Mozilla Thunderbird, for my needs, is one of only two viable open-source email clients — the other being Evolution — but it has woeful shortcomings. I have been wanting to express my thoughts on what is most important.

Now I am pleased to see Thunderbird’s new Community Manager Ryan Sipes is considering a new future for thunderbird and running a quick poll to “get an idea of where folks are at”. This is the answer I submitted to the main question, “What would you like to see in Thunderbird?”

In priority order:

  1. Proper first-class “conversation view”. Existing plug-ins and options get somewhere towards it but aren’t nearly close enough relative to the bugginess they add.
  2. Drastically clean up the UI, especially all the different search activation UIs (menu, toolbar, “quick filter”) and all the different search results displays that all look and behave infuriatingly differently.
  3. Address book: separation of UI & storage. API: use CardDAV. UI: use CardBook. Storage: assume an external server as the preferred option for most modern situations; support a local store option for “traditional” self-contained installations where TB is the user’s only mail client.
  4. Calendar: separation of UI & storage. API: use CalDAV. (Same considerations as for Address book.)
  5. Message Filters: separation of UI & storage/service. API: use Sieve. UI: look at “Sieve Message Filters” plug-in for a basic example. Only a few open-source-y providers (e.g. FastMail) seem to be offering Sieve so far, so a local filtering service is probably going to be the more common option for now.

We should be facilitating and encouraging the use of open APIs for services such as address book, calendar and filtering.

I also think partitioning these services from the main program is an important part of preparing Thunderbird to be more portable to different environments, especially mobile.