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Mozilla Thunderbird Review

Version 1.5

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by Coenraad de Beer (Webmaster & Founder of Cyber Top Cops)
Posted on 30-09-2006

Mozilla Thunderbird is the Open Source alternative to Microsoft Outlook Express. It is easy to switch to Thunderbird because of its similarities with the Outlook Express interface, just like it's the case with Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer. This handy e-mail client is most of the times overlooked and lives in the shadow of big brother Firefox.

Because Mozilla Thunderbird is part of the Mozilla brand you can expect it to be easy to install. The installation procedure is very similar to Firefox. You also get the chance to import e-mail accounts, address books, client settings and e-mails from your current e-mail client. Currently Thunderbird supports imports from Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Outlook Express and Eudora. You can also import mail from Netscape Communicator 4.x. For a step-by-step installation guide, click here.

Automatic Updating
Thunderbird automatically checks for updates to the e-mail client itself as well as Installed Extensions and Themes. Just like Firefox, you can set Thunderbird to ask you before installing the updates or to download and install the updates automatically. Updates are not released on a frequent basis, mainly because of the software's stability. Security issues are a very rare occurrence and you can rest assured that they will be resolved quickly and fast should there be any issues discovered.

Resource Usage
Thunderbird uses far less resources than Firefox and runs very smoothly, but still uses far more resources compared to other e-mail clients. Memory becomes an issue when your mailbox gets overcrowded with messages, but you can easily work around this problem by Compacting your folders.

The user interface is very user friendly and similar to Outlook Express with only a few minor differences. Most of the differences are enhancements compared to Outlook Express such as the built-in spam filter. The layout is exactly the same as in Outlook Express, with the folders on the left and the messages on the right. You can also preview your messages with the Message Pane (similar to the Preview Pane of Outlook Express), but for security reasons it is recommended that you turn of the Message Pane.

A handy feature you won't find in any e-mail client is the labelling of messages. You can change the name and colour of your labels making it easy to categorize and prioritise your messages. There are several different columns available to sort your messages by and searching for specific messages is a breeze with its search function. Message filtering is very flexible in Thunderbird and easy to set up, giving you endless filtering possibilities for your e-mail messages.

You can expand the functionality of Thunderbird just like Firefox, but there is not that many useful and stable extensions available for Thunderbird compared to the multitude of extensions available for Firefox.

Thunderbird can be used as an RSS, Blog and Newsgroup account reader. You can set up accounts for POP, IMAP and SMTP servers. Support for HTTP servers like Hotmail accounts can also be added with the Thunderbird Webmail Extension.

Not all recipients like HTML messages and prefer to receive text-only messages (Some people use e-mail clients that can only read text messages). This can easily be achieved by setting the e-mail preferences of each individual contact in the address book. You can even set Thunderbird up to ask you in which format to send an e-mail just before sending it.

Security & Junk Mail Filtering
The adaptive junk mail filter, e-mail scam checker and certificate checker provides the user with peace of mind when it comes to the reading of e-mails. It also allows your anti-virus client to quarantine individual incoming messages. We do find that the scam checker is still a bit inaccurate, but we are impressed by the fact that it warns the user about suspicious links where the anchor text does match up with the underlying URL, which is common among phishing scam e-mails. Combining this protection with Firefox and Google Toolbar you create layers of protection making it harder for phishing scams to be successful. Remote images and JavaScript can be blocked, providing protection against remote attacks and malicious script execution in e-mails.

Thunderbird un-installs without any hassle. However, it leaves your e-mails, settings and accounts in tact in order to import them into your new e-mail client (if it supports importing from Thunderbird) and to allow you to access them on a later stage (by re-installing Thunderbird) should you be unable to import them into your new e-mail client. Once you get hooked on Mozilla Thunderbird you will never want to switch to another e-mail client ever again.

CTC Rating for
Mozilla Thunderbird 1.5:

Installation: 9
Automatic Updating: 9
Resource Usage: 7
Interface: 8
Security & Junk Mail Filtering: 9
Un-installation: 9
Overall: 8.5

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