Flipping the bird

I outed myself last night on IRC as a non-Thunderbird user and dmose asked me why. I only had some fairly vague hand gesturing things to say so I said I’d switch back to it a bit and see what things really hurt. This is that list, or at least one day’s worth:

  • Mail windows stay in the way when I send a mail (bug 126140). This bugs me, yes I can click back to the main window and carry on what I’m doing, but not only does the compose window not go away but another window opens to tell me the progress of the send. I don’t care. I only need to hear something if something goes wrong during the send, at which point bring me the window back with an error.
  • The quick search box only searches a single folder (bug 353564). This makes the rather strange assumption that I already know where a message I’m searching for is. Yes I know I can use the full search to do it, but I don’t want the added steps for something that should be automatic.
  • Ugly ugly fonts (bug 465633). This turned out to be one of the major things. Once I spent the time to configure the fonts to use some nicer ones (that are available by default in OSX) things really started to look up.
  • The message threading is oddly laid out. The author should be part of the expandable section, but the twister is by the subject, it is a bit weird, probably because it is different to how OSX Mail does it.
  • The header on the message reading pane is far too large and wasteful. What does it include? A set of buttons to reply, forward etc. which are already in my toolbar anyway. The subject and sender of the message which are listed in the message list anyway. And who it was sent to. Even if I wanted to see all these things it could be displayed in less than half the space I think. The same is true of the “remote images are blocked” notification. Both of these two together take up nearly a seventh of my screen height.
  • Tabs. I’m not sure I see the need for them in a mail app but fair enough if you do that’s fine. But don’t force me to lose more screen space when I don’t want to use them.
  • I have many contacts with multiple email addresses. I can’t seem to see a way to choose which email address to use other than manually copying and pasting it. The autocomplete only seems to offer the first from each address book. Using the physical address book doesn’t seem to help either. Even more fun my OSX address book has sometimes 3 or more email addresses for people, Thunderbird can only see two of them.
  • Please don’t bug me about saving a draft of a message that has no content, no subject and no filled in email addresses.
  • Had to manually ask Thunderbird to check for new mail in IMAP folders other than the inbox and as far as I can tell the new mail count in the dock doesn’t include anything other than the inbox, and even then it gets it wrong sometimes (bug 274688).
  • Over complicated identities (bug 476142). What I want from an identity is just to be able to send email from a second address. That is it. Other than that I want the same settings as the main identity.
  • Over complicated font selection (bug 382272). This is the same dialog as in Firefox (where I also think it is pretty nasty). I like that I can choose what font it defaults to for serif, sans-serif and mono-space. I don’t like that I have to make that choice for each language. It took me a while in Thunderbird before I figured out bug mail was classified as “Other Languages” (bug 91190) and that was why it wasn’t obeying my settings.

These last few are part of the main problem I feel Thunderbird suffers from right now. Too many options. I’m sure there are many people out there who love the fact they can have different composition settings per mail server and per identity, and different fonts per language, and have the option whether or not to check for email in individual folders. I don’t. I don’t have the time to spend trying to keep my settings the same in 20 different places. If we must offer this sort of customisability then have a global settings area and make everything default to using that, then let users choose to override those defaults in a particular place.

None of these things are really deal breakers (well maybe the lack of quick global search is), but I have to wonder what Thunderbird is offering me that OSX Mail doesn’t already do.

8 thoughts on “Flipping the bird”

  1. Had to manually ask Thunderbird to check for new mail in IMAP folders other than the inbox and as far as I can tell the new mail count in the dock doesn’t include anything other than the inbox, and even then it gets it wrong sometimes

    Right click on the folder, and select properties on it, and there will be a check box to click to make it check. Not intuitive, I know.

  2. FWIW I don’t use Thunderbird either, but that’s because I use webmail for both personal and work mail (Gmail + Zimbra, respectively). I have zero interest in using a dedicated client any more, particularly now that the whole “offline mode” for web apps is on the cusp of awesome, but that may just be me.

  3. I had to begin using Apple Mail because my work’s IMAP (exchange) was set up incorrectly and did not work properly with Thunderbird.
    I was (and at some level still am) a fan of Thunderbird and it’s potential. But this list and several other polished features have me not compelled to go back to Thunderbird even though IMAP is fixed. Plus I used its iCal integration extensively.
    I will try 3.0 when it is released, but TB will need to be much more on par with Apple Mail before I think I will switch back. I would *like* to switch back (this includes calendar).

  4. Strange. I’m the opposite too. Tried OSX Mail for about a month and gave up trying to figure out if it had updated mail counts or what was new and old. Junk mail that refused to move itself to my junk folder. Most of those problems just came from things I was “used to”, but after a month of trying to adjust, I just decided that adjusting wasn’t worth the effort.

  5. Thanks for taking the time to put together this list. With luck, a decent number of those issues will be addressed by the time we ship Thunderbird 3 (though by no means all of them), along with a differentiator or two besides.

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