Thunderbird: the open source mail client

Thunderbird: the open source mail client

thumb_thunderbirdlogo.jpgSo you’ve taken the leap and installed the versatile internet browser, Firefox, but are you ready to trade in your Outlook Express for Mozilla’s open source mail application? Thunderbird is Mozilla’s award winning and free solution to manage your mail more efficiently.

Thunderbird woos users with its flurry of options and the benefits of an open source application. Automatic updates ensure that you have the latest version of Thunderbird, preventing any security threats and offering you new features as soon as they’re available.

The biggest worry for users is switching from one mail application to another and losing precious information. With Thunderbird the switch is painless because you can quickly import your mail and contacts from your Outlook and set up your POP3 or IMAP account is a snap. To stay well organized we suggest taking advantage of Thunderbird’s filters. While this option is nothing new to the experienced Outlook user, you’ll have to admit that Thunderbird makes filters much more accessible, thanks to a simple selection of combinations and actions. Create distinct folders for your personal and professional mail and your newsletters and associate them with filters to avoid the hassle of constantly sorting your mail. Another feature we could single out is the integrated spell checker, a blessing if you send many emails and can’t be bothered to constantly verify your writing.

Although it isn’t visible right away, Thunderbird also features an RSS reader. Handy if you need to follow the news or specialist websites, this tool fits seamlessly into Thunderbird and you could almost forget that it is a mail application. Paste in the RSS feed from your favorite news source and the main messages window will reveal a list of all the latest feeds. The message pane is used as an integrated browser window to display the selected article.

Email is the number one source of viruses, that’s why Thunderbird offers various levels of message encryption, a spam filter and support for valid certificates. We found the spam filter particularly effective. Set it to “learn” mode, and it teaches itself to separate the valid email from the rest of the junk. You have to be mindful of this option though, because Thunderbird can become too restrictive and may decide on its own that one of your friends is suddenly persona non grata. Reviewing your junk folder every now and then should avoid you accidentally losing friends. Thunderbird also automatically turns off Javascript and by default does not load remote images, a good way to defuse the risk of viruses from dodgy emails.

Another known feature of the Mozilla line of products is customization. Just as with Firefox, Thunderbird can integrate a slew of extensions and add-ons to rev up your inbox. You can also add or remove icons from the actions pane, selecting the ones you use most frequently.

The one place where Thunderbird fails, and professionals will confirm this, is the failure to integrate Microsoft Exchange support. An essential tool in any work environment, the collaborative messaging software is sorely missed in Thunderbird and seriously limits its usefulness in offices. Furthermore, we can question why Mozilla included an RSS reader yet failed to incorporate a calendar, standard in most mail applications nowadays.

While the lack of proper business minded features will limit Thunderbird’s point in the workplace, the simplicity, customizability and security make it a number one choice for home users. If you’re worried about your safety on the Internet or are just looking for a more efficient way of handling your mail, Thunderbird is probably the best solution out there.

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