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Thunderbird Time Machine: Was Thunderbird 3.0 Worth The Wait?

Let’s step back into the Thunderbird Time Machine and teleport ourselves back to December 2009. If you were on the bleeding edge, maybe you were upgrading your computer to the newly released Windows 7 (or checking out Ubuntu 9.10 “Karmic Koala”.) Perhaps you were pouring all your free time into Valve’s ridiculously fun team-based survival shooter Left 4 Dead 2. And maybe, just maybe, you were eagerly anticipating installing Thunderbird 3.0 — especially since it had been a lengthy two years since Thunderbird 2.0 had launched.

What happened during those two years? The Thunderbird developer community — and Mozilla Messaging — clearly stayed busy and productive. Thunderbird 3.0 introduced several new feature milestones!

1) The Email Account Wizard

We take it for granted now, but in the 2000s, adding an account to an email client wasn’t remotely simple. Traditionally you needed to know your IMAP/POP3 and SMTP server URLs, port numbers, and authentication settings. When Thunderbird 3.0 launched, all that was required was your username and password for most mainstream email service providers like Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail. Thunderbird went out and detected the rest of the settings for you. Neat!

2) A New Tabbed Interface

With Firefox at its core, Thunderbird followed in the footsteps of most web browsers by offering a tabbed interface. Imagine! Being able to quickly tab between various searches and emails without navigating a chaotic mess of separate windows!

3) A New Add-on Manager

Screenshot from HowToGeek’s Thunderbird 3.0 review.

Speaking of Firefox, Thunderbird quickly adopted the same kind of Add-on Manager that Firefox had recently integrated. No need to fire up a browser to search for useful extensions to Thunderbird — now you could search and install new functionality from right inside Thunderbird itself.

4) Advanced Search Options

Searching your emails got a massive boost in Thunderbird 3.0. Advanced filtering tools means you could filter your results by sender, attachments, people, folders, and more. A shiny new timeline view was also introduced, letting you jump directly to a certain date’s results.

5) The Migration Assistant

Tying this all together was a simple but wonderful migration assistant. It served as a way to introduce users to certain new features (like per-account IMAP synchronization), and visually toggle them on or off (useful for displaying the revised Message Toolbar and giving users a choice of where to enjoy it). To me, this particular addition felt ahead of its time. We’ve been discussing the idea of re-introducing it in a future Thunderbird release, but one of the steep hurdles to doing so now is localization. If it’s something you’d like to see, let us know in the comments.

Try It Out For Yourself

If you want to personally step into the Thunderbird Time Machine, every version ever released for Windows, Linux, and macOS is available in this archive. I ran mine inside of a Windows 7 virtual machine, since my native Linux install complained about missing libraries when trying to get Thunderbird 3.0 running.

Regardless if you’re a new Thunderbird user or a veteran who’s been with us since 2003, thanks for being on the journey with us!

Previous Time Machine Destinations:

23 responses

Dana wrote on

Using Thunderbird since it was fairly new, used Pegasus prior. Still using Thunderbird today on Windows 10 Pro. Love the platform and the quickness of setting up multiple emails addresses. Great email platform!

Jason Evangelho wrote on

Thanks for using Thunderbird, Dana, we appreciate you!

Armando wrote on

I have been using Thunderbird since it started and never looked back. There have been ups and downs along the way but I still find it to be the best email agent.
I am now hoping they set up a similar app for mobile phones. K9 is not the same. It lacks the important Filters which is so indispensable for multiple accounts.
Fantastic Thunderbird!

Daelos wrote on

Thunderbird is better than any other email app but the spell check is terrible and search folders are a buggy mess. Search works fine but it’s a sloppily implemented. Have a rethink and make search an extension of quick search rather than two separate things.

Despite the issues, it’s still preferable to Outlook and many of the other email apps seem to be more about looking nice than have actual useful features that help manage emails.

David wrote on

I must agree with Armando, Thunderbird is magnificent. In my opinion it so much better than Outlook by a very long margin.

Mohit Singla wrote on

I am using it since 2010 regularly. It’s good software for emails. Better then outlook or mail.

Michael Pavletich wrote on

I’ve been using TB since the first release I found, prior to v1 and some of my retained emails date back to the early 2K’s.
In 2011, I thought I’d test some alternatives over the year and none of them could equal the versatility, speed and ease of use of TB so I returned to TB and it’s ben my goto since. I have extolled the virtues of TB since day one and now, after 22 years, finally got my sister and another friend to use it, they are both awestruck and can not believe such agility exists in this incredible app.

Jason Evangelho wrote on

Michael, thank you very much for your advocacy! Believe it or not, that makes you a legit Thunderbird contributor. And thanks for being on this journey with us. Appreciate you!

Denis Cowcill wrote on

Wouldn’t use anything else now, so easy to transfer from one computer to another whenever upgrading.

Kurt wrote on

Been using for a very long time, grown old and grey with thunderbird

Jason Evangelho wrote on

That’s actually a very moving statement. Some people have had longer relationships with software like Thunderbird than they have with friends or loved ones. Not that it’s remotely as important as our real relationships, but it does illustrate why we very slowly introduce change. That’s a LOT of muscle memory to overcome… Hey, thanks a bunch for using Thunderbird and sharing your comment!

Louno wrote on

Thanks for this blast from the past. I still was an user back then but I quickly migrated to webmail after that update. Not that I didn’t like it but well, webmail started to become very powerful and usefull at this time. I’ve made the move backward few months ago, getting rid of G for a more respectful of my data provider and installed Thunderbird again. I like how I have to sit in front of my computer again to check mails of a dedicated client instead of checking them from my work, or on my computer. It’s a great way to deal with time spent online. Won’t look behind. Thanks to the team for the dedication and all the work involved. I love Thunderbird and the spirit behind. This is the future.

Jason Evangelho wrote on

We’re very happy to hear you came back. Thanks so much for being on this journey with us. We appreciate ya!

Rolf Schmidt wrote on

Das war aber heute eine Überraschung für mich. als auf einmal eine E-Mail auftauchte, mit dem Update
der Thunderbird Maschine 3.0, das ist ja eine tolle Verbesserung, Danke.
MfG. Rolf

J.R. wrote on

Hallo Jason,
war mir gar nicht bewusst, dass ich (nach eurer Aussage) schon seit 2003 bei THUNDERBIRD bin,
unglaublich, ein guter Freund hat mir damals das Programm installiert.
DANKE dafür,
Beziehungen sind gut, THUNDERBIRD ist eine der besten ! ! !
Also auch ein Veteran ist noch lebendig !

Best regards !

Jason Evangelho wrote on

AMAZING! 21 years! Thank you for being on the journey with us, J.R.

Hans wrote on

Hallo Jason,
ich kann mich nicht erinnern jemals einen anderen Postkasten, als den von Euch benutzt zu haben und das ist schon sehr, sehr lange her.
Klar, getestet habe ich schon einige, aber Ihr habt mich immer wieder überzeugt. Auch wichtig war für mich, dass es Thunderbird kostenlos gibt, er einfach zu handhaben ist und zuverlässig arbeitet.
Wenn ich Euch auch nur mit kleinen Beiträgen unterstützen kann, so weiß ich doch es ist gut angelegt.
Macht weiter so und alles Gute

Jason Evangelho wrote on

Hallo Hans! Wie herrliche Nachricht! Danke für uns zu unterstützen und danke für das Benutzen von Thunderbird

Cliff Grover wrote on

I’ve used Thunderbird it feels like forever (probably 3.0 or so), and have always been very happy with it. It is just so reliable and never breaks, unlike other Clients I could mention, and even works well with the vagaries of Gmail’s POP or IMAP. The only only thing I find, when recommending it to others who are used to the MS offerings, is the continued use of the standard Unix attribution of “On date, name said:”. Ok, you can use the Reply Header add-on but it would be nice to simply have that as an inbuilt option and not have to explain the add-on to a potential new user, which can easily put them off.

Cliff wrote on

What happened to the Timeline Search Results display? Is it still there?

Jason Evangelho wrote on

Yep, still there! If you don’t see it, look for a rectangular “Toggle Timeline” button under your search term.

Brian wrote on

I was a long-term Forte Agent (RIP, unfortunately) user but switched to Thunderbird for my e-mail when 2.0 was the latest and greatest. I still use Forte Agent for the few newsgroups I follow, as it’s still light years ahead of Thunderbird for Usenet groups, but there is no way I would go back to Agent for e-mail. Thunderbird has royally p*$$*d me off on a couple of occasions, mostly when a TB upgrade breaks an extension which I was making extensive use of, but it’s still the best mail client for Linux out there, IMO. Thunderbird for e-mail, and Agent (via WINE) for news!

Cliff wrote on

Aha. With a little digging, I found the global search box in settings was unticked, and even when ticked, I had to re-add the global search box to the toolbar. Now all good, and back to indexed searching!


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