Paul Roub

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All Hail IMAP and Thunderbird

A while back, I complained about the sorry state of IMAP mail clients.

Somewhere in the comments, I eventually noted that Mozilla Thunderbird had improved to the point where I was pretty happy about it.

I would be remiss not to make more noise about the fact that Thunderbird has since improved in all sorts of ways, not all of them obvious. Some of the smallest changes are the most satisfying.

Sure, it reads RSS now, but I like Bloglines for that.

What I like is the little day-to-day things, which I haven’t mentioned because you tend not to notice stuff that just works right.

Such as:

  • It’s really, really stable. Even when left open for days at a time hitting three different IMAP accounts with large archives and complex hierarchies.
  • It highlights new messages in any folder (crucial, since I do my filtering server-side); not by popping open to the actual folder with new messages, but rather by highlighting the closest visible parent folder. So I know I have new stuff down somewhere in my IE View project folders, but if that’s not what I’m working on right now, I don’t get screen clutter and a needlessly-expanded tree.
  • Did I mention it’s really stable? Sorry, but I came from Outlook’s IMAP support, and stability is such a strange new world.
  • It’s fast. Again, you tend to not notice the lack of annoying delays. Again, not like Outlook.
  • The default security setup is just about where I want it; secure, but not preventing me from seeing “dangerous” attachments (like forwarded emails) even if I insist. (I’m looking at you, Outlook Express)
  • It’s quite tweakable – one tweak I consider essential would be adding user_pref("mail.check_all_imap_folders_for_new", true); to user.js

Anyway, just wanted to make sure that my daily happiness and satisfaction in using Thunderbird didn’t blind me to just how novel that situation is.