My new favorite project under the Mozilla umbrella is Thunderbird. Thunderbird takes what is good about Mozilla’s email capabilities and making it work as a standalone application.
I always wished that Netscape, and later Mozilla, were a separate suite of applications. I am always changing my default browser and email clients, but with Netscape and Mozilla the email client and browser always had to be tied together and would ignore my system preferences for default clients. I always hated the bloated and slow process it created, and the fact that if one crashed, the entire suite crashed. It makes so much sense to have a separate browser and a separate email client.
The neat parts about Thunderbird (and Mozilla’s email client in general) is that it has a lot of the features that are missing from other applications. Specifically for Mac users, this is the only good client I know of that can support S/MIME, or the signing and encrypting of email messages using X.509-based certificates. It also promises to have full-featured support for HTML email web standards that are incomplete or lacking in other clients. It allows full access to the HTML composition of an email, allowing you full control over the source code and there are tools for adding tables, images, and other elements missing from other clients. It has excellent support for two-byte language character sets such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. Best of all, it has Bayesian spam filtering so you can train it to understand what is junk email and what is not, and it filters the bad stuff out so you can have some weapons against the massive deluge of spam email that comes in to your inbox every day.
Mozilla Thunderbird has reached it’s first milestone build at 0.1. There is a lot of work to do. For one thing, the installation tops out at 33 MB right now, so there is a lot of paring down of the code to get it to a more manageable size. There’s a lot of user interface bugs and plenty of workflow issues. The icon needs work. The themes need lots and lots of work. Not all the features are implemented yet. But it’s going to get there. And there needs to be some way to synchronize all your contacts with the Apple Address Book or Entourage.
If you’d like to check it out and participate, go download Thunderbird and play with it. Submit bugs and enhancement requests to Bugzilla as you find ’em. Getting involved will only make it better and better.