view the article in plain text, without all the formatting and graphics.

Summary
Thunderbird is a real gem of an e-mail client. It provides all of the functionality I need in an email client, and includes customizable tool bars, cool looking themes, and a large selection of add-on extensions available as free downloads. Thunderbird looks cool and is simple to use, and supports every function I look for in an email client. It's intuitive interface allows everything to be done easily and efficiently. It also provides full integrated support for RSS feeds, allowing me to stay up on all of the latest news all within my email client. I prefer Thunderbird over Apple's Mail client. If you haven't tried Thunderbird, I strongly recommend giving it a look. It's free!


Pros

  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Powerful RSS feed reader
  • Supports POP and IMAP accounts
  • Customizable toolbar


Cons

  • Does not support AOL or Hotmail accounts
  • Does not provide plain text option for RSS feeds
  • Only supports a single signature per account



Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice