Thunderbird 3 beta 2

On the road to Thunderbird 3, another milestone — this time, Thunderbird 3 beta 2.


Why do beta releases?

Beta releases are funny things. They serve a few purposes. The first is to make sure that we periodically stabilize the code base, as without periodic ‘cooling’, it’s hard to get a handle on the quality of a piece of software. Betas also serve as deadlines, which are magical motivators for some people. Some of us will spend way too many hours staying up late in the night in order to “make a deadline”.

Betas for open source software are even more odd in that people interested in staying very involved with the project can use nightly builds, which are updated every day. I’ve been using nightly builds of Thunderbird for over a year, as have several thousand other users. As a user of nightlies as much as a project coordinator, by the time the beta is released to a wider audience, all the excitement is historical.

Another fascinating aspect of beta releases is that, because we know there will be another release, and because the purpose of the beta is to get a broader set of testers to shake out edge cases, we try to be conservative about slipping in major features at the last minute, as the odds of those features being polished in time are never what we hope they’ll be. So we routinely delay feature additions until the next cycle, to avoid dragging the beta validation process out. It’s an unpleasant, but unavoidable part of optimizing releases.

If we do our job right there, then by the time the beta ships, the features that have landed are free of major bugs. We of course can’t know that until we get feedback from the beta.

What’s in this release?

The most striking part of the release is the sheer volume of bug fixes. It’s not sexy work, it’s often the hardest work, but it’s very important. This list (of bug fixes and feature work, but mostly bug fixes) is impressive.

Of the features that have landed, I want to talk about two that many users could easily ignore: archiving, and the activity manager.

The archive feature is straightforwardly borrowed from GMail’s archive feature, which we think is great. The idea is that figuring out exactly which folder each message should be filed is a process that can take a lot of time and effort — something that wasn’t a real problem in the early days of email, but which becomes a real time sink with thousands of messages. With a good enough search engine, it’s easier for many users to simply “archive” the message (doesn’t really matter where), get it out of the way, and then rely on the search capability to find the message again.

In this beta, we’re half-way there. The archive feature is there if you want it, but you can also use the standard “file in a folder” method. Thanks to work we did before beta2, the archiving is fast, putting messages in per-month folders at the click of a buttton or a keystroke. The new fast global search hasn’t landed yet, but even our “old” cross-folder search mechanism has gotten a lot better.

I already love the feature — being able to select messages I don’t need to worry about anymore, hit ‘A’ and be done with them, saves me a lot of time and mental effort

The second feature worth highlighting is also not fully deployed, but already useful. The Activity Manager was born out of a recognition that Thunderbird 2 is pretty bad at telling you what it’s doing. It says a lot of things, it says them fairly loudly, but they’re rarely the things you want to know. We’re building infrastructure that will let the various bits of Thunderbird be much more helpful in describing what’s going on (through a log of notable events), what went wrong (non-intrusive but notable alerts), and how it’s progressing at long-running tasks (with more context than just a single progress bar). Teaching software that wasn’t designed with a notification mechanism or philosophy in mind how to be polite and informative is a slow and arduous task, but we’re making good progress. In Thunderbird 3b2, there’s an Activity Manager window, which for now will just report on message moves, copies and deletes, and IMAP auto-syncing. Now that the framework is in place, we should be able to have a lot more informative messages when you need them, and reduce the number of dialog boxes (especially the ones you can’t do anything about!).

One of the fascinating aspects of the activity manager is that it’s giving even those of us who know how the software works on a detailed level a better handle on important global aspects. For example, the activity manager showed me that the autosync function can and should be much more aggressive, so that more of your email is already downloaded before you need it.

Other features you may notice:

  • Much more useful Growl notifications on OS X
  • Keyboard shortcuts for quick tab navigation
  • Better looking forwarded mail
  • Fewer dialog boxes

What’s next?

The next beta release is our last scheduled beta. As such, we’re thinking of it as the last milestone to introduce Big New Features. Furthermore, we’re hoping to be even better behaved this cycle and land features as early in the process as possible. Upcoming features which we hope will be available in a nightly build soon include:

  • the new global search function, leveraging tabs
  • cleaning up the message header area further
  • “pop tarts” to complement the activity manager
  • the beginning of some theming work (prettier icons, etc.)

And then, of course, there will be unplanned bright ideas which show up out of nowhere. Life wouldn’t be fun without those.

Try out the beta, file bugs, send feedback!

PS: the illustration at the top is from a brand spankin’ new website for Mozilla Messaging. We’ve changed the site to make it the primary destination for Thunderbird users, riffing on the look of other Mozilla websites, and yet quite distinct. I find the illustrations in particular a lot of fun, and I’m very proud of the team that built it. Rafael Ebron ran the project with the SpreadThunderbird team, with designs from The Royal Order, and implementation from silver orange. A very nice job, thanks to all who contributed!  The new site also allows us to build localized sites, which will be amazing.

