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Death of a fat email client
July 6, 2012 7:49 PM   Subscribe

The Mozilla Foundation has announced that they're throwing in the towel on their popular email client Thunderbird, citing a dearth of active contributors and the growing popularity of web-based email. Mozilla remains committed to releasing Thunderbird ESR 17 on 20 Nov 2012 which will be supported with stability and security fixes until 3 Dec 2013. They've also announced a plan to provide infrastructure and support for Thunderbird to live on as a community-driven project.
posted by Rhomboid (96 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh dear, this news is most unfortunate.
posted by wierdo at 7:52 PM on July 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


mutt is all you need.

In all seriousness, does anyone even use an email client anymore? I use outlook for work, but that's because I gotta. You don't even have a choice—it's outlook or nothin'.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:56 PM on July 6, 2012


Boo. I hope there is enough of a community to keep it maintained; Thunderbird is my current-favorite email client and the one most of my coworkers have migrated to as we've gradually ditched Outlook in favor of IMAP-based mail.

Web based mail is okay, but a traditional mail client — particularly one backed by a database, as Thunderbird is — offers some nice advantages, principally the ability to search through a large mail archive while offline. I use this feature pretty often and it's not something that you can easily replicate with the simple offline-caching mechanisms that most webmail services provide.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:58 PM on July 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


Awwww, crap. Don't make me return to Outlook.
posted by fijiwriter at 7:59 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, what the hell? Web-based mail is nice (I often wish Thunderbird's UI was more similar to GMail's), but having an actual client is vastly superior in many cases, not the least through the ability to work offline.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:00 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Bring back Netscape Communicator 4!
posted by beerbajay at 8:01 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


pine on Unix shell is still the best way to do email IMO
posted by stbalbach at 8:02 PM on July 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


In all seriousness, does anyone even use an email client anymore?

I do. I use Thunderbird for work email, simply because Outlook doesn't do a great job of managing the 6 separate email addresses I have to deal with every day. There are some things that Thunderbird does that make me positively batty (the biggest one being random font size changes when composing an email), but all in all, Outlook is WAY worse when in my particular situation.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:02 PM on July 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm surprised it couldn't make a go on Windows, and would have thought that a large enough user base to sustain it, but I haven't used Windows full-time for a long time. What are people using there when they don't use Outlook?

I never understood what the project was trying to accomplish on OS X when, as near as I could tell, it had no real support for services or scripting and no particular opinions to distinguish it from Mail.app, which has both.

Or on Linux, where there are some pretty good clients both for the major desktops and text shell types already.

Never understood, that is, outside the "choice is good" angle, and that doesn't appear to have been enough.
posted by mph at 8:03 PM on July 6, 2012


Of course, actually reading the linked articles makes this a bit less dramatic than it seems.

They're basically saying there's not a lot of innovation and major feature work left to do on Thunderbird, so they're going to focus on stability and bug fixes, with longer release cycles, while allowing the community to drive innovation if that's what people want.

They're going to continue working on it and keeping it current, just not trying to add a bunch of major features. They specifically say people should be able to continue using it as long as they like, and get the bug and stability fixes they'd expect.

That sounds fine to me.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:05 PM on July 6, 2012 [40 favorites]


No! I love T-bird. I run Linux at work and need to connect to imap and the only alternative is Evolution which is a miserable piece of crap.
posted by octothorpe at 8:05 PM on July 6, 2012


Didn't this already happen half a decade ago?
posted by XMLicious at 8:06 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


And on the services/scripting side, it was easier for me to figure out how to make mutt talk to OmniFocus at the point Mail.app had made me restless enough to try to figure that one out than Thuderbird. That reflects a certain combination of disinterest in the host platform and lack of extensibility that isn't awesome.
posted by mph at 8:06 PM on July 6, 2012


"In all seriousness, does anyone even use an email client anymore?"

Yep. I've got my own email addresses, in my own domains, both for work and for personal use. While the domain host offers a web interface, it's slow and cumbersome. So I've been a happy Thunderbird user for years now.

