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Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0

With the official release of Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0, the Mozilla Organization has completed the split of its Internet suite software, Mozilla. Thunderbird is the stand-alone email and news client, and Mozilla Firefox is the stand-alone browser.

Since it's an open source program, you can download a free copy from http://www.mozilla.org/products/thunderbird/all.htm. There are versions for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, and in 22 different languages. If you have been using the email program within the Mozilla suite, then switching to Thunderbird should be easy. After installation, it will find your user profile, so that all your stored mail and addresses should appear automatically.

If you've been a Mozilla user for awhile, then the biggest new feature for you will probably be the built-in support for RSS news feeds. You can create accounts for blogs, much like you could for news groups, and add them as a folder. If you have a standard three-pane view, then clicking on the blog in the left-hand column will bring up the RSS headlines in the top window. Selecting a headline will then bring up the blog, as a standard web page, in the bottom window, like you can see here.

The BugBlog as rendered in Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0

Thunderbird has all the basics you would want in an email program -- the ability to sort, filter, and store your email; a spam filter (using Bayesian techniques to learn as you go along); a spell checker; privacy controls that let you turn off images in email or control embedded scripts; It does not rely on Internet Explorer to render HTML formatted-emails, so there is an extra layer of protection between you and all of IE's bugs. You can read a more extensive list of features at http://texturizer.net/thunderbird/faq.html.

One of the few things it doesn't do (that I wish it did) is have a way to switch between signature files on outgoing email. You can add extensions to Thunderbird, like you can with Firefox, so maybe someone will write an extension to do it. Support for it is also a little fragmented. Help sources include mozilla.org, third party sites like http://texturizer.net/thunderbird/tips.html and the support forum at mozillaZine.

Thunderbird, like the Mozilla Suite and Firefox, will have bugs, but there doesn't seem to be anywhere near the avalanche of problems that Microsoft Internet Explorer, Outlook, and Outlook Express suffer. And while there probably won't be any major upgrades to Microsoft's Internet software until the next major update of Windows, you should be seeing small, continuous upgrades to all the Mozilla software, in addition to the bug fixes.