Tabs in Thunderbird not the same as in Firefox

I really don’t pay that much attention to the tab behavior in Thunderbird. In fact, I don’t really use tabs much I just have my mail in one tab and Lightning.Calendar in another. A user in the forum recently reported an on going issue they have been having with using tabs for RSS feeds in Thunderbird. Besides the content loading slowly, each time they switched away from the tab and then back, they would “lose their place”. At first I thought this was just an issue related to using Thunderbird to handle RSS feeds, something that I never done with Thunderbird. However, they then pointed me towards Bug 487386 filed in April 2009. This was about the time Thunderbird 3 (the first Thunderbird with tabs) was released.

Upon reading through this bug I discovered there are major flaws in the tab behavior on Thunderbird. The biggest being every time you switch away from a tab and then switch back, Thunderbird ‘reloads’ the tab’s contents. So lets say you have an email you want to view in a separate tab. Now, let’s say this is a rather long email and while you are reading this email another message comes in. You are midway through reading the email and you switch over to your Inbox in another tab. After you are done with the new message in your Inbox, you switch back to the email you were reading. In theory, you would think you be able to continue reading the message from where you left off. Nope, when you switch back to that tab, Thunderbird ‘reloads’ the tab and you are taken back to the beginning of the message. When you switch between tabs in Firefox, it remembers where you were in tab.

The only work around (if you even want to call it that) to this would be to open the message in a new Window. But then that kinda defeats the purpose of having tabs, now doesn’t it? Also, while reading this bug I realized that I never really noticed (or paid attention to) that when you compose a new or reply to a message, a new Window is opened instead of tab. That seems rather silly given this would be a perfect place to use tabs. Interestingly enough, ‘Compose in a Tab’ is one of the items on the newly released Thunderbird Up For Grabs list.

However, there really seems to be no progress towards getting this issue fixed. There have multiple ‘duplicate bugs’ filed and closed, but no real progress towards getting this one fixed. I suppose because it would require a major re-write of the Thunderbird code to fix the broken tabs. I understand there is lack of funding (and even initiative) to improve/fix Thunderbird. This seems especially true when it comes to tabs, just look at the (broken/incomplete) Tabs on Top that launched with Thunderbird 11 in March this year. Yet Mozilla is throwing tons of resources at adding Instant Messaging and BigFiles (attach from Cloud) capabilities to Thunderbird. While the BigFiles feature is a great idea as a way to get around ISPs’ attachment limit by allowing you to upload your attachments to a cloud server, it has been viewed by many as ‘security risk’.

Instant Messaging, is just an odd direction to go. I would have never thought of using Thunderbird as an instant messaging client (nor would I want to). I really think this should be standalone application like Sunbird (Mozilla’s standalone Calendar application). May be they are wanting to resurrect the old Netscape Communicator (a multi-functional ‘Internet Suite’ which include Email, Chat, News Groups, Calendar and more). While on the topic of calendars and Thunderbird, I beginning to wonder if we will ever see a fully integrated Calendar in Thunderbird. Don’t be mistaken by Lighting, it is an add-on that adds calendar functionality to Thunderbird. I am talking about having a native calendar built-in to Thunderbird that is not dependent on add-ons. Sadly, this is one area that Microsoft has and continues to have Mozilla beat.

I am monitoring this bug along with about 70+ other people. That is a rather significant number of people for bug, especially a Thunderbird bug.

1 Comment on Tabs in Thunderbird not the same as in Firefox

  1. El Guru, thanks for bringing attention to this bug. This is very frustrating and so far hasn’t captured the attention of Tbird developers.

    It seems clear that the use of tabs has not been carefully thought out so far; it’s more of a we-have-tabs-too approach. (Remember the recent kerfuffle over tabs on top?) The result is broken functionality. Disappointing.

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