I can understand giving up on a personal domain, but if you're self-employed, you can't very well use Gmail as your primary business contact.

But, yes, for anyone panicking, actually go read the link. Mozilla is not "throwing in the towel" in any way I think of the phrase "throwing in the towel". Instead, they're going to maintain it as is, without continually adding bloat. It isn't the death of a fat mail client, it's a mail client that has decided to stop putting on weight.
posted by Bugbread at 8:09 PM on July 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


In all seriousness, does anyone even use an email client anymore?

Yep, I use Thunderbird. I have two main email addresses, and I like to check them both in one place. And plus it's nice to have a local backup of all my emails.
posted by jcreigh at 8:12 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


but if you're self-employed, you can't very well use Gmail as your primary business contact.

I have my own domain, use gmail to handle my email and the gmail aspect is completely invisible. All my email comes to and from my domain, but Gmail handles the imap.
posted by Brockles at 8:13 PM on July 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


In all seriousness, does anyone even use an email client anymore?

Don't...most folks?

I have at least two email addresses I need to check regularly, my personal one and my work one. It's nice to not have to actually log in and check them, but rather to have a client running in the background that will let me know when new messages arrive.

Also, phones? Do you log in to gmail every time you want to check your messages, or do you have a gmail app? That counts as a client, yes?
posted by King Bee at 8:14 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Instead, they're going to maintain it as is, without continually adding bloat.

If only more software project did this. *sigh* Every time there's a new version of whatever the hell I tend to use, it has more extra doodahs and social whatnots and plugin whosits and happy shiny stuff to click on twenty seven times before you get to do the same single stupid task that you want to do.
posted by Iosephus at 8:15 PM on July 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Glad it's not gone for good. Now if only I could convince my job to upgrade me past 2.0...
posted by fishmasta at 8:22 PM on July 6, 2012


> In all seriousness, does anyone even use an email client anymore?

Not everyone uses gmail (yet). I wonder how much of this is because of the multi year contract Google signed with Mozilla to stay their default search engine.

Also, there are features in a real client you don't have on gmail, such as bouncing messages and viewing multiple inboxes simultaneously (forwarding and filtering don't count).

Not to mention being able to access and browse my mail messages when I am offline, and knowing that my mailstore is backed up independently of my mail server.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:23 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have at least two email addresses I need to check regularly, my personal one and my work one. It's nice to not have to actually log in and check them, but rather to have a client running in the background that will let me know when new messages arrive.


I use gmail only, and have several addresses. I use webmail notifier which tells me when I've got email (and how many), and all I do is click a button and I'm logged in automatically to that particular gmail account (the actual website).

It's similar to using something like Thunderbird, but the advances in technology have made it, for the most part, unnecessary. And I use to use it religiously.
posted by Malice at 8:38 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


What JZ said.
posted by intermod at 8:39 PM on July 6, 2012


web-based email is what I use when I have no choice - I would hate to have to use it all the time.
posted by jb at 8:48 PM on July 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


and I use gmail - I download my gmail to my computer because I want a record of my email on a machine that I control.

and because gmail still isn't as easy to use and doesn't have as good an interface as thunderbird.
posted by jb at 8:49 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


pine is the best away from home email - so fast!

but I was still so happy when I could finally go POP like a real adult.
posted by jb at 8:53 PM on July 6, 2012


Thunderbird's interface and way of handling mail organization has been a throwback for years.
posted by twblalock at 8:56 PM on July 6, 2012


:(
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:07 PM on July 6, 2012


Back in the day, before the University I attended had made the move to Google Apps for Education, Thunderbird was the thing to go to so that you could escape from the SquirrelMail webmail client. Outlook was too expensive (if you were like me and hated pirating), and it was the perfect complement to the "taking the web by widfire" browser known as Firefox. My first real job was a Microsoft house running real Exchange, and by the time I got re-employed at the University, GAFE was in full swing, and my personal e-mail had been running in GMail for years. I'll miss Thunderbird, but since I'm all GMail all the time anymore, I've not thought of using it for my front end client in many years.
posted by deezil at 9:12 PM on July 6, 2012


Back when i contracted with Google i thought the gmail interface was the best thing ever for work, but i don't think i ever used email seriously while i was there.

