Two Things I Really Would Like From Mozilla Thunderbird

While I was on vacation I noticed that the Mozilla Foundation released Thunderbird 5.0. From the release notes it’s clear that a lot of cleanup work happened with this release, improving “speed, performance, stability and security,” but not very many new or revolutionary features. I like Thunderbird a lot, and I like that they’ve focused on stability more, but I still have two feature requests for future releases.

Multi-client synchronization

The promise of IMAP is that you are able to check your email anywhere, and it can stay on the server. There are also some nice things about thick email clients, like better searching, easy junk mail processing, offline modes, etc. The problem lies in having two copies of Thunderbird accessing the same mailboxes. First, you’ll end up with completely different settings for your junk mail processing, which is often quite disastrous. Second, you have to remember all the mailboxes you were subscribed to. Third, all your settings have to be recreated. Not seamless at all.

Firefox solved a similar problem with Weave/Sync. Seems like it might be even easier with Thunderbird, because you already have a storage mechanism: the IMAP server itself. Why couldn’t the Thunderbird settings & junk mail heuristics be stored in a special folder or message that all the clients can read? That way when I fire up my laptop’s copy of Thunderbird I get exactly the same experience as on my work desktop or home desktop.

Bugzilla 271863 looks like it’s close, but it’s had no attention at all since 2008. If this is something you’d like you might want to go vote it up a bit.

A Good Default Theme

What is up with the transparency in Thunderbird 5? Seriously, you’re making me install a new persona in order to be able to see my menu bar clearly? There also appear to be no options for disabling the transparent areas. I don’t mind some transparency, following the global Aero settings, for instance, but Thunderbird 5 appears to do its own thing. Spending some time on a good default look and adhering to the platform’s global UI settings would be a welcome change. I like the things I have to stare at all day to be good-looking. 🙂

It looks like there are a couple of bugs open already, 661745 and 667241, on these interface problems.

As with all software there are hundreds of enhancement requests, from very specific ones to big ones, and developers need to decide which ones they can tackle at any time. Here’s to hoping they get to some of my pet peeves first. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Two Things I Really Would Like From Mozilla Thunderbird”

  1. I totally agree. Thunderbird 5 is downright ugly. Transparency is fine for small areas but too much of it just does not work. I hope they can make the interface look nicer. I actually think Firefox 5 is pretty ugly too..

  2. Re: Synchronization
    Actually I was thinking along the same lines last couple of days. It gets tiring moving your TB profile from C:Documents and settings … to ~/.Thunderbird to NAS to USB Stick and back to C:Users… Specially if you have 5+ accounts and each has different connection and server settings. But in order to retrieve your settings from IMAP account you need to set it up first …? 🙂 Or you mean set up one account and retrieve settings for remaining 4 from there?

    • In my situation one account would be fine, but I can see that others might not have the same simple needs. Ideally a Mozilla Weave/Firefox Sync-like setup where you just specify a username and password and you get all your settings again would be nice.

  3. My biggest wishlist item for thunderbird is for the write mail window to be tabbed. Seems this is very hard to achieve for their coders…

  4. It severely irritates me that the menu bar buttons are all the same color. I can no longer differentiate from my delete button to my reply button, etc. They all LOOK THE SAME! Mozilla, FIX THIS and fire your designer and the person who approved this ugly rush job.

    • Exactly! What were they thinking?! I don’t want to have to install a theme and make the application consume more memory just to be able to tell the buttons apart! Have they lost their minds?!

  5. The transparent parts of the of the toolbars of Firefox and Thunderbird are really irritating. The top of my desktop picture is black and this causes several buttons to be indistinguishable due to the transparency. Can we please have a fix for this ASAP?

    I have been a Firefox user for years but I have switched back to Internet Explorer in order to get a proper interface.

  6. A small workaround – run Thunderbird in compatibility mode with Windows XP. The difference is seen at once.

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