Thunderbird 11: Tabs on Top Terrible

One of the big new features (as far as the developers were concerned) with Thunderbird 11 was having the tabs on top. It is suppose to “facilitates navigation and make it more contextual”. Um…what the heck is that suppose to mean?

Okay, so Firefox has had this feature since the release of Firefox 4 last spring, so why shouldn’t Thunderbird? I have been using Thunderbird 11 since the Beta release at the beginning of February and hadn’t given much notice to the new (and not improved) UI. Now that Thunderbird 11 has been officially release, the complaints are rolling in on the Builds and Support forums. May be it wouldn’t have been such a big deal if it didn’t mess up Persona, or are they Skins now? For some reason this new UI design adds a semi-opaque overlay to the Menu and Mail toolbars, washing out the Persona or themes, or whatever they are called now.

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With Firefox users can go to the View Menu and uncheck Tabs on Top. You would think the same logic would apply to Thunderbird. Sadly, no. There is no option in the menus and the developers think it is the users’ best interest that this feature can not be reversed. In fact they seem to be very excited about this change and go into a long winded explanation as to why it is the way it is.

Not only does this new ‘feature’ not play well with Personas…I mean themes, it is not at all what a lot of people were expecting with ‘Tabs on Top’. Firefox on Windows Vista/7 the menu bar is hidden and consolidated under the orange ‘Firefox’ button. A lot of folks were expecting the same thing with Thunderbird, they were expecting the menu bar to be hidden (still accessible via the ALT key) and a blue Thunderbird button with a consolidated menu. It does seems rather odd to have the tabs all the way at the top above the menu bar.

Funny thing is the testing community didn’t like this change back when the Earlybird 11.0a2 release came out in December and likely there were some rumblings with the daily builds back in November. However, the developers seemed to have dismissed the concerns, complaints, criticism, etc of us testers and seemed to think this feature was going to be a big hit when Thunderbird 11 went live.

The only ‘work around’ I have seen thus far in the forums is to get and use Thunderbird 10.0.3 ESR. ESR builds were designed for Enterprise users or for those who don’t like the rapid release process. This build is just like Thunderbird 10 (tabs on the bottom) but doesn’t have the new features (tabs on top), it does include fixes and security updates. You will still get an update (at least) every six-weeks but those will only be security and stability updates only. Thunderbird 10.0.x ESR will be supported until January 2013 when it will be replaced by Thunderbird 19.0.x ESR.

I am hoping now that Thunderbird 11 has been release and there is this ‘out cry’ about this feature, may be the developers will consider backing out this feature and do a Thunderbird 11.0.1 release. Unfortunately, I doubt that will happen, given how ‘excited’ and dead set they are on this feature. We shall see what happens.