Then i started working for Opera, so no more gmail for work. I tried opera's mail client, dog-food and all, and ended up liking it and tailoring my workflow around it. I can't use the gmail ui for any serious work anymore, and they use google apps where i work now...

I don't think anyone is truly happy with their email client, apart from the people that managed to find a happy workflow with pine/mutt (i couldn't, and i used to run a tiling wm based heavily around terminals!), or emacs, but those guys are crazy anyway.
posted by palbo at 9:22 PM on July 6, 2012


This sucks. We use T-Bird at work because it provides a better (and cheaper) alternative to Outlook for accessing our in-house POP server. Thunderbird has done great things over the last few years in terms of tagging and search. I really thought they had some motivated developers on board.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:29 PM on July 6, 2012


I´m glad it´s still going to be around.
The main clincher for me is that it is usable offline. I´m one of those people who doesn´t have an affordable connection all the time assuming that I have a connection at all.
Thunderbird gives me the ability to work on stuff and send it tomorrow when I can get online again without taking out a mortgage.
posted by adamvasco at 9:30 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rhomboid, that was a terrible summation. They're not throwing in the towel, they're saying that the program is finished. It does what it needs to do so well that they can't think of anything else worthwhile to add. So they're moving it to maintenance mode.

That's wild success, not failure! It's fairly close to perfect, so they're not going to screw it up. Very few programs ever make it to that point, and the Thunderbird developers should be toasted for A) writing a good client, and B) knowing when the job is done.
posted by Malor at 9:34 PM on July 6, 2012 [21 favorites]


Webmail is just so much more convenient then desktop based software. Why not come up with a good webmail package that you can run on your own server, so you can get the benefits of web-based email without trusting a 3rd party to handle it?
posted by delmoi at 9:41 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


>In all seriousness, does anyone even use an email client anymore?

In all seriousness, how can anyone trust a web based client to keep their email safe and private? Forever...? You gotta have rocks for brains...
posted by w.fugawe at 9:52 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


sonic meat machine: "In all seriousness, does anyone even use an email client anymore?"

What, yes? There is no webmail, Gmail included, that doesn't suck in some way or another. IMAP, server side filtering, and lots and lots of folders works really, really well in Thunderbird. It is one of the few really good IMAP clients out there. Plus it kindly shows how much of my quota I've used so I can go in and increase it before I start missing mail. ;)

delmoi, Roundcube is about the best webmail software I've found. It's reasonably fast and has a reasonably decent interface. Unfortunately, it's not all that great. Horde has DIMP, which is a rewrite of IMP (which is great on features, but terribly slow no matter how fast the backend is) that works half decently when it works.

Again, it's a serious compromise.

I've considered migrating my email to Google Apps, but I'd have to pay to get decent spam filtering, which I presently get for a time investment I made around 5 years ago plus a few hours a year manually updating things that require manual updates.
posted by wierdo at 9:53 PM on July 6, 2012


Thunderbird's interface and way of handling mail organization has been a throwback for years.

Um, in what way? Thunderbird is probably the most forward-thinking MUA I've used, in terms of organization and not imposing itself on the user.

It supports nested, hierarchial folders (both local and server-side, if your mailhost supports it) if you want to do things the traditional way, but also has really nice, database-backed search features if you prefer to do things the Google way. Heck, it even supports the very Gmail-ish concept of "archiving" read messages rather than deleting them — I don't know of another client-side MUA that does that.

Admittedly, Thunderbird doesn't do calendaring and PIM stuff very well. Yeah, there's Lightning, but it's not really up to the expectations of users who are used to Exchange+Outlook or Domino+Notes. (Okay, I couldn't say the part about Notes with a straight face. Lightning is probably better than that. But so is anything that doesn't poke you in the eye with a stick.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:25 PM on July 6, 2012


My university used to use a Windows Web client for e-mail. Now they've outsourced it to Google. Our addresses are still myname@nameofuniversity.edu, but it's actually just Gmail in a web browser.
posted by straight at 10:26 PM on July 6, 2012


.
posted by cazoo at 10:27 PM on July 6, 2012


I reluctantly tried T-bird when Eudora stopped running on newer MacOS X versions. It was enough to drive me to Mail.app.