70 thoughts on “Thunderbird 3 beta 2”

  1. So, b2 is really an alpha release. The de facto standard is:

    Alpha = feature incomplete, lots of bugs
    Beta = feature complete, some bugs
    Release Candidate = feature complete, hopefully no bugs

    Therefore b2 = alpha

    P.S. The captcha should be *above* the submit button

  2. @Rey: when you select a message, in the upper right of the message there are reply, forward, archive and junk buttons.

    I’m interested in more of an explanation of what a “pop tart” is.
    If it’s anything like what Apple Mail does for notification (a Mail small activity pane below the folder list) I’m all in, if it’s those little windows that slide onto the screen and then off again thereby stealing my attention from whatever I was doing EVERY SINGLE TIME, count me out. I’m a little ADD and I’m not the only one.

  3. @Anonymous: we haven’t figured out the exact design of the pop tarts yet. They’re not for random notifications, only for things that require action (like — your password failed, email couldn’t be sent after retrying a couple of times, stuff like that.

    We very much want to limit the number of distractions that the messaging client imposes to the strictly necessary ones.

  4. Archive is nice and the way to go. But the default subfoldering makes it difficult to set up meaningful saved searches (virtual folders) which cover all archived mail.

  5. Is it possible to create nested filters? Example:
    if To contains “”
    — if Subject contains “hardware” move to hardware
    — if Subject contains “software” move to software
    — if Subject contains “bug” move to bugs
    if To contains “” move to sales

    The three subject filters are nested filters that only execute if the email came to “”

    Check out Ritlabs TheBat mail client great filter system.

    Great job by the way. We are switching our whole company to Thunderbird. I hope upgrading from TB2 to TB3 will be easy.

  6. Is auto-update enabled? I just did a check for updates from the help menu but it shows no updates available.

    Shall I wait or do I have download beta 2 and install it?

  7. Tb3.0B2 is getting the default email hostage.
    I have two profile, upon using Tb3.0b2 i start with p and select the 3.0 profile, to restore the defaul profile to use i start TB2.0 with -p and select the 2.0 profile after exit TB3.0.

    If i set in TB2.0 to be the default email program and quit, after that the default email program opened is TB3.0 with the 2.0 profile used.
    I have to reinstall TB2.0 to restore, for now i try TB 3.0 in a RC release.

  8. For some reasons (mainly because of a better spam recognition), I switched to Apple Mail.
    Thunderbird 3 beta 2 is very fine, much better than the alpha versions.
    But now i’m accustomed to some Mail features that I would miss if i switched back to TB.
    The most important one is the similar mails highlighting : when you select a mail in the list, the other mails with same sender and same subject are highlighted. This is a great help when you receive a lot of automated emails (from forums, from social networks, from online tools…).

    Do you plan to implement something similar in TB 3 final ?

  9. Will the tabs actually work in this version?

    1. You cannot open messages in new tabs, only in new windows
    2. You cannot have one tab for each account you’ve set up if you change account in one tab it also changes in all other tabs…

    Without that functionality the tabs are useless I’m afraid…


  10. I’ve used Microsoft/Windows Internet Explorer and Outlook Express/Windows Mail for years, but now I’m all for Firefox and Thunderbird. I’ve been testing Windows 7. The removed the email client, so I swapped to Thunderbird, and and I’m glad I did. Running Firefox/Thunderbird on all computers now, both Windows Vista and 7. Thank you so much. Your hard work is appreciated!

    Martin Lorentsen, Sweden.

  11. From release notes:
    “…Message Archive:
    You can now file messages from your Inbox or other folders into the new Archive folder system…”

    What this means?
    Can I still moving my mbox files (INBOX, SENT, etc) from my Thunderbird2 to Thunderbird3?


  12. Great to read that Thunderbird is progressing. Here’s one feature I’d love to see:

    When an IMAP client using GMail deletes a message, the message still shows up in “All Mail” in GMail. The IMAP client and/or GMail simply removes the “Inbox” label from the message. It doesn’t actually get deleted.

    Better integration of TB & GMail with respect to deleting messages would be a killer feature.

  13. Congratulations on the shiny new website and the progress towards TB3.

    I think the progress made is a great step forward, especially for an open-source application with a small development group.

    I don’t have high expectations for TB3 in terms of new functionality – I think it should be a major bug-fix release with a visually updated interface (tabs, icons) and an improved overall user experience. It should be a clear message that TB is alive well, and should be a platform for future releases with more new features and more powerful extensions.

    Again, congratulations on the progress!

