Three reasons to follow Mozilla Thunderbird development

Since Mozilla Messaging launched Thunderbird 3 I started using it to see if this new version is better than GNOME Evolution, the email/calendar application I used in the past 4 years. Evolution is a decent email and calendar client and I love the integration in GNOME, but it stopped evolving and its GUI has many annoyances. I’ve used Thunderbird 3.0.1 for a couple of weeks and here are three reasons to choose it and why I decided to postpone the adoption.

Search and indexing: Thunderbird 3 indexing is fast and very good. The interface for searching and drilling your mailbox is fantastic, very well done and fast. Check the screenshot.

Tabs: I like to be able to read messages in different tabs. Lightning calendar and tasks conveniently open in a tab and it’s also possible to run Google Wave in one. This shows the power under the hood of this client: it has the potential to become a messaging hub for all services.  It’s annoying that Addressbook and compose new mail open in a new window instead of tab though.

Add-ons: just like Firefox, there are many ways to add functionalities to Thunderbird. The first add-on I installed is Funambol in order to test it and help its development. Then ThunderBrowse, in order to avoid opening Firefox only to check a link in an email and EnigMail to add GPG/PGP support. Nothing mind-blowing yet, but I hope somebody will develop a replacement of the Addressbook with more ‘social’ features. A topic for another post 🙂

Bonus reason: finally! There is an “Archive” button: once you’re done with a message or a thread, and you don’t want to delete it, you hit a button and the message goes into the archives (archiving criteria can be specified). A neat solution for Capo’s problem 🙂

The Addressbook, on the other hand, is pretty lame. It doesn’t contain enough fields, it still has space of a ‘pager number’ (anybody  still using them?), it opens in a window and not in a tab. I hope it’ll improve in next version.

I’m still using Evolution as my main source of data, especially address book and calendar. Even if Funambol add-on for Thunderbird 3 works decently, it’s still unstable and it has other small issues (if you want to help, Funambol offers Code Sniper grants).

Two Funambol community projects to monitor during holidays

There is an interesting movement around two Funambol community projects: the syncml clients for Thunderbird and for Palm WebOS.

Mozilla Messaging is rapidly pushing Thunderbird 3 out of beta and Funambol’s community is ramping up interest in its addon. Carlo Codega, the main developer, started working on a port to Thunderbird 3 of the plugin. There is a first build for Windows, but it has issues and it’s only recommended for developers to fix it. Since the Thunderbird plugin depends on Funambol’s C++ SDK the Thunderbird addon needs to be ported to Linux and Mac OS X. Funambol offered a bounty under the Code Sniper program to prepare the builds for these two operating systems. If you are looking for a way to fill the afternoons and evenings during the holidays go to Funambol addon for Mozilla pages and get the chance to win $50 or more.

Somewhat connected to Mozilla, is the community effort to port the Funambol Java SDK to javascript in order to build a syncml client for WebOS, Palm’s operating system. An informative discussion sparked on Funambol’s forum around the Code Sniper grant and the first attempt of the javascript port done by long-time contributor Mathew McBride. This project and Mozilla’s are connected because if Thunderbird’s addon used a javascript syncml engine instead of the  C++ libs, it would improve its multiplatform support. Anybody interested in helping please join the discussion and start planning the development of the Funambol client for Web OS.

Messaging, not email

During the past weeks in the mobile world at Funambol I’ve started deepening my thoughts about how computers are still inefficient and largely too hard to use. One thing that I hate is how the whole online things are separated from the file system.’  I keep my hard disks organized in folders separating my work projects from my home/fun activities.’  Down the tree the classification is done by clients and individual projects.’  I’ve always found this strict classification too limiting, because after many years I have now duplicate files and finding things gets harder.’  Software like beagle or spotlight are only a partial solution.

What is really annoying me though is the separation of all web activities from the files on the disk. Is an email related to a project and a client?’  Why are bookmarks and web pages so difficult to retrace? I would like to find such information grouped in the project folder, available on my disk, tagged properly. I don’t like Google’s idea to move everything online and keep my files there, out of my hands and off my disks.

I look forward to see the new Mozilla Thunderbird. They seem to start on the right foot: it’s not just an email, it’s messaging.

The name Mozilla Messaging is supposed to indicate that it’s focusing on the Internet messaging and communications space as a whole, not just e-mail.

My hope is that within a short time frame Thunderbird will innovate messaging as much as Firefox did in the browser world.

Mozilla Thunderbird Gets Its Own Company @ ENTERPRISE OPEN SOURCE MAGAZINE