Thunderbird 17 User Interface Changes

Thunderbird 17 due for release on/around November 20th features a redesigned user interface. Like Firefox, Thunderbird is going to have a cleaner and simpler user interface. This means by default removing the Menu bar (which can be brought back temporarily via the ALT key and restored by going to View > Toolbars > Menu Bar) and using an App Button/Menu like Firefox. However, unlike Firefox it is not a ‘Thunderbird’ button and it is not at the top left. Instead it is a little button with 3 horizontal lines on the far right (yet another design ‘borrowed’ from Chrome which uses a similar icon in place on the ‘wrench’ button).

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Like Firefox, when you click on the button you will get an app or quick menu. Like the other toolbar buttons, this button can be moved anywhere on to any of the toolbars via right-clicking on a toolbar and selecting Customize… then clicking and dragging the button. Also note that the screenshots here are using the default theme. Personas Themes still work though I found that buttons placed in the Mail Toolbar will not retain their original colors, however placing these buttons on the Tab Bar will preserve their original appearance. Still no ‘Tabs on top’ menu option, but Rise of the Tools add-on does work in Thunderbird 17.


While it is nice to see Thunderbird go to a simpler user interface and the addition of the app menu like Firefox, I am rather disappointed with the way it was implemented. I would have preferred to see a ‘Thunderbird’ button which could combined with an add-on (such as Firefox’s Movable Firefox button that changes the ‘Firefox’ button into the Firefox logo and can be moved anywhere). I also think it is going to be confusing to users at first who would be expecting a button on the left side (like Firefox) instead of the right-side (as is the case in Chrome).

11 Comments on Thunderbird 17 User Interface Changes

  1. I hate the hidden menu bar in Firefox – the first thing I did was to reactivate it. I dislike the “lean, clean” look introduced with the later versions of Firefox, and won’t like that look in Thunderbird any better. Mozilla has done nothing but disappoint me since about Firefox version 3.6. Guess it’s time to go back to webmail and IE. At least Microsoft lets ME pick the time to update, which is something Mozilla seems dead set against.

    • The last part of your comment baffles me, I always choose when I want to update Firefox and/or Thunderbird. In either Firefox or Thunderbird go to Tools > Options > Advanced > Updates (Tab) and be sure to select the option ‘Ask me what I want to do’ under When updates are found.

    • At least Microsoft lets ME pick the time to update, which is something Mozilla seems dead set against.

      Not by default. It will install updates and reboot your computer when it is done when it wants to unless you change your update settings to prompt you about the updates and let you install.

  2. I can’t believe they removed the standard top left corner menu. That menu has been standard since like windows 3.1 . The only reason I ever use it is to double click to close a window… but goddamn is it frustrating to double click that area and have it maximize / restore the window instead of close. Even Chrome, who hides the menu, still responds to it when you double click the area.


  3. I haven’t used thunderbird in years so I don’t have as much complains. What surprises me most is how tb looks like google chrome! As chrome had been buggy lately (hanging websites, choppy audio), I’ve been using firefox more often. It would have been nice and it would make more sense if tb and ff looked similar as they are both made by mozilla. The best thing I could do right now is make firefox look like chrome. 🙁

  4. Mine came in with a yellow background and white text! I can’t see a thing. Quit monkeying around with it! And you aren’t Tech Architects ether. Stealing a name from a profession is totally wrong! You are really nothing more than Technicians!

  5. I stopped using FF altogether and I’m seriously looking into TB replacement (maybe sylpheed ?).

    If they strive to be a carbon copy of chrome’s everything it’s their choice, but why install copy when I can install original ?

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