  14. I would love to see some improvements on the archive feature so that it works better with the archive feature in gmail. Basically, it would be great if when I hit archive in TB, it would send the email to the “All Mail” folder in gmail….. exactly the same way it behaves in gmail. I really hate it when it creates monthly archive labels in gmail “all mail”.
    And it would also be great if there was an archive button that could be placed on the toolbar for easy access.

    Keep up the good work. Thanks!

  15. To now link to the multi-purpose Get satisfaction website for forum support of Thunderbird and not even mention the much more active Thunderbird support at independent mozillaZine will just only do a lot of harm for Thunderbird when they cannot get support answers. Please reconsider.

  16. Apparently you deleted my comment about you linking to the useless Get Satisfaction site for TB support. Whats the matter you do not like any criticism about choices you made for a TB support forum?. Just be glad mozillaZine is still helping out as the main support forum for TB as long as people are aware of mozillaZine from official places like and otherwise TB usage would drop like a brick if they cannot get quick informative support. So please reconsider and add mozillaZine in the Get Involved link if you care about Thunderbird’s future.

    None of the mozillaZine regulars (especially mods) care to go to multi-purpose products/companies Get Satisfaction site to support Thunderbird/Firefox so the main people providing support there will be the less experienced or new users.

    If David Tenser and such were to finally provide a Thunderbird section at then Get Satisfaction would be even more useless.

  17. @Steve: a cursory look at the comments on this blog shows that I don’t moderate out criticisms! 😉

    (I do have a filter on to try and filter out spam, which means that posts sometimes don’t show up immediately).

    I hear you that the “plain” pointer to GetSatisfaction was a bit rough. We’ll adjust the website to help people get good help, and also try and organize more help communities in various places.

    Our use of GetSatisfaction is somewhat of an experiment, but it wasn’t intended at all as a put-down of mozilaZine.

    I’d contact you in email to discuss, but I don’t have your full name or email address. Please email me (my email address is described on my blog home page).

  18. Does thunderbird 3 support exchange 2003 Mailbox. If IMPAI is disable on exchange.
    As Evolution client has feature to configure exchange mail box by OWA URL

  19. I can find no link to leave beta feedback on the MozillaMessaging TB 3b2 page so here it is: I have a big profile (3.9 GB) and 3b2 is still sluggish at handling it. Specifically, the “Building summary file for foldername…” I understand this should be a one-time process, but with such a large number of messages the index gets corrupted often. A very nice improvement would be rebuilding folder indices during periods of non-usage. A very nice related feature would be to always include a checkbox to include sub-foders in any operation. i.e., if I select a parent folder , then properties, the Rebuild Index operation should have a checkbox so I can rebuild sub-folder indices as well. The sub-folder checkbox would also be useful when compacting and “Marking folder read” because ( bug report: ) rebuilding an index invariably leads to lots of messages erroneously marked unread (in bold). The new archive is great but… we should be able to archive all messages within a folder (and optionally sub-folders) by selecting that folder then selecting Archive, which would bring up a dialog box to enter a date prior to which messages will be archived. Three options would be very useful here: 1) the aforementioned “Include Subfolders” checkbox; 2) An option to put all in a single year folder without monthly subfolders; 3) An option to include the original folder name as a subfolder under the Year(-Month) folder. Now you have a powerful archiver. The global search is exciting, I hope you will be building the search index during non-usage. Sorry this is so long, I’m a long time user an there is much pent-up feedback. One last comment: The root problem is filing messages in the appropriate folder. We shirk the duty and are liberated by the new archive but… what if, upon replying, one was prompted (optionally of course) where they wanted to file both the original and the response. And what if you could associate a folder with email addresses so that the appropriate folder was at the top of the list when being asked where to file. And what if this folder-to-address association were extended to include key words in subject line, etc. Kind regards.

  20. Has Thunderbird 2 been abandoned? Will Thunderbird 3 be supported any better? I ask because so many bugs have been open for so long. Case in point: Bug 271222, open since 2004-11-22 (OVER 4 YEARS). A bug, not an “enhancement”. Still not even assigned. Serious black eye for Thunderbird in my opinion. Enough for me to remove the Thunderbird recommendation from my websites, and think seriously of moving my clients to different, better supported email software. Very disappointing.

  21. I second Dylan’s request to simplify the archive feature. I am really not interested in converting my years of existing email archive into this monthly subfolder structure. A single “Archive” folder would work better for me. Could this feature be configurable so you can select if you want monthly subfolders vs. a single archive folder?

    Also, please consider an expression search feature such as in Outlook 2007, Gmail, or the GmailUI extension for TB 1.5/2.0. Once you have used this type of search, it is painful to go back to something less precise and more cumbersome.

