Unlike Jono, whose experiences with Tbird 3 are worth a read, I’ve been a loyal Thunderbird user for a few years now – in fact, we’ve had it deployed at work relatively happily for a while now (I say relatively – the mail client is fine; lack of calendaring is a bit of an issue…). I also tried the Tbird 3 beta recently too, although I think I met with even less success.

For one thing, I was trying this out on the EeePC 901 I have, and for whatever reason, they really didn’t get on at all. I could log into my Bongo mail ok, but the mail box was entirely read-only: no marking read, no moving, no deleting. And the GUI problems just got worse from there – functions which should have been there were just completely missing. I suspect this is to do with either the distro or something I have in my environment; speaking to others, they had much more success, so I plan to try it again in the future.

I also see Tbird as a project with an enormous potential. However, the appearance of Tbird 3 really surprised me, and David Ascher’s blog post on the direction wasn’t something which filled me with a huge amount of confidence. I don’t get some of this at all; a great example is tabs. I just don’t see the value. I can see people lining up mail messages to respond to and that kind of thing, but that seems a really poor UI to my mind. Another example would be the complete Gmail-like effect in the screenshots in that blog: it’s basically Gmail offline, which is fine if that’s what you want, but.. eh.

As a server guy, the “improved search” stuff also worries me. It looks very much like client-side searching, which is fine for personal mailboxes. Once you have a few shared boxes and bigger corporate-level stuff, that starts to become a bad plan very quickly. But it seems to me that the business market is really where Tbird should be aiming: people at home are pretty happy with Gmail and stuff already. I don’t see why they’d want to access Gmail over IMAP.

It will be interesting to see how Tbird 3 turns out. Integrated calendar is absolutely crucial. Hopefully it can all be pulled off without becoming a less business-suitable product. Mozilla Messaging have the resources, but they seem to be trying to take on a lot with this first bite.