Thursday, April 19, 2007

First look at Thunderbird 2

As most of you already know, Thunderbird 2.0 was released today. I have been running the 2.0 release candidate for some time now, so I can share my opinions of the new version, while the going is still hot.

Good Stuff

New default theme and icons

I have found both new icon theme and the new user interface controls theme to be slightly better looking. There are no major changes here, just everything looks a little bit crispier, a little less intrusive, a little better organized and a little aesthetically more pleasing.
Unlimited tags
This is not as much a new feature as a fix of an old bug. Older versions of Thunderbird used to allow you to tag messages using either manual tagging or filters. Tagged message would be colored into particular color, so you can at a glance find out what emails you have received or what is left to do in your inbox. Unfortunately at the same time previous versions of Thunderbird would kill this feature by providing a fixed set of five pre-made tags (you could edit the labels, but you couldn't add your own). The new version still defines the same set of five tags for backward compatibility, but will happily allow you to add any number of your own. You can easily tag your messages by hand with the first nine tags in your list by pressing number keys and you can define message filters to tag messages with particular tags.

New Gecko Engine features

Since new Thunderbird is based on the same version of Gecko (the rendering engine under Mozilla products) as Firefox 2, it inherits some features from it. Spelling checks while you type, auto-completions etc.

New mail notification

The new version is able to notify you about incoming mail by either playing a sound or flashing a small pop-up (self-destructing in a few seconds) with subjects and senders of new messages.

Better support of large IMAP folders

Thunderbird 1.x used to consistently crash on me when I tried to manipulate 10K+ messages IMAP folders with it. Thunderbird 2 seems not to notice the difference between a 15K messages in a folder and 15 messages in a folder.

Bad Stuff

Finer customizations (they are there... but they are not)

Something bit me to customize the "such and such wrote" message that appears on the top of quoted message in your replies. And to my surprise, to do this you need edit some obscure configuration files in Thunderbird profile directory. Yes, it is documented extensively on the Tips and Tricks page, but I think this would not sit well with a casual user. Same goes for many other features that Thunderbird has, but you will never find out about them unless somebody tells you.

Some icons are inconsistent with previous releases

Took me some time to get used to the new junk mail icon. Not a big deal though.

Still no "Reply to All" shortcut of any sort

This is especially annoying when you are trying to CC on some of your business correspondence to some people (say your boss and your team) and every time you reply to a message you cannot just hit CTRL-R or some other key, but actually need to go through the menu to catch all the addresses in the original message. I suppose there has to be an extension for this somewhere, but so far I couldn't find it.
Update: Ctrl-Shift-R does reply all. I should have RTFM'd more


  • If you are already using Thunderbird, you should strongly consider upgrading. The new Thunderbird is leaner, meaner, faster and with sharper teeth :) The only reason to wait is if you are using some specific extensions not yet available for the new version

  • If you are not using Thunderbird and you do not require Outlook-like abilities such as calendar, to do lists, exchange compatibility etc., but only use your mail client to send and read email you should definitely consider giving Thunderbird a try.

  • The general feeling about the new Thunderbird is that it is not a huge leap forward, compared to previous versions, but a lot of small useful improvements making the overall experience of using it a much more pleasant one.


  1. reply-to-all via keyboard: Ctrl-Shift-R has been in place for a couple of years now...

  2. Thank you Knepper. I have updated the post. Silly of me.