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A look at Thunderbird 2.0 Beta 254

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-a-peek dept.
lisah writes "Linux.com has reviewed Mozilla's first beta release of the Thunderbird 2.0 email client and says that, while it 'won't knock your socks off,' there are plenty of reasons to try it out or upgrade from previous versions. The new Thunderbird does away with the limitations of labels and instead allows users to tag emails to their heart's content, in the same vein as Google's GMail. Developers also tossed in a bunch of other useful features like customizable pop-up notification of new email, better search capabilities, and a neat way to navigate through the history of recently read emails. Mozilla developers didn't get everything right, however, since the account setup continues to be something of a headache."
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A look at Thunderbird 2.0 Beta

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  • automatic grouping (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lawpoop (604919) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @08:50PM (#17320320) Homepage Journal
    What I'd like to see is automatic grouping of emails into folders. This would be the same as a bunch saved searches, except you wouldn't have to manually make them, they would be created automatically.

    The best place to start would be to automatically create saved searches for all emails in your address book. If you wanted to go nuts with it, you could do a saved search of all unique email addresses in your inbox, if they number above a certain threshold. You could then also do some standard groupings that a user could select, like 'Yesterday, this week, this month, last month', common strings in the subject lines, etc.
  • edit incomming mail (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hey (83763) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @09:02PM (#17320430) Journal
    When I switched from Eudora to Thunderbird the thing I missed the most was the ability to edit ANY message. Including incomming ones. For example if somebody mailed me something that was unclear I could edit it to add a sentence from myself clearifying. I really like this freedom.
  • Import... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nicholas Evans (731773) <OwlManAtt@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @09:03PM (#17320446) Homepage
    Is it able to import data from other fucking Thunderbird installs yet? I'm tired of having to fiddle around with the profile folder whenever I do a fresh Windows install and need to put my e-mail back.

    Come on, guys. How hard can it be to add support for that to the import wizard? It just needs to be a frontend for copying the files! That feature has been lacking from Thunderbird and its ancestors for, like, ever.
  • Re:Import... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cortana (588495) <sam@roCHEETAHbots.org.uk minus cat> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @09:11PM (#17320504) Homepage
    It's not that simple. Preferences would have to be scanned and hardcoded paths (that shouldn't exist in the first place, granted) to exiting files in the old profile would have to be changed... hard to do if you moved the old profile folder before importing (e.g. backed it up by copying, or put an old hard disk in a new computer causing it to be mounted in a different location or assigned a different drive letter).
  • Tabbed Messages (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bob54321 (911744) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @09:19PM (#17320578)
    Does any one know what happened to message tabs. Its a feature I would really like as I become sick of having to re-find a message if I want to check another at the same time. I saw this proposed at some stage and thought it was going to be a 2.0 feature but there is no comments on it in the review. Did it get pushed back to 3.0?
  • Re:Import... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Clover_Kicker (20761) <clover_kicker@yahoo.com> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @09:21PM (#17320598)
    Set up an IMAP server. Seriously.
  • by WuphonsReach (684551) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @09:25PM (#17320614)
    If you've ever used SpamBayes for MS Outlook, you'll understand why bayesian analysis engines need to have some sort of grey area instead of just a binary spam / ham bit. With SpamBayes in MS Outlook, I have (3) results after spam processing:

    "ham" - Messages which scored below a rather low value (10?) and are considered non-spam. Those messages get left alone in whatever folder they were found in.

    "unsure" - Anything that falls in the middle gets moved to a "Maybe Junk" folder. For the most part, this stuff is spam, but the bayesian engine isn't quite sure. So it's worth checking for false positives (which are rare, but can happen until the engine is trained).

    "spam" - Stuff in the spam folder scored so high on the bayesian value that it's almost certainly spam. The odds of finding a false positive in this folder are extremely low so I never bother looking.

    Now for the real magic of SpamBayes... it remembers where a message was when it was flagged as "unsure" or "spam". If you find a message that was mis-tagged, you can tell SpamBayes that it made a mistake and it will add the message to its ham corpus and move the message back where it belongs.

    (That and intelligent message notification are the two things that drive me nutz with Thunderbird 1.5 and prevent me from switching over entirely.)