I miss Eudora and with this news I'm convinced it will never get the technical underpinnings needed from T-bird to implement the many missing features I used to have.
posted by Mad_Carew at 10:31 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been using T-bird for the last year as a monthly local backup of ~7 yrs worth of gmail. It seems sensible, just in case of ... whatever. I like the 'maintain but don't over-innovate' idea and wish such a soft touch approach to development was adopted as a philosophy by a few more companies/teams.
posted by peacay at 10:47 PM on July 6, 2012


Kadin2048: "Um, in what way? Thunderbird is probably the most forward-thinking MUA I've used, in terms of organization and not imposing itself on the user."

I'd really like it to have "conversations" in the style of GMail, but apart from that and a lack of feedback when downloading attachments and occasionally hanging when downloading/trying to display messages with large attachments, it's pretty much all I need.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:48 PM on July 6, 2012


Desktop mail isn't dead. Sparrow on the Mac and Postbox on Mac and Windows are actual mail clients that people have to pay for and they seem to be doing alright. There are some things that desktop clients do way better, such as managing multiple inboxes at once, and actually letting you scroll through your huge mailboxes instead of paginating. Search is fine, but I like a linear representation of all my mail.

Anyway, I use Thunderbird at work to handle 3 email addresses and it's dandy. I'm not dying for extra features, so if they want to put it on the back burner, it's mostly fine. I'm thinking that this situation will be like when there was a 2 year gap between Thunderbird 2.0 and 3.0: 2.0 kept working OK, but perhaps near the end it was feeling a little stale.
posted by zsazsa at 10:49 PM on July 6, 2012


Joakim Ziegler: I'd really like it to have "conversations" in the style of GMail

Okay.
posted by zsazsa at 10:51 PM on July 6, 2012


Using gmail now for its ubiquity, but still miss eudora, which I used for years, and later, tbird, for the folders and multiple account management and archiving.

I've been contemplating switching back. Maybe if I'd moved sooner...?

Meanwhile:
There are some things that Thunderbird does that make me positively batty (the biggest one being random font size changes when composing an email),but all in all, Outlook is WAY worse when in my particular situation. posted by deadmessenger at 8:02 PM on 7/6.
Eponyesterical.
posted by notyou at 10:53 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


In all seriousness, does anyone even use an email client anymore?

I've used pine (alpine, now) for over 15 years and I don't see a reason to stop now. These new-fangled GUI clients are more trouble than they're worth.
posted by cmonkey at 10:53 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


They're basically saying there's not a lot of innovation and major feature work left to do on Thunderbird, so they're going to focus on stability and bug fixes,

And, they can't do this for Firefox? Why can't they do this for Firefox?
Each time I upgrade at work I die a little and spend hours trying to figure out how to make it look the way it used to.

I miss Eudora. It was light and it mostly worked. Mostly.

We're on Gmail at work and... I dislike it. I can never find anything.
posted by Mezentian at 10:56 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am sorry to hear this, and too tired to list all the ways this annoys me, and all the things I like about Thunderbird and hate about web mail and Outlook.
posted by Xoebe at 10:58 PM on July 6, 2012


sonic meat machine writes "In all seriousness, does anyone even use an email client anymore?"

*Raises hand*. Web mail blows big knarly chuncks, slowly. I use gmail when I must on the road but do all my serious mail in Thunderbird. Being able to handle a half a dozen email addresses at a glance is the killer app for me. Only being able to monitor a single address at a time is as regressive as only having a single screen. I mean I _can_do it but why would I want to?

Joakim Ziegler writes "They're going to continue working on it and keeping it current, just not trying to add a bunch of major features. They specifically say people should be able to continue using it as long as they like, and get the bug and stability fixes they'd expect."

