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Usenet Newsreaders


Home Page Release Notes Screen Shots License:
Open source; $0

Current Version: 3.1.1 (July 21, 2010)

The point of Thunderbird - as with Firefox, the new standalone Mozilla web browser component - is to take real steps toward simplifying all the great stuff that comprises the Mozilla project, allowing you to download what you need and nothing more. After Mozilla 1.4 came out, new implementations of the two main Mozilla components (web browser and newsreader/email client) have been be offered as separate downloads. Mozilla Thunderbird is the standalone email and Usenet newsreader client, available for Mac OS X.

Thunderbird is now a mauture, stable, and very capable email and usenet client, offering just about every major feature you might expect, from message and junk filtering to spell checking and beyond. Part of Thunderbird's maturity is due to the fact that Thunderbird really isn't new; it's based upon the email client and newsreader that have been included in Mozilla for quite some time. However, Thunderbird benefits from the same streamlining and interface improvements that are making Firefox so desirable: by focusing solely on standalone mail, the development team can make some dents in the overall footprint and performance of the mail client by removing components and user interface elements that they don't need. On top of that, the UI becomes much cleaner in the standalone application as opposed to being part of the Mozilla suite.

In addition to the feature set found in Mozilla Mail, Thunderbird has several new features and improvements to make your mail and new experience better. Highlights include:

  • The ability to customize your toolbars the way you want them. Choose View / Toolbars / Customize inside any window.
  • UI extensions can be added to Mozilla Thunderbird to customize your experience with specific features and enhancements that you need. Extensions allow you to add features particular to your needs such as offline mail support.
  • A new look and feel. Thunderbird also supports a large number of downloadable themes which alter the appearance of the client.
  • An addressing sidebar for mail compose which makes it easy and convient to add address book contacts to emails.
  • Online help includes a FAQ, tips and tricks and other useful information.
  • Simplified preferences UI and menus.
  • Footprint and performance improvements.

Apart from fixing a large number of bugs in the 2.0.x release, Thunderbird 3 made the following major enhancements:

  • New Search with Advanced Filtering Tools - Search results now include advanced filtering tools. You have the option to filter your results by sender, tag, attachments, people, folder, and mailing list. You can also filter your email using the timeline tool.
  • New Global Search Field with Autocomplete - When typing in the Global Search field, Thunderbird autocompletes against your address book. You have the option of searching everywhere or filtering against different parts of the email such as by subject or by sender.
  • New Mail Account Setup Wizard - The new Mail Account Setup Wizard matches against a database of email settings from popular mail providers so that you will only need to provide your name, email, and password to set up new mail accounts.
  • Redesigned Mail Toolbar - The Mail Toolbar is redesigned to include the new Global Search bar. Buttons such as reply, forward, delete, junk are part of each email message. You can add those buttons back to the main toolbar by customizing the toolbar.
  • Tabbed Email Messages - Double-clicking or hitting enter on a mail message will now open that message in a New Tab window. Middle-clicking on messages or folders will open them in a Tab in the background. When quitting Thunderbird, visible tabs will be saved and will be restored when you open Thunderbird the next time. There is also a new Tab menu on the Tab toolbar to help you switch between Tabs.
  • Smart Folders - The folder pane offers a Smart Folders mode which combines special mailboxes, like Inbox, from multiple accounts. Smart Folders is now on by default.
  • New Message Summary View - Selecting multiple messages will give you a summary view of the emails you have selected.
  • Column Headings - The column headings that are displayed and the order in which they are displayed can now be set on a per-folder basis.
  • Message Archive - You can now file messages from your Inbox or other folders into the new Archive folder system.
  • Activity Manager - The Activity Manager records all the interactions between Thunderbird and your email provider in one place.
  • New Add-ons Manager - The new Add-ons Manager (Tools > Add-ons) can now be used to find, download, and install Thunderbird Add-ons which includes Extensions, Themes, and Plugins. Note that few Add-ons are compatible with this beta at the time of release, as Add-on developers need to upgrade them.
  • Improved Address Book - If someone is in your address book, it is indicated by a new star icon which you can click to edit contact details inline. If they are not in your address book, you can add them with one click of the icon. A new birthday field allows you to keep track of your friends' birthdays. You can also add a photo for contacts in your address book.
  • Improved Gmail Integration - Better recognition and integration of Gmail's special folders such as Sent and Trash including non-English versions of Gmail. Thunderbird also uses All Mail as the Archives folder.
  • For Windows Vista users, Thunderbird 3 is now integrated with Vista search results. On first start, Thunderbird will prompt to install its indexing system into Windows Vista and you can choose to see Thunderbird email and news messages in Windows search results.
  • For Mac users, Thunderbird 3 is now integrated with Spotlight, can import from, read your OS X address book, and use Growl for new mail alerts.
  • IMAP Folder Synchronization - Thunderbird will download IMAP messages by default in the background to allow for faster message loading and better offline operation. This feature can be enabled on an individual folder basis via Folder properties, or for all folders in an account via Account Settings / 'Synchronize & Storage'.

Version 3.1.1 provides additional enhancements:

  • Several fixes to improve stability and security.
  • Several fixes to the user interface.

User Reviews

"After being totally frustrated with Eudora, Netscape, and the various of MicroShaft Outlook, I tried Thunderbird. This email client is the absolute fastest, cleanest, most stable email system I have ever used in my 15+ years online. I use Thunderbird on my home system and on a business email system where it collects email from several different email addresses, all flawlessly. Outgoing mail is easy to compose, attachments just Work, and I have never had a complaint from anyone who has ever received and email generated from Thunderbird. This is the only/last email application you will ever need."
—Bill Shilling

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Also See . . .

Can't find what you're looking for? Try a search:

Also, if you have an older Mac, be sure to check out the "Classic" applications page for more options.

Finally, take a look at ALEMIA if you think you know that name of an application, but aren't quite sure.

Related Links

Andrew Starr has another marvelous page about Usenet newsreaders that you simply must check out.

Key Mac Newsgroups

There are several Usenet newsgroups dedicated to Macintosh-specific topics. Here are the most essential ones:

comp.sys.mac.announce is a moderated newsgroup that contains important general announcements to the Macintosh community.

comp.sys.mac.apps is the place to go when you have questions about specific Macintosh programs.

comp.sys.mac.comm is the place to discuss all things involving Macintosh telecommunications and Macs on the Internet.

comp.sys.mac.printing is for all printer- and printing-related discussion.

comp.sys.mac.hardware.misc is for discussion of all other Macintosh hardware-related questions.

comp.sys.mac.system is the place to go for MacOS-related discussions.

comp.sys.mac.misc is the place to post when other Macintosh-related newsgroups don't fit the bill.

Note: If you'd like to search the Usenet for Macintosh-related information, you really only have one option (but it's a good one): Google purchased the old DejaNews ( Usenet archive, and now offers sophisticated searching of all mainstream Usenet newsgroups, both past and present.

Also Consider . . .

These are applications that are newer and of potential interest, but which I haven't yet selected for permanent inclusion. Have a look, and let me know if you think they deserve to be part of the permanent collection!