  • by diamondsw (685967) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @09:26PM (#17320622)
    The fact that after all this time Thunderbird STILL makes it difficult to use more than one SMTP server is astonishing. The vast majority of e-mail systems will only allow their own accounts to traverse the SMTP server, and most spam filtering will similarly junk e-mail that doesn't match up. Even if the developers were somehow ignorant of this fact, users have been requesting it heatedly since pre-1.0. Now we're at 2.0 and they still can't get something this simple right. Oh sure, Thunderbird technically supports multple SMTP servers, but it makes it about as difficult to setup as it possibly can.

    This is disturbing for three reasons:
    1) It hinders adoption by making a common feature odious to use
    2) It shows a complete lack of attentiveness by the developers to user concerns/requests
    3) It diminishes the Mozilla/Firefox brand by not living up to the standards set by those programs

    I'd love to use it - especially on Windows as an alternative to Outlook Express - but until it can properly support e-mail accounts and show some responsiveness to its users, I'm not going to bother with it.
  • State of email (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The OPTiCIAN (8190) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @09:28PM (#17320640)
    In the last few years the browser platform has matured and after a long period of it being awkful, I'm content with the current state of things. But I feel that email has not improved at all over the last ten years. The only major change has been the rise of spam - a step backwards.

    Some of the comments below will link to my lack of skills in areas of system administration and I encourage replies to those issues as much as any other feedback. Better yet - write a howtoforge article describing how to set such a system up under debian stable :)

    My needs for an email system are:
    - data should be stored on the server (centralised backup, provision for web mail when you need it, ability to have an administrator control it, access from multiple hosts)
    - server-side spam filtering which can also take easily feedback from the client on what proved to not be spam, or what was and was missed.
    - server-side addressbook
    - should deal only with plain text - non plain text should be flattened to plain text. It would be nice to automatically bounce office files with a message to tell the person to send stuff as PDF or plain text.
    - effective searching
    - very responsive client for reading mail
    - very responsive client for writing mail
    - effective communication between client and server that doesn't require the user to wait

    I don't really see how thunderbird's design lends itself to fitting into an infrastructure that meets those requirements.

    Perhaps my biggest problem with Thunderbird and all mail clients that I've encountered is that IMAP proves to be inadequate. Communicating with an email server over IMAP makes for a klunky experience (*particularly* over a latent connection), and it shouldn't need to be this way. Perhaps IMAP is a bad fit for the task.

    Time and time again we see people trying to build a 'Microsoft Word killer' without them ever stopping to think about whether a monolithic word processor is even a good idea (I suggest that it's not). Similarly, Thunderbird strikes me as a really good attempt at producing a product idea that is fundamentally flawed. We should be working to phase out monolithic email clients.

    Surely all that should be required of a good client is this:
    - Keep the client's disk archive of the mailbox synchronised with the server so that searching is easy, and do so inobtrusively (all the IMAP clients I've used are quite obtrusive and brittle as the number of possible connections rises), but reflect changes to the client back on the server (I don't think fetchmail does this)
    - Composer that has access to the server's addressbook and sent folder and has a spellchecker
    - Email viewer
  • Meh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @10:04PM (#17320888) Homepage
    I looked at Thunderbird a couple of times to see what it had to offer. I always end up going back to Sylpheed [sraoss.jp]. Sylpheed has its own little problems, but overall is a good mail client. I use it with IMAP over SSL and SMTP Auth with Starttls to my home server, and also take advantage of its multiple account capability to use as a dual mail client at work (I'm the mail admin, so the SMTP servers forward to a local mailbox on the linux box on my desk ... local mailboxes is one thing that thunderbird continually fails to get right). I have Sylpheed on 2 different machines at home, my work machine, and as a windoze portable app (nothing special to do there, it just works, point it to a config file on the USB key). Coupled with IMAP this works great for me.
  • mutt (Score:4, Interesting)

    by whoisjoe (465549) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @10:11PM (#17320956) Homepage
    Still hard to beat mutt--I can use it over an SSH connection and it's much more responsive than any GUI or web-based mail client. It's also insanely configurable.