IMO Thunderbird has been essentially feature complete for at least a decade. Glad to see really that they are going to resist the urge to change for change sakes.
posted by Mitheral at 10:59 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd really like it to have "conversations" in the style of GMail

Do you mean threads? It does have threads, click on the small icon on the leftmost header in the list of messages - looks like a couple of tiny right angles.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:17 PM on July 6, 2012


CRAP. I've been using T-bird for years, even on OS X, cause I like it.

Wonder what Ubuntu's gonna do for a default email client?
posted by edheil at 11:29 PM on July 6, 2012


Didn't Ubuntu move to Evolution mail around 9.x?
posted by Mezentian at 11:30 PM on July 6, 2012


2.0 kept working OK, but perhaps near the end it was feeling a little stale.

I'm still using Thunderbird 2.0- turns out this announcement isn't actually all that relevant to me since my Thunderbird stopped being supported a while ago. I prefer it over Gmail (which my university uses) by far, not least because it doesn't log me in or set up new accounts for things I don't want. Inexplicably, Thunderbird is much easier to search than Gmail, and I don't have to deal with an annoying, cluttered, ugly, weirdly squished web interface.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:34 PM on July 6, 2012


Love reading Metafilter threads via RSS, inside of Thunderbird.

Jus' sayin'.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 12:28 AM on July 7, 2012


Didn't Ubuntu move to Evolution mail around 9.x?

I believe Ubuntu had Evolution from the start, but moved to Thunderbird for 11.10 and beyond.
posted by Pryde at 12:38 AM on July 7, 2012


They're going to focus on stability? That's fantastic! When are they going to do the same thing for FireFox?

Seriously, I'm getting bored of the unexpected hangs which reveal 'holes' through the content to tabs I closed a fecking hour earlier...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 1:37 AM on July 7, 2012


In all seriousness, does anyone even use an email client anymore?

notmuch (running inside of emacs). Text mode mail means I can access it (via ssh and gnu screen) from anywhere in the world without handing all my email over to a private corporation.
posted by DU at 3:26 AM on July 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Didn't Ubuntu move to Evolution mail around 9.x?

Evolution has been the default GNOME mail app for many years and AFAIK not a single person uses it who has ever used anything that works. It's one of those apps, like OpenOffice, that are successful only the sense that they accurately emulate a terrible Microsoft product.
posted by DU at 3:29 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember an interesting article from a couple of years ago which wondered if the email client is dead. It concluded that, strangely and unfortunately, it was. I recommend reading it and the comments.

As the article points out, there's not much need for innovation in email clients any more. So the news that Thunderbird will concentrate on stability is positive. Considering that several of the stock answers are "Pine is all you need!" then there is no real need for Thunderbird to keep adding bulk.

I am still unhappy with my email choices today. I use a client most of the time so I have offline and backed up emails for all my email addresses. But I use multiple computers so having everything duplicated is a bit silly. More importantly, local rules, filters and settings are a hard to sync across devices. In that case, Gmail's web client is great, but obviously only for my Gmail account.

On my Mac (my main computer) I use Mail.app which is fine as a fairly dumb but pretty mail client. I have tried Sparrow and Postbox and might be tempted to move to Postbox with its Gmail, Dropbox and Evernote support, but it doesn't support Exchange. Considering how much it costs, that's a shame.
posted by milkb0at at 4:25 AM on July 7, 2012


@DU:

Evolution has been the default GNOME mail app for many years [...]

Not anymore
posted by ysangkok at 4:35 AM on July 7, 2012


Mail.app on OSX (now come on, iOS!) has gotten so good there is no reason to use any other client in an Apple ecosystem. Hadn't even thought about thunderbird in years now.
posted by spitbull at 4:58 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK, I'm better now. Just keeping it in maintenance mode is fine with me, it doesn't really need anything new.
posted by octothorpe at 5:11 AM on July 7, 2012


Other than the fact that it doesn't actually delete emails that you delete, Thunderbird is perfect. I'd be lost without it.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:28 AM on July 7, 2012


Webmail is just so much more convenient then desktop based software.

