The problem with Thunderbird

I’m a big fan of Mozilla and it’s related applications, particularly Firebird (which I’m using as I type this), and Thunderbird, their email app. But while Thunderbird is a great little application it’s got just a few faults which keep me from using it all the time:

1) Email Accounts are listed in the order they are created

I’m moderately unusualy in that I have a large number of email accounts spread across a whole range of different domains. This menas that I really do make the eh most of those mail applications that support multiple email accounts.

Now I have a nice ordering scheme and way of laying these out that makes it easy for me to prioritize my email visually according to the order of the accounts. My main work email address is at the top, along with the main accounts from the other domains and projects I’m involved in, and then lower priority accounts like the one used for buying stuff and mailing lists are at the bottom.

In Thunderbird, there is no way of re-ordering the accounts you create (or at least I haven’t found one). This seems like a fairly straightforward piece of functionality to incorporate. It’s non-existence suggests that multiple accounts were an afterthought bolted on because they could do it, rather than an integrated part of the package.

2) IMAP Subfolders are not searched for new mail

As well as my separate acounts, I also use server-side email filing to put messages into appropriate sub folders; again, this helps me to magazine, organize and prioritize my work. This also means that to see whether I have new mail, those sub-folders have to be searched too.

Thunderbird doesn’t do this, even if I subscribe to the sub folders, Thunderbird just ignores them. There isn’t even a menu option to ‘synchronize all accounts’ like there is in (not the best Mail application either).

The only way for me to see if I’ve got new mail with Thunderbird is to open each folder individually, which kind of defeats the object.

3) No Address Book Integration

I know Thunderbird is a cross-platform app, but if we’re ever going to consider this as a serious alternative to this is pretty much a vital component.

Postscript: Yeah, I know, Thunderbird is open source so we call change it if we want, and it supports extensions so we can add what features we want that way. Certainly extensions would be the way to go for problem (3). But problems 1 and 2 are fairly fundamental ‘features’ (and I use the term loosely, because I consider them bugs).

Oh, and before you ask, 1 and 2 are just as much of an issue on both Linux and Windows; this isn’t a ‘bash Thunderbird on OS X’. Only item 3 is OS X specific ;)

Do you have any personal bugbears about Thunderbird you want to share? Then let us know!

Have another application that you’d like to rant about? Send your recommendations to and I’ll collate them all (and add my own) in a future post.


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