    When I first started using it at the office, I used to joke that when it came to Word document attachments, in the time that it took an Outlook/Netscape user to open the document in Word, I was able to open the document in catdoc, skim through, confirm that the document was not worth reading and delete the message.
  • Re:State of email (Score:2, Interesting)

    by daveburnham (952469) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @10:12PM (#17320962)
    If you take a look at Blitzmail you'll find that it actually hits most of your specs. It's still in use at Dartmouth (where I'm a student) but hasn't seen any major updates since the early 90s. It uses its own protocol instead of IMAP, which means you need to run the Blitzmail server too, but the server software supports Blitzmail, IMAP and POP. It also allows fuzzy matching of names when you send an email to someone in the Dartmouth directory, which is a pretty handy feature, also implemented on the server side. Spam filtering is done with Spam Assassin on the server side. It's extremely simple, but I'm going to guess that at least 80% of the people here still use it and swear by it. I've tried to convert to Thunderbird, but end up coming back to Blitz every time. Since it is basically stuck in 1994 it runs very quickly on any computer you can find. I can walk up to a public terminal, sign on, see that I have no new messages, and sign off in about 4 seconds. Anyway, if you're on vacation and have nothing better to do the technical details are here [dartmouth.edu]. While it's a little dated, it's proof that not all email has to look like Outlook and IMAP.
  • Re:IMAP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by skiflyer (716312) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @10:50PM (#17321240)
    Yep, I'm in 2.0 beta, and it's just the same... easy, I'd even say too easy cause I often send from the wrong address, but I prefer taking the responsibility on myself as opposed to having to jump through hoops.
  • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @11:56PM (#17321678) Journal
    ...of some years, I can no longer find any real reason to run Outlook at home. I've got the whole family on Thunderbird & Google Calendars, and we're loving it.

    One lovely little thing about Outlook I've always thought useful though was the English language date parser in the "Meeting Request" form -- you know, where you can type in "two years from yesterday" and it parses it to the correct date? Bloaty but useful, if you remember it's there. (Anyone willing to tackle that one? LoL...)

    Some of the best features in Outlook are buried -- VBA forms, because they don't show up in the preview pane (which many folk use in preference to opening the message), Journalling, because not all of us have the discipline or inclination to account for our time that tightly (and those who need it want to bill directly, too) and the email-addressable public folder (ES only) with it's extended rule set is nice.

    Trouble is, of course, these features aren't really used. Some of this is just bad tuning, but a lot of it is just streamlined out of our day because the return on effort is bad.

    A lot of brainy people got together and dumped features in bulk into Outlook, and the result is just too many features -- features that consume eyeball space, that aren't used and just get in the way. UI Clutter can be a real pain when you sit in front of a screen all day.

    If people want mail and calendaring, no point in buying Outlook just for that. And even in sophisticated corporate environments, the niche features just don't get used.

    Wasn't there a recent thread where folks said they're not interested in technology any more, they just want things to work? I really like simple, rugged messaging, and I think the appeal of Thunderbird for the masses is that it really does just one thing very well, and doesn't try to be a games console or a file explorer too. Not everybody likes to keep ten different rule sets in their head when they open a program. To be anywhere near successful, the next generation of Outlook should divest itself of all that nichy stuff. Any fool with a dollar can buy air time, but simple ideas have broader appeal, because not all users are nerds anymore. Microsoft's marketing should spend less on advertising and more on learning what the non-nerds really want to use.

    Thanks for the rant. T-bird rules, ok?

  • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Thursday December 21, 2006 @12:24AM (#17321848) Journal
    I'm with you on message notification, but it's not a huge issue for me -- I just check it frequently on my (Linux) desktop, and watch the Dock icon on my Powerbook. But if you know of a better Linux email client I could be using, I'm listening -- my solution works with ANY IMAP client. Read on...

    I use bogofilter, but it's the same thing: spam, unsure, and everywhere else.

    Advantages:
      - Filters on the server, as messages come in.
      - All the features you're talking about, from any IMAP client.

    Disadvantages:
      - Linux only (uses inotify to detect messages dropped to the "spam" folder)
      - Any other filters (LKML goes here, girlfriend's stuff goes here) must be implemented on the server, currently Maildrop only.
      - Filters on the server. If you have limited server resources, this may be a problem.
      - Could conceivably lose mail during a retrain, due to the (admittedly stupid) way in which I handle retrains.
      - While it works on any client, no client that I know of has decent keyboard shortcuts to help me out.

    Basically, when a message comes in, it goes through bogofilter first, then maildrop. Maildrop looks for a bogofilter header, and drops it in the "spam" or "unsure" folder when it finds it. Otherwise, it goes to the rest of my maildrop rules, which mostly sort things into folders by mailing list.

    There are also retrain folders: Retrain as spam/innocent. When a message is dragged to retrain/spam, it's retrained as spam and dumped in the spam folder. When it's dragged to retrain/innocent, it's retrained as innocent, with an extra header added (I think it's a bogofilter commandline option) to specify that it was reclassified (as it still might have a score of spam), and then is sent through the maildrop filters again. The maildrop filters look for that retrain flag, so it's guaranteed not to end up in spam this time, and gets sorted according to mailing list rules, etc.