Unless you want to access your email when offline. Or on a slow connection. In which cases, it's aweful. Even my ipod doesn't rely on webmail, but has a mini imap email client so I can access stuff offline.
posted by jb at 5:38 AM on July 7, 2012


Text mode mail means I can access it (via ssh and gnu screen) from anywhere in the world without handing all my email over to a private corporation.

do you only email yourself?
posted by neustile at 5:41 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Quite like Thunderbird and mail clients are much preferred to web mail. Glad to see it's not actually being killed.

I use the Conversations extension for Gmail style conversations.

Lighting for a calendar.
posted by juiceCake at 5:48 AM on July 7, 2012


ysangkok: "@DU:Evolution has been the default GNOME mail app for many years [...]
Not anymore
"

That's not Gnome, that's Ubuntu who uses the Unity Desktop now.
posted by octothorpe at 5:49 AM on July 7, 2012


Webmail is just so much more convenient then desktop based software.

Unless you want to access your email when offline. Or on a slow connection.


Or not full of ads.

do you only email yourself?

Well, it's a fine point, I admit. But I feel I have a stronger legal basis for privacy if I am only paying for a network connection and/or hard drive space vs taking advantage of free webmail. In the latter, a moral argument could be made that they have a right to do what they want with their computers and since it's free, who am I to complain? In the former, it's a little different.

But what with various things, it may be a distinction without a difference.
posted by DU at 5:50 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nthing all the comments saying how useful thunderbird can be. Love having access to my gmail and other accounts when I'm offline.

Maybe this is the place to ask about my only frustration with the client: how can I make it so I never ever see the message summaries in the message pane when I click on an unexpanded thread? I would like to only see the top message of the thread when I click on it, even if replies are grouped and hidden below it.
posted by msbrauer at 6:06 AM on July 7, 2012


In all seriousness, does anyone even use an email client anymore?

Of course. Typing plaintext messages into Gmail's interface, or whatever, when it can be avoided, is bending over for Big Brother. Hurf durf Google ads, mass surveillance, you put envelopes on your letters so why not your emails etc.

This news is fairly unfortunate. Thunderbird with Enigmail is a Pretty Good way to communicate privately, and it's going to be mildly irritating to (possibly) spend a couple of weeks retraining the old Interface Habits with something new. The thing is, after RTFA, it seems like I probably won't have to, for a while.

[I'll put my work files and such in "the cloud" just as soon as I can be confident that (a) Big Copyright isn't going to hire the Federal Fuzz to confiscate the servers on which my shit is stored, rendering my livelihood collateral damage in the War in Support of the Purveyors of Mass Distraction, and (b) nobody is going to analyze my shit and sell their conclusions to people who will use them to try to sell me shit I didn't ask for.]
posted by kengraham at 6:13 AM on July 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


At work we use an in-house email client and my god it's fantastic. It's like mutt/pine, but updated for this century so it's also HTML aware and acknowledges it lives in a gui. If I ever leave I'm going to have to write a clone for myself.

Actually, that leads to a thought: a good swansong would be to extract all the hard bits of a mail client -- the networking, parsing, databasing etc -- into a non-interfaced so that others can easily write future interfaces on top of them. Thunderbird the mail handler is pretty good (although it tries to use one SMTP for everythng, which is a pain), but the UI is pretty horrible.
posted by fightorflight at 6:15 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


@octothorpe

There are nearly dozens, *dozens* of IMAP compatible email clients you can find for Linux. You might want to try balsa out if you find Evolution annoying. Old timers like me are happy with mutt and fetchmail.
posted by dis_integration at 7:09 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


sylpheed is also good and more actively hacked-upon than balsa.
posted by dis_integration at 7:11 AM on July 7, 2012


I wonder if we will ever get an improved standard for storing offline (POP) email, for people who can't always rely on access to cloud storage.

Thunderbird uses the mbox standard but that doesn't integrate with desktop search. Apple Mail stores messages in proprietary .emlx files (which can't be imported by anything, not even Apple Mail itself) and god only knows where MS Outlook stores anything.
posted by Lanark at 7:34 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mail.app on OSX (now come on, iOS!) has gotten so good there is no reason to use any other client in an Apple ecosystem.

