anonymous tech woman

Yet another woman in technology blog. I'm actually a developer who uses a variety of Java and database technologies on a variety of platforms.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Review of Mozilla Thunderbird

What is it?
Mozilla Thunderbird is an email application from the Mozilla Foundation. This foundation makes a number of Open Source software applications the most famous of which is their browser, Firefox. The foundation is a not-for-profit organisation which was formed in 2003 from AOL's Netscape division and is based in the California, US.

Why use it?
This email client can be used on different operating systems and is free to use. As it is open source lots of people work on developing and testing the software which means any bugs in the software itself that could allow viruses etc. to take over your computer are quickly found and dealt with. Normally when the bugs hit the news an update to the application has already been released. (No software will prevent anyone who clicks on an email attachment and allows it to run a virus can ever be protected.)

Where do you get it?
You can download the current release from , download it from a peer-to-peer network i.e. bittorrent, obtain it from a friend or obtain it on a CD/DVD that comes with a PC magazine. The download is 6MB. The current stable version at the time of writing is 1.5.

1. Full-Featured Email - allows you to send, download and receive email from email servers such as gmail. And has rss capabilities.
2. Junk Mail Filters-The software learns what is junk/spamand moves them to the junk mail folder so overtime you have less spam in your inbox.
3. Anti-Phishing Protection - the software warns you if it thinks an email is a scram
4 .Advanced Security - provides support for things like digital signatures and ensures attachments cannot be run without the users expressed consent
5. Automatic updates - the software updates itself if a new patch needs to be downloaded
6. Customisation - allows you to change the look of the software and add extensions which add different functionality to the software

My Use
I downloaded Thunderbird because I decided I wanted a more update email software than my old edition of Outlook. I ran the installer and the software installed quickly on my Windows XP machine. Once installed it ran and prompted me on whether I wanted to import all my mail settings from Outlook. This I did. All my emails and the associated folders where imported from Outlook. However I noted that Thunderbird had not put in my account settings so this I had to do manually.

I then decided that I didn't like the generic look of the email client so I went to and selected a theme to install. This was done by downloading the theme to a folder on my hard drive and then installing it using clicking on the tools-> themes-> install button. I then had to close and reopen Thunderbird to see it.

The software allows you to save your passwords to a password file. This however is not recommended if you share your computer. I saved my passwords for my 6 email accounts in the password file. The software ran for a week without any problems. Then I discovered that one of my email accounts would not log on. I noted what I did with the problem, looked through the knowledge base and reported the problem on the Mozilla Thunderbird Support Forum. Within 12 hours a moderator had responded with a suggested fix. This didn't work.To cut a long story short there was a problem with the password file which has been reported many times in the bugs. I am therefore currently running a test build, 3.0Alpha, to check if this problem persists.

I did noted that the test build correctly imported my both my email and my account settings, and so far I have not had any problems with saved passwords.

1. It's free
2. It is made clear that you are testing the application. As Thunderbird is open source this means any bugs/issues are easily reported.
3. You can import mail, account settings and address books from Outlook, Outlook Express and Eudora.
4. Support is free even though you must search the knowledge base before posting, and someone actually bothers to answer your questions.
5. Can easily change the look and add extra functionality

1. The current release has some bugs to iron out which is not a problem if you only have one email account. However lots of users have reported difficulties with advanced configurations and saving passwords.
2. It is made clear that you are testing the application. Some people don't realise this but with all software applications including commercially brought ones, you are actually testing them because it is impossible for anyone to predict how someone will really use their software.
3. Support and help- at the moment only free support is available and the time taken depends on what time zone you are in. (The person who helped me was based in the US.)

For a free product this is very good however I don't think the email client, Mozilla Thunderbird is as good as Mozilla's browser, Firefox. The let down for me was not being able to save passwords properly. I know a few people who successfully and happily use Thunderbird on Windows XP and different flavours of Linux.


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