Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Making the leap to Thunderbird

I've just made the transition in email programs to Mozilla's Thunderbird. I've been using Microsoft's Outlook Express for the past few years, pretty much because it's free and it does all of the stuff that I wanted it to do. But with Microsoft threatening to retire Outlook Express once and for all so they can push people to their full Outlook program, I figured I'd give the alternative a try. Besides, Thunderbird is FREE, and it's from the same folks who created the original Netscape Communicator system before it was bought out by AOL.

Okay, few things. First, you have to REALLY like playing around and tooling around with Thunderbird to get it the way you want it to be. The initial setup and the importing of your messages and settings and address book is REALLY neat and I have to give them credit for doing it, but you will STILL have to make some serious tweaks afterwards. There are some serious extensions that you should add in there as well. The three big ones that I've included so far (and I'm sure there will be more) are:
  • "Minimize to Tray" - which allows me to minimize the whole program to a little icon on the system tray (really neat)
  • "Buttons!" - which adds a few additional and very helpful toolbar buttons
  • "Signature Switch" - which gives you multiple signatures for each user identity that you can use instead of just one per identity. This is something that Outlook Express offers automatically but is an add-on for Thunderbird.

By the way, you can find all of these extensions at the Mozilla website if you look under Thunderbird add-ons. You'll also find plenty of themes that you can use. My personal favorite is the one that makes Thunderbird look like Outlook. Most of the themes are companions to the ones used for the Firefox browser, which only makes sense since it's also a Mozilla creation.

That brings me to the bad part about this program. Yes, you can download and install themes and add-ons so you can customize Thunderbird, but unlike Firefox, where you can simply click-to-install, you have to RIGHT-click and select "Save As..." to save the program to your computer, and then click on the INSTALL button on Thunderbird to find the program and then install it. It's a few extra steps, and it can get a little annoying compared to doing the same kind of installation for Firefox.

Thunderbird has a few extra goodies as well that Outlook does not have, such as the ability to enter smileys and a built-in junk email detector that will also warn you about potential scams. It's also pretty good at setting up and using multiple user identities and multiple mailboxes, including web-based mailboxes such as gmail.

Thunderbird is definitely not for the relative tech newcomers, at least not right now, but it is superior alternative to using Outlook Express.

( Click here to read about my original leap to the Firefox browser... )

Monday, March 06, 2006

Quick word on Mac Cultists

I have an interesting quick rant out on the Brutally Honest Random Thoughts blog concerning Mac cultists, including a linked cartoon by By all means check it out and be sure to post your replies.