Ugh. Not true. I recently had to start using it for a few things at work, and my God is it a stupid little app. Custom rules don't work right, junk-mail rules don't work right, it will often refuse to let you drag things between folders for no reason, there's no way to make a custom rule that will move all sent mail from one account to another, and for some reason, just about once an afternoon, it stops pulling down mail entirely so I have to quit and restart it. I vastly prefer both Gmail and Thunderbird.
posted by limeonaire at 7:52 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Other than the fact that it doesn't actually delete emails that you delete, Thunderbird is perfect. I'd be lost without it.

You have it set up wrong.
posted by gjc at 7:56 AM on July 7, 2012


You have it set up wrong.

Not true. Thunderbird creates a Trash folder and a Trash.msf folder. The Trash.msf folder always remains and keeps copies of your deleted emails. Handy if you need a deleted email back, not so handy if you really want the email to disappear.

I include both files (there are two for every email address) in my CCleaner cleanup routine and Thunderbird recreates new, empty files when it restarts.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:06 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


You need an email client to be able to use client certificates for privacy and authentication.

Otherwise it's free for all at this stage. All your email is read by AIs and some of it by people who are not you.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 8:11 AM on July 7, 2012


Hopefully this version will, finally, have an import feature that actually works -- I have transferred many peoples mail through various versions of Thunderbird, and the broken import menu has been there for a while now.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:13 AM on July 7, 2012


Not only are there dozens of IMAP clients for Linux, you can also run your own IMAP server. A friend of mine does that to insulate himself from the crappy mail server we have at work. He used fetchmail to get the mail from the work server, then rehosted it himself via IMAP. Or something like that.
posted by DU at 8:14 AM on July 7, 2012


Thunderbird creates a Trash folder and a Trash.msf folder. The Trash.msf folder always remains and keeps copies of your deleted emails.

Compacting folders physically removes messages marked for deletion and hidden from view. You're supposed to periodically compact folders, or let Thunderbird do it for you automatically.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:49 AM on July 7, 2012


Compacting folders physically removes messages marked for deletion and hidden from view. You're supposed to periodically compact folders, or let Thunderbird do it for you automatically.

Try it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It's much better to shred the files and let Thunderbird recreate them. Just saying.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:00 AM on July 7, 2012


I'm a little shocked that Mozilla would declare Thunderbird feature-complete when it's clear the spam filtering options haven't been updated significantly in years. It turns to swiss cheese every few months before you decide to trash your spam data and retrain from scratch, which inevitably leads to a bunch of false positives for a while, a few months of blissful silence, and eventually the return of spam. There has to be a better way that doesn't involve letting Google have access to all your mail, and it's sad to me that Mozilla's just confirmed I'll never get it from Thunderbird.

I guess the only reason I'm not more surprised is because of how much Mozilla has dragged their feet on this issue over the years. Sure, go ahead and change the UI twice, because I totally care about making parts of the window translucent glass, and not at all about the many messages a day I still have to mark as spam.
posted by chrominance at 9:15 AM on July 7, 2012


I am a former Thunderbird user who got frustrated and switched to Postbox (on Windows). I didn't think I'd ever pay for a mail client but it's totally worth the money. I wish they made a Linux version.

The comments about not needing innovation are disappointing -- it's never true that there's no room for innovation.

What they're really saying is "we don't know what to do." Not that I fault them for that, but there is plenty of room for re-envisioning our interaction with e-mail that's not just feature bloat, it simply requires a lot of creativity.

