Saturday, July 16, 2011

At last, the Bird became the Thunderbird

Back from a week in London, it's about time I post something, right? Well, today I want to talk about Thunderbird 5, a recent update to the popular Email client from Mozilla that I believe is worth talking about.

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Straight from the official Mozilla RELEASE NOTES, here's a summary of the most relevant features/improvements for Linux users:

  • More responsive and faster to start up and use
  • Thunderbird is based on the new Mozilla Gecko 5 engine
  • New Add-ons Manager
  • Revised account creation wizard to improve email setup
  • New Troubleshooting Information page
  • Tabs can now be reordered and dragged to different windows
  • Attachment sizes now displayed along with attachments
  • Plugins can now be loaded in RSS feeds by default
  • Over 390 platform fixes that improve speed, performance, stability and security

So, does it actually live up to its expectations?


I first tried Thunderbird 5 on my new PCLinuxOS 2011.6 installation. The Mozilla Email client comes installed in the default image, so I just had to upgrade to get it. To be totally honest, I don't think I would have tried it otherwise, for I personally gravitate towards minimalistic distro configurations that don't use heavy local clients for services that I can otherwise get through a browser. Fortunately, though, PCLinuxOS gave me the opportunity to test the latest Thunderbird, and I am glad it went out that way... It really is worth the try!

The initial configuration wizard has been polished further and is now easier than ever (not that it was not already). As soon as we enter our information, we are taken to the home screen.

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The first thing I noticed was that Thunderbird 5 was much quicker than previous releases, both in terms of start up times and overall performance. The same power is available, perhaps more than before, but it does not feel bloated or slow any longer. At first I wondered if that snappy behavior was down to PCLinuxOS (a very optimised distro) or, most probably, to the SSD it was installed on. As a result, I decided to install it on my Zorin 4 OS installation using the Ubuntu Stable PPA. Thunderbird 5 proved itself convincingly again, behaving much faster than it had in previous versions, and surprisingly close to how it does on an SSD.

Click on image to enlarge

Lightning is still an add-on, something that some may regret, but I don't. Not everyone may be interested in checking their calendar through their email client, perhaps not even interested in a calendar itself. I believe that including it as an option is a smart move, but because many people use it, it could be offered as an option during the initial setup.

Click on image to enlarge

Among many other great features, I was happy to see that Thunderbird now includes a button to manually display remote content for messages that include images, which are not often not displayed by default for security reasons.


In order to install Thunderbird 5 in Ubuntu, you'll first need to add the Thunderbird stable PPA, as shown below:

1.- From the command line, add the Thunderbird stable PPA.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mozillateam/thunderbird-stable

2.- Update your repositories.

sudo apt-get update

3.- Install Thunderbird 5.

sudo apt-get upgrade

Other distros, like Fedora and PCLinuxOS probably can get away with a standard upgrade.


Thunderbird fans will find more than a few reasons to smile in this latest version. Those who were not, may find reasons to become fans themselves... And if you never tried Thunderbird, there probably never was a better time to do so.

1 comment:

  1. Thunderbird has always been my mail client since I switched to Linux in early 2009. I'm glad to see it getting better and better. I just wish that development of the Lightning extension would keep pace with that of Thunderbird.