This morning I downloaded and installed Thunderbird 2.0, which has just gone gold, and I must tell you this excellent open source email client has gotten even better than it was already.
It’s new feature set includes the ability to tag messages in as many different ways as you wish and to search for those messages based on those tags. This feature alone, which emulates Gmail’s labels function, is enough to justify the upgrade, but that isn’t the only improvement that has been incorporated into the new version. In addition, you can save the searches as a folder which means you can re-run the search without having to respecify the criteria. Another very helpful enhancement is that setting up Thunderbird to pull mail from your Gmail account has been made much simpler than it used to be. Like its sister product Firefox, Thunderbird is extensible through the use of addons, so you can tailor the program to your own preferences simply by choosing an extension and adding it to the program to add whatever functionality you find useful.
Here are a couple of screen shots of the tagging and searching functions. You can click the thumbnails on to see a larger version.
If you are one of those people who hasn’t yet realized that you have an option to use another email client than Outlook Express, I recommend you download Thunderbird 2.0 and check it out. Once you’ve gotten use to it, I’m sure you’ll wonder how you ever managed your email using that default Windows email client.
Update: Jim Rapoza of Eweek reviews the new release of Thunderbird favorably in this article, but he raises the valid question whether desktop email clients are relevant any longer because of the fact that webmail applications have become easier to use and offer some significant advantages, such as access from anywhere, off-site storage of the message base, and in some instances excellent spam filters and a superior storage and categorization paradigm. I think that his is a legitimate question, but the fact that such a relatively small percentage of the computing population even appreciates that using an alternate email client is an option means that it will be a while before desktop email clients become obsolete.