There isn't going to be a perfect mail client for everyone but I think much of the room for innovation is in developing a deeper understanding of how people use e-mail in different circumstances and trying to experiment with those uses, rather than simply piling on widgets that some people might want should they dig in far enough to find them.
posted by camcgee at 10:22 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


camcgee writes "The comments about not needing innovation are disappointing -- it's never true that there's no room for innovation. "

Not to argue whether Thunderbird is feature complete but it should be self evident that some things are feature complete. Say the fork, spoon, chopstick, electric baseboard, toboggan, chisel, and water glass to name a few.
posted by Mitheral at 10:47 AM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ugh. Not true. I recently had to start using it for a few things at work, and my God is it a stupid little app. Custom rules don't work right, junk-mail rules don't work right, it will often refuse to let you drag things between folders for no reason, there's no way to make a custom rule that will move all sent mail from one account to another, and for some reason, just about once an afternoon, it stops pulling down mail entirely so I have to quit and restart it. I vastly prefer both Gmail and Thunderbird.


Other than your custom rule (which I don't think you can do in any other mail app) I have not seen any of these problems. Anyway, comparing a local IMAP client to gmail on the web makes no sense. I manage 15 years worth of email from half a dozen accounts (3 still live) on mail.app, with a mail database that is well over 100gb.

If any major reviews of Mail in the last year or two have agreed with you, can you link?
posted by spitbull at 11:49 AM on July 7, 2012


And by the way I too to back to Pine days, and have used every major client, including Thunderbird, at some point. The reason Tbird is done is that email clients are a mature technology. The one that comes with your OS is good enough.
posted by spitbull at 11:51 AM on July 7, 2012


...it should be self evident that some things are feature complete. Say the fork, spoon, chopstick...

So we should not fork the fork?
posted by XMLicious at 12:17 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another Postbox user here, we actually have a site license. I'm a bit concerned about whether this will affect them negatively, since they use some of the Thunderbird code.

As to we mail replacing desktop clients, that's really quite odd.
posted by odinsdream at 1:01 PM on July 7, 2012


If any major reviews of Mail in the last year or two have agreed with you, can you link?

I'm not exactly sure why you need to see a "major review" that agrees with me. I've experienced these problems with Mail.app, and I'm sharing my experience. I've also used just about every major client myself, from Pine forward.
posted by limeonaire at 2:21 PM on July 7, 2012


Apparently the "not receiving email" problem with Mail.app is so common, it's listed in Media Temple's list of common issues. And I know at least several other people who've had the same problems with it.
posted by limeonaire at 2:28 PM on July 7, 2012


A fair while back Mail.app completely munched an entire mailbox of mine. Poof. Gone. Local and remote messages. I've never bothered to find out if this kind of problem was something I was likely to see again.
posted by weston at 3:04 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


DU: Not only are there dozens of IMAP clients for Linux, you can also run your own IMAP server.

I do this, and it's really very nice. I used to run Courier IMAP, but that was always kind of slow, and just didn't work that well. Search was particularly terrible.

Then I installed dovecot, and wow, what a massive improvement. Figuring out the configuration files on Debian is a little weird, because all the settings are split between about ten different files, each dealing with different broad topics, but at least they're all in the same directory. If you're just running a basic IMAP server, you don't need to change much (if anything), but I also wanted to use SSL with my own custom CA and certificates, and that took a little study. It wasn't actually difficult, but there were quite a number of small tweaks I had to make.

And now? Wow, it is freaking awesome. It's SO fast. Searches are instant. If I read an email on one machine, it instantly shows as read on every other connected machine. All my mail is in one place, all easily accessible from anywhere, and all completely platform agnostic, so I can run any client and any OS I like with minimal hassle. Close to 15 years' worth of email that's so easily accessed and searched that it feels like it's all local, even when I'm running on a slow link.

If you pointed a gun at me and told me I had to run webmail or you'd shoot me, I might just opt for the bullet.
posted by Malor at 3:48 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the Thunderbird developers still working full time on Thunderbird at Mozilla asks us not to overreact.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:15 PM on July 7, 2012


Yeah, there's no need to run around with a chicken and your head cut off. Thunderbird doesn't want to go on the cart.
posted by flabdablet at 10:20 PM on July 8, 2012


Not even Mozilla developers like Firefox updates
posted by Artw at 2:54 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Artw, I owe you a beer.
posted by flabdablet at 8:18 PM on July 12, 2012


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