    This is where inotify comes in -- which means it MUST be a Linux server for this to work. As soon as the message appears in that folder, maildir structure guarantees it's just been rename'd in, so it's complete and safe to touch. Therefore, I can immediately retrain stuff, meaning the wait is less than a second, but I don't have to poll.

    Boring implementation details follow:

    The one major design bug is that I don't really know how to deal with maildir folders, so when I see a message appear in one of the retrain folders, I immediately open it, then unlink the file, to prevent Thunderbird or my own script from touching it until I finish piping it through the retrain process. I probably should be putting it in some temporary place, and indeed, maildir folders do have a "tmp" dir, but I simply don't know how to use it properly -- and I would have to rename it where I'm unlinking now. Basically, if the rename/unlink succeeds, it means I've beat the client to it. But if it fails, it means the client has done that stupid thing it does where the message is "delivered" to the folder as new, then the client marks it as read, which moves it from the "new" to the "cur" dir within that maildir.

    I suppose I could build this into the IMAP server, but I like how this solution has already been ported from Exim/Courier-IMAP to Postfix/BincIMAP. I could write it as an IMAP proxy, but that's both more complicated and potentially slows down operation other than retrains -- an IMAP proxy would have to intercept and parse every line, whereas I only get to notice when an actual file is created in the retrain dir, and until that happens, my script does absolutely nothing.
  • by AmiMoJo (196126) <(ten.3dlrow) (ta) (ojom)> on Thursday December 21, 2006 @01:24AM (#17322112) Homepage
    One feature that Outlook has right is its multi-line header display, where you get sender and date on one line and subject on the next. That way, you can have a "wide" (group-headers-mail text) display on a non-widescreen monitor. Even the gmail method is better than the current Thunderbird one, which hasnt changed since the first graphical clients.

    It is a bit like tabs I think. You cant imagine how you lived without it once you get used to it.
  • Compact folders (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tsa (15680) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @01:32AM (#17322146) Homepage
    I've used Thunderbird for years before I found out that if you delete a message, it doesn't get deleted at all, but is just made invisible. It doesn't delete it until you 'compact your folders'. There's an option in the settings to have it do that automatically. I find this behaviour annoying, because if you don't know that you have to compact your folders (and which non-computer-savvy user does know that?) you will be left with an ever-growing, huge mail folder. I didn't discover this until my backup script started to take a long time copying my mail folders. I haven't seen this 'feature' in any other email client I've used. I hope the Mozilla team will correct this in the future.
  • Re:State of email (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The OPTiCIAN (8190) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @02:27AM (#17322420)
    Yeah - you mention inadequacies of IMAP a few times. Which makes me wonder - why is there constant effort going into IMAP mail clients yet no effort to create a protocol that fixes up all the problems with IMAP.
  • SeaMonkey/Mail (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wysiwia (932559) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @02:46AM (#17322484) Homepage
    I'm astonished nobody mentioned SeaMonkey/Mail so far. I always though Slashdot commenters are power users which IMO better use SM/Mail than TB. Most of the complains about TB are fixed and several important features are included. And MozBackup helps with moving profiles and mails back and fore. So instead of complaining why not simply switch to SeaMonkey?

    O. Wyss
  • by artifex2004 (766107) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @03:44AM (#17322652) Journal
    I have mail from several .psts and other things I'd like to import. Problem is, I have some mail that dupes over different stores.
    Has anyone found a way to get TBird to search for duplicates and then delete extras?

    I'd be happy to import into folder trees called pst1, pst2, etc., then tell it to delete any dupes copied in pst3, then search and delete for any copies in pst2, etc., so that I'm left with just one of each that I can then sort properly into my main tree. But the functionality isn't there. Someone wanna write a plugin? :)
  • May give it a whirl (Score:4, Interesting)

    by polyp2000 (444682) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @05:18AM (#17322996) Homepage Journal
    I use thunderbird - but there was one feature in KMail that saved my life on a couple of times - basically it would scan your email for references like "please find the attached file" (probably just the word attached rather than the whole phrase) but I've lost count of the number of times I have written an email and forgotten to attach a file. KMail would intercept the email send process and ask if you meant to attach a file - giving you a second chance to make the attachment.

    Does thunderbird 2 have this great feature? (here's where someone tells me its been in Thunderbird 1 for years! ... )

    N.

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