Thunderbird 3 Goes Into Beta

Dec 10, 2008

Thunderbird is nearing its premiere. Not too much is new, but there are many changes. The first beta of the free mail client provides a faster search and better IMAP integration. Creating email accounts and managing addresses and the calendar should be more intuitive.

If it seemed in 2007 that the mighty Thunderbird would never become airborne, its developers have since scurried to get the first beta for version 3 of the comprehensive email client out the door. The Gecko 1.91.1 engine is faster and more robust than its predecessor and the new Gloda search engine can more efficiently present material than in Thunderbird 2, according to Mozilla Messaging CEO David Ascher.

Despite Ascher’s lengthy blog, there is not too much new to report about Thunderbird 3, although developers have been enhancing and simplifying certain features. The tab interface for mail is new, but you need the Lightning calendar extension to open the address book and calendar on separate tabs. You can also group calendar entries and distinguish events by color. The Add-ons Manager is billed to be new, although Thunderbird 2 already had this capability well known to Firefox users. It's doubtful, however, that all add-ons will be available at the fledgling bird's takeoff.

The reworked account configuration makes it easier to create accounts, such as by importing from other mail clients. Addresses are a single-click transfer to the address book and the painfully slow IMAP news downloads are a thing of the past. The Gloda search engine is not only faster but shows messages "in a conversation context," as Ascher describes.

Thunderbird developers warn against implementing the beta for everyday use. For one thing, Thunderbird 3 trounces the Thunderbird 2 profiles, so that single-user testing is advised. The Mozilla Message website includes the download links and the complete list of changes are here.

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