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Mozilla Thunderbird 2.0

I use Mozilla Thunderbird--the free, open-source mail program developed for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux by the folks behind the Firefox browser--everyday at work. But I can't justify devoting a column to Thunderbird 2.0.

This release has some valuable upgrades from Tbird 1.5, but it feels like a missed opportunity overall.

Here's what I like:

* Like before, Tbird is fast, reliable, finds messages in a hurry, tries to warn me of phishing scams and has a spam filter that learns from my practice.

* The 2.0 release finally brings the junk-mail controls into the main Options window, which has itself been pleasantly simplified.

* Its account-setup screens provide shortcuts for setting up Gmail and .Mac accounts.

* When new messages arrive, it provides a brief preview of their contents in a small, unobtrusive pop-up window (catching up to what Microsoft did in Outlook 2003); if you move the cursor over a folder with unread messages, you get the same type of preview.

* An extensive set of free extensions lets you add to its utility (I'm a fan of QuickText myself).

What I don't like:

* The new message-tagging sounds cool but doesn't approach the utility of tagging as it's done in Gmail or Flickr. These tags are really just the same old message labels as before, only you can assign more than one to a message. But you can't view your messages by tags, and when you rename tags their old names persist in some views.

* Although Tbird can import settings and messages from Outlook Express in Windows, it did not do the same with Windows Mail, OE's little-improved replacement in Windows Vista.

* The address book remains a joke. It doesn't allow more than two e-mail addresses per person, you can't copy a person's street address without clicking a "Properties" button first, and the Mac OS X version of Tbird doesn't connect to Apple's Address Book.

* There's also no calendar integration unless you install the still-in-development Lightning extension.

* The help file is still only a link to a Web page--good luck using it if you're offline. And even that Web assistance is thin; I'm still trying to figure out what the sun-shaped icons next to some unread messages mean.

The developers of Thunderbird have been good in the past about responding to feature requests by users; post yours in the comments here, and perhaps your wishes will be granted in Thunderbird 3.0.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 8, 2007; 8:05 AM ET
Categories:  Windows  
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