Thunderbird 3 Features…

TBird Logowhat is planned and what should be included

I am looking over the freshly updated Thunderbird 3 Status Meeting notes from Tuesday’s (March 4th) meeting this evening. Direct calendar integration, instead of the external Sunbird Application or Lighting Extensions seems the big ‘must-have’ feature for TBird 3. Honestly, this is not on the top of my list of features. I have and continue to us Yahoo’s Calendar (FYI the Guru is not a big fan of Google). It is simple and is part of my Yahoo! Start Page. But also because I just use TBird just to manage my e-mail. I don’t use it for News Groups (I use XNews) or as a Feed Reader (I use Brief, a Fx extension).

In the Tb 3 planning section of the notes is a very, very brief mention of ‘Tabbed Messaging?’. This is a feature I really want in TBird. Firefox has spoiled me so much having everything open in new tabs instead of ending up with a gazillion open windows. It had been a planned feature in TBird 2, but never made it and judging by the lack of ‘enthusiasm’ I am beginning to think it may not even come in TBird 3. Sadly I think it is going to pushed out to TBird 4 (see Thunderbird 3 Plans for 2008).

One of the reasons why I feel extensions for Thunderbird have still not reached their fullest potential is because they are a pain in the a$$ to install. Okay may be not, for people who are use to Firefox automagically installing the add-ons right from AMO, it is a pain. Consider of the 600-Million Add-Ons Downloaded only 2.4 million (4%) were for Thunderbird. The current version of Thunderbird does have a way to make the process a little less painful but it is turned of by default (see Tweak: Add-ons ‘Install’ Button). Of course one can always simply drag the install link from AMO into Thunderbird Add-ons Manager box to install. Sure it sounds simple enough, for those who know what they are doing. I work technical support and deal with people who can’t even type a web address into their browser (“Why does it say ‘no results found’ when I type in my website address?”). Now you may be thinking that these people wouldn’t be smart enough to install extensions. But consider with Firefox (not sure about IE7) all you have to do is point, click on the link, click on the install button and restart the browser to install an extension. So this is defiantly an area in need of improvement with TBird.

Another area that is really in need of improvement is Account Settings. The most common thing I walk customers through is setting up their e-mail accounts. 99% of the time it is either Microsoft Outlook Express or Microsoft Outlook. I know the setup so well, I could do it in my sleep. Thunderbird on the other hand is very confusing and downright difficult to setup. Two things that drive me crazy about Thunderbird is that the Outgoing (SMTP) Server settings are defined else where and there is no where to enter your account password. When you setup/edit an account in Thunderbird you are setting up the incoming mail settings. Yes there is an option on the main setting screen to choose an SMTP server, but you have to go into those settings else where. As far as account passwords, you have to wait until you do a send and receive before you are prompted to enter a password. There is however, one thing I do like with Thunderbird’s Account Settings is server settings are easy to find. For those who want to leave a copy of the message on the server with Outlook have to go into ‘More Settings’ then into the ‘Advanced’ section to accomplish this. In Thunderbird it is the next section down called Server Settings.

So in order of importance for new features, I would rather see improved Extension/Add-ons Installation, Tabbed Browsing, better Account Management then Calendar integration.