  22. Converted from BCM after a fatal episode. Very pleased so far. One function I’d like to find an add on for or am curious if it is planned in B3 is the ability to view all activities, including sent emails for a contact. Thanks.

  23. Have you made hotmail account setup easier? because hotmail does pop3 so im really hoping a simple hotmail setup for mac

  24. The lightning 0.9 release is stated as the last and that in Thunderbird3 the functionality will be included in the client without it being an “add-on”.
    Is this still the plan? I can’t find any reference to calendaring.

  25. I have multiple email accounts that I use in Thunderbird; most important are personal and business.

    I would love to be able to flag names in the address book to only work with a specific account. Thus, business contact addresses would only be written off my business account.

  26. Could we have a system where Thunderbird only reports that it has failed to send after several attempts at it? I have a very unreliable connection, and I hit “Send” (error message) “OK” “Send”… etc. maybe five times before it goes. Apple Mail doesn’t report messages ilke this, it just… works, because it tries again and again until the email goes. That is one improvement I would be impressed at most.

  27. Thunderbird 3 is working great for me! Struggle with the fonts, sometimes have to re-set via a) cut, b) paste w/o formatting, and then c) format menu.


  28. When is the planned release date for the final release of Thunderbird V3? I would like to recommend this to a customer, but they are keen to move away from Outlook as soon a possible. It would be easier to wait until after V3 is out, rather than upgrading from V2. The new release looks sensational – what a great product!!

  29. Thunderbird is great, everyone knows that. I don’t know if this is already fixed because I’m still using version 2 but the most annoying thing here is the time format setting. I’m Portuguese but I use a full English desktop (Linux), this doesn’t mean I want 12 hours time format. I think that time format should be decoupled from LC vars or at least an option to set it must be present in the preferences menu.
    Keep make thunderbird great 😉

  30. I worked with eudora for 8 or 10 years. This year i moved to Thunderbird, is great but, i miss how Eudora automatically decode attachments in incoming mails and put them in a specific folder, allways linked to the mail. Personally i thing it is easer to manage attachments on this way.
    Keep working, great job, I am waiting for the final release.

  31. I can’t be sure if this is a bug or not, but I get a ghost or zombie Compose window on my desktop after a successful send. The only way to get rid of it is to open a new Compose message and “X” out of it. Then all returns to normal until the next send. I was experiencing this in TB2 and someone suggested switching to TB3b2 and see if the issue appears. It did… Here are some parameters of my PC.
    Dell D430 laptop
    Windows XP (SP3 I think)

    I’m not sure if it matters, but when I’m not on travel I use a dual monitor setup utilizing a Samsung 244T. It’s a very frustrating problem and I would love to know if it’s my laptop or a TB3b2 issue.

  32. Archive would be pretty useless without tags. I really hope you’ve built *real* tagging into Thunderbird, and not the useless garbage that came with TB 2.

  33. Will there be 2 way interaction with the Mac’s Address Book? This is the only snag I can see at the moment.

  34. Automatically scale images to fit window and automatically scale images to fit on page when printing PLEASE!!!!!!

  35. Hope it will be possible to use the Thunderbird adressbook with callto: links from the phone numbers so my softphone can make directly the call out.

  36. When is the final release date again? I’ve been monitoring this page for some time now but I still haven’t seen a single hint as to its launch date. I’m using Outlook now and it’s KILLING me!

    Please! Please! Give us a hint when it’s going to be released.

  37. I would also like to know when the final release of Thunderbird 3 will be available. I’ve just downloaded Thunderbird 3 beta 3 and it’s great so I can’t wait.

  38. I would also like to know when the final release of Thunderbird 3 will be available…. Have the import from Eudora features been fixed…

  39. please, please, please add the function (which has always been native to outlook) of ‘don’t mark mail as read when selection changes’. This has been the single sticking point that has kept me away from Tbird through the years. I like to preview a message in the preview pane and then answer it when i’m ready. I can easily see which emails i need to deal with because they are still bold and not marked as read. Having it timed to be read as in Tbird2 was no good, and having it stay as unread even after i reply to it is no good. i just want it to stay unread until i have either opened it properly, forwarded it, or replied to it. I deal with hundreds of emails/day and this is my system. Surely it’s just a simple boolean switch and would mean i could be rid of outlook forever. I’m not alone in this, plenty of forums are full of people asking for the same.

  40. It shows wrong received date(i.e., 10 hours advanced) on receiving mail. Is that any solutions to solve this problem.

  41. Please, oh please, oh please tell me that with this archive feature, I can quickly “pull on a thread” for which I have one unarchived message in the inbox, and quickly see the whole thing.

    That’s what makes GMail’s archive so special for me (and if they only gave me a thread tree I’d probably use their web interface).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *