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Thunderbird 0.6

May 03, 2004

While I’ve been using Thunderbird as a mail client since version 0.2, today’s 0.6 release feels less of a toy and more like the first really solid revision.

Installation required the same rename-the-old-one then drag-n-drop-the-new-one that’s proving to be a trademark of early software releases from the Mozilla Foundation. It’s easy, but not for the masses. We’ll see an installer soon, no doubt.

Upon launch, the first thing noticed is the brand new visual theme. Jon Hicks’ fabulous Thunderbird icon is a welcome improvement over the old blue flame, and the pinstripe theme is top notch.

Dock with new icon

I’m not convinced the continuity is quite there yet between Firefox and Thunderbird but both updates make for a much more pleasant experience than the old look. Firefox uses small, greyscaled icons that feel vaguely vectorish, while Thunderbird uses larger colour icons that feel more pixellated. I’m not sure if consistency is even a goal, but I can’t see what harm it would do.

Visual comparison between Thunderbird and Firefox

The speed improvements are incredible, although I’m not sure they deserve that much credit — switching between folders in my old version (0.4 in this case, I’ve [unintentionally] skipped the odd-numbered versions) used to lag intolerably. Now it’s lightning fast, at least given my few-hundred-messages-per folders.

But a few annoyances remain. The first is most likely due to the new theme, and will be resolved in time — when mail came in that was routed to a non-Inbox folder (thanks to one of my custom filters) the folder’s icon would indicate new messages with a little highlight. Also I just discovered recently that when mail was sitting on the server but not yet downloaded, the account’s icon would indicate this state with a similar highlight. 0.6 doesn’t do either of these, but that’s more of a disappointment than a genuine inconvenience. And though they are missing, a welcome new addition is a Mac OS X dock indicator when new email is received. Perfect!

Thunderbird 0.4 vs. 0.6

Addendum: Well, scratch that. Looks like folders containing new messages turn blue, sans icon. Good enough!

SSL warning dialogue

Two of my accounts are SSL-friendly, but the certificate belongs to the hosting service instead of my domain so I’m just ‘borrowing’. Thunderbird prompts me with a warning… every time I check my mail. Admittedly, it’s usually smart enough to remember if I hit ‘OK’ during a single session, but as soon as I re-start the client it’s back. I wouldn’t mind at least being offered the option of never being asked about this again.

Amongst my folders lives a special top-level folder called ‘Templates’ which I will never use, and another called ‘Drafts’ which I just about never use either. I can’t delete this. That annoys me. And why aren’t ‘Junk’ and ‘Trash’ together in a collapsible grouping? I want all this is because vertical space is at a premium given my folder hierarchy, and I have three email accounts set up which all compound the problem.

But that’s a surprisingly small list of annoyances for pre-release software. The improved visuals are no doubt strongly influencing my impression of the program, but then again I sort of base a career off that possibility. I’m a happy Thunderbird user, and I continue to become happier with each new release.