ThunderbirdI love Thunderbird as a desktop email client because it is light weight and fast. I used Outlook 2007 for a little bit, and the features it offered were amazing but it was all a lot more than what I needed. Then when Thunderbird 2 was released I saw it as a great opportunity to switch back.

I noticed today that the Mozilla Thunderbird wiki page had been updated with some of their plans for version 3. There isn’t much information provided, but there are two things they mention that I’m really excited to see in the next release.

—Easier Account Setup—

The first thing that they want is an easier way for users to setup their email account. This is primarily in regards to people who use the email service provided by their ISP, who often provide limited information on setting up an external email client such as Thunderbird.

To make it easier the Thunderbird team has two options in mind: shipping Thunderbird with popular ISP files, or hosting a service with the ISP files. I would rather not see Thunderbird ship with a bunch of ISP files that people would never use, so my preference would be that a site is setup to host the ISP configuration files. That way the selection would be a lot better because users would be able to submit their own configurations.

Of course I think Thunderbird should still do the hunting when it comes to finding the necessary files. For example, a user should begin setting up their account by entering in their email address. Then Thunderbird can go to an online database containing the ISP files and search for the appropriate configuration. All of this could easily be done transparently meaning that the user just has to sit back and sip their coffee while Thunderbird does all of the work behind the scenes.

—Simple Extension Installation—

I have said for quite awhile that Thunderbird needs a better way to download and use extensions. Here is what the Thunderbird team had to say about the current way of installing an extension:

Currently a user must download the extension file locally and then either install the extension by opening the addons dialog and clicking the install button or dragging the extension into the add ons dialog. We get too many complaints from users who click on the extension from within their browser (Firefox) and the extension ends up trying to load in Firefox.

To get around this problem they either want to implement a small browser in Thunderbird for getting extensions, or create a Thunderbird-specific MIME type. The browser would probably be the easiest to implement, but the MIME type would be a lot more effective.

By creating a custom MIME type for Thunderbird extensions a user would be able to click on an extension to install within any browser, and that file will immediately get associated with Thunderbird. When the user then tries to open the extension Thunderbird will popup to install it. This is all very similar to when you download an MP3 from your browser it will ask you if you want to open it with your default media player, and in this case it will ask if you want to open the extension in Thunderbird.


It looks like Thunderbird 3 is headed in the right direction, but it isn’t expected to be available until the first quarter of 2008. Since it is still about a year before it hits final form there will probably be features that get pulled, and more that get added. We’ll keep you up-to-date on anything we find out, but my fingers are crossed that we’ll see tabs in version 3!

Thunderbird 2 Review with Screenshots
View the extension I use in Thunderbird 2
Download Mozilla Thunderbird 2