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Thunderbird – A Free, Open Source, and Powerful Email Client
Thunderbird is a robust and powerful email program that can meet the needs of both light and power users. I use it all day every day.
Mozilla’s Thunderbird is my choice for email. I use it all day every day, and I can heartily recommend it as an often more powerful and capable replacement for mail programs like Outlook Express, Windows Live Mail and many other desktop email applications.
The feature list is long, but I want to call out some of my favorite features and some of the things that personally draw me to Thunderbird and cause me to make it my recommendation for almost anyone using a desktop email program.
Free: You already know that Thunderbird‘s free. That part’s easy, and makes it something that is risk free to try and experiment with before deciding.
Comfort: Most users of Outlook Express will actually feel very comfortable in Thunderbird. Basic operation is very similar.
File Format: Thunderbird uses a standard, common plain text file format for its data store (mbox format, for the geeks among us). Many email programs use proprietary database formats that, quite frankly, seem prone to breaking and make it difficult to move from machine to machine. Thunderbird uses a simple on-disk folder structure that mirrors your email folder structure, and actual email is kept as plain text files. Moving your Thunderbird email from machine to machine is as simple as copying the folder tree.
Cross-platform support: I’ve successfully moved my email not only between Windows PCs, but also to my Mac and to my Linux machines. As I said, transferring was a simple copy of all the folders and support information. The result was that not only did my email get transferred, but all the account settings, filters and even supported extensions were moved as well.
Extensions: like its cousin FireFox, Thunderbird has a number of powerful Add-ons available. Examples include Lightning, the calendar add-on and the Google Calendar Provider, the Enigmail encryption add-on, QuickText which allows you to enter common responses with a single keystroke, and one of my favorites, Nostalgy which allows you to copy or move messages between folder extremely easily using the keyboard.
Filters: Thunderbird supports a set of very powerful filters that allow you to have it take action automatically on mail as it arrives. For example, I have 37 separate filters that automatically sort incoming email and place it into various folders based on various criteria. Your needs may not be that complex, but simply being able to say things like “if this is from someone in my address book, move it into this folder” is a powerful way to prioritize your approach to email.
… Thunderbird remains my recommended alternative to almost every other desktop email program.
Naturally, there are many more features that may appeal to you. I encourage you to have a look.
Thunderbird remains my recommended alternative to almost every other desktop email program. (The sole exception would be Microsoft Outlook for the corporate and power user, but even then, I’m a power user, and have come to prefer Thunderbird anyway.)
If you don’t already have a favorite (I acknowledge that email programs are often a personal, even passionate, decision), or you’re struggling with the drawbacks of whatever program you’re currently using, Thunderbird is worth a look.