A leap forward - Thunderbird 3 beta


ThunderbirdFrom the outside it’s just another Thunderbird as we know it - with some user interface changes and tweaks. But under the hood, the groundwork was laid for many future improvements and additions. The bird will have the Lightning calendar offered as a default installation option in its final version - and with it introduce you to tabs. Yes, tabs as we know it from Firefox - now in the upcoming new Mozilla product for email, messaging, calendaring and whatnot.Thunderbird 3 Tabs

It is specially exciting to see the advances and the arrival of real results after Mozilla renewed its commitment for this product with the founding of Mozilla Messaging. Many of the suggestions made by a small group of real Thunderbird lovers including myself, as a response to the famous “Call for action” by Mitchell Baker are actually being realized now. True, it’s not all of what I could wish for, but it was the understanding that the next big release will not have all the whistle and bells. Instead much needed reorganization, code cleanup and bug fixing had priority before new features could be added.

Events ViewerThe beta release of Thunderbird 3 was announced a few days ago and is intended for testers, extension developers, and other people who are curious to follow the development of the next release of Thunderbird. Or shall I say for those brave enough, willing to risk the Inbox shredded to pieces. I’m one of them, running the development releases of Thunderbird all the time. And since I’m taking this risk already, let me share with you some of the fantastic new stuff.

First of all I added Lightning Nightly Updater add-on to make sure I’m getting the latest and greatest calendar for my email client. Dutifully I downloaded and applied the calendar update and restarted. Shortly thereafter I clicked through the various tabs which can be opened and selected at the right side of the tab-bar. Select and Open a tabClicking the calendar icon switches to the visually improved Lightning calendar, selecting the tasks tab presents the task management control center for managing any possible task and event. That’s specially useful for people like me who tend to forget just about anything scheduled into the future. Events from the calendar and tasks are displayed in the Events Viewer at the right side, to the left a mini-calendar helps to keep oversight. The calendar itself is easy to understand and manage, new events easily added and other peoples calendars easily imported and updated.

Starred ContactsSome other improvements were made to the address book and contacts are starred in a similar way as Firefox stars sites according to page visits and bookmarks. Also the message preview area received some additions and makes common tasks easier with its quick-buttons. The overall experience is good, IMAP handling apparently also improved a lot, claiming to be faster and more efficient due to pre-fetching and background loading of the messages from the IMAP folders according to the release notes.Quick Buttons

Of course I’m missing the integration of Jabber/XMPP contacts and instant messaging, but who knows, perhaps that’s going to be the fourth tab in a future release of Thunderbird. And then perhaps syncing of calendars, events and tasks with servers and mobiles is also in the works. For more tips and integration I suggest to read this post of David Asher, the Mozilla Messaging Chief, he covers many more tweaks and extensions to improve the bird.

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Reader Comments

OK, but does it finally handle the MailDir format.
I bet not.

A quick question - does TB3 still use the MORK format for storing address book data? Or did they move on to using SQLite?

This question is better asked at the mozilla.dev.apps.thunderbird mailing list. Firefox moved over to Sqlite, Thunderbird certainly talked about it, I’m not sure if it actually did.

I installed it on my machine (I was writing the comment from my sister’s laptop) and abook.mab is still there. Oh well, I hope they it will be replaced by abook.sqlite some day, this will make address book synchronization so much easier…

Have a nice year!