How-To Geek

Our Hands On Look at Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0

Note: This article is part of our archive and is likely out of date.
(Links may not work, downloads have not been recently tested for safety)

While Outlook may run the business world, at home you can use whatever email client you want, and Thunderbird is an awesome choice. It has been a while since a major new Thunderbird release, and today we take a look at version 3.0 features and what you can expect. 

Installation & Setup

When you begin installation you can choose Standard or Custom. The only extra things you can change with a Custom install is the installation directory, Shortcuts, and Start menu folder. Most users should be fine with the Standard Install.


After installation Thunderbird starts up and you can select what you want to use it as the default client for. If you don’t want to see this message every time you launch it, then uncheck the box Always perform this check when starting Thunderbird.


Migration assistant will start up if you have an older version of Thunderbird on your system and migrate mails and folders to the new version.


While the Migration Assistant completes you have the option to use the new or original toolbar and Smart folders mode. If you don’t want to choose right away…no worries, you can access it at anytime later.


Adding your Hotmail or Gmail account is easy. It’s not as complicated as it can be in other clients…just enter in the account and password. You don’t need to know IMAP, SMTP, TLS settings, the wizard will check a database and find the right settings for your account.


Thunderbird 3.0 Features

Thunderbird now has a tabbed user interface like most web browsers do, so you can easily switch between different messages and searches.


Speaking of searches, it has been greatly improved and is fast. It also offers different search options that are easy to change from the search box.


It provides an easy way to filter through the messages you’re looking for using different criteria.


Search results provide a timeline in addition to the results. You can click on the time line to narrow down a search in different date ranges.


You can also go in a more advanced mode and find specific information you’re looking for in the subject, body, CC field, Priority, Status and more.


An easy to access one-click Address Book. Simply right-click an address and add it to your contacts.



The Smart Folders option is enabled by default and merges multiple account inboxes together. This allows easier management of messages by combining folders like Inbox, sent, or archives. Click View on the toolbar, go to Folders, and there you can change the folder arrangement.


It also now has an Add-ons Manager like in Firefox. You won’t need to visit the website to search for them, just use the manager to search and install the ones you want.


The Activity Manager is a one stop place that records the different actions you have taken with your mail. It takes the guess work out of figuring out what happened to a message. It’s good when you have a “what the heck did I do with that email” moment.


Attachment Reminder is also a neat feature. Have there been times during a busy day where you’re talking about a document or file attached to your email, and then forget to attach it? Attachment Reminder looks for keywords related to attachments in the message body, and pops up a reminder and lets you click to add it.


There are better security features included like allowing your Antivirus app to analyze and even quarantine a suspected virus in an attachment. It also has an interesting Anti-Phishing capability that will analyze a message for commonly used phishing techniques. It will also warn you when clicking a link in an email that takes you to a different site than the one shown in the URL.



Overall I would have to say it has been worth the wait and Thunderbird 3.0 is a great improvement over previous versions. It’s fast, has a cleaner user interface, and is easier to search and manage emails. The new features like the tabbed interface and Add-ons Manager make it intuitive to use for fans of Firefox. They have enhanced the SPAM filtering and when you mark an item as SPAM, Thunderbird learns to filter those messages out. It will work with Windows 2000 or above, Mac OSX 10.4 or higher, and most versions of Linux. If you’re looking for a new email client for your desktop or are already a fan of Thunderbird, getting version 3.0 is definitely a great idea. 

Download Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 12/10/09

Comments (19)

  1. Firas

    Thank you very much Mystic-geek ,
    i used first outlook express but before 6 months i tried Thunderbird and its was really good program and today when i saw your article i just make update and i got the last version of the best mail client program.

  2. wykedengel

    While I’m using Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10 and would love to give Thunderbird 3.0 a spin, I’m a big fan of integration with Gnome. Any word on how nicely TB plays with Gnome?

  3. DataHaunt

    One problem I have had with Thunderbird that still prevents me from adopting it is that simple organizational changes require me to edit configurations files rather than to organize the program from within the program.

    For example, simple changes like changing the order of mailboxes when you use TB for multiple accounts cannot be done by a simply drag-n-drop function that Outlook and other email programs are capable of.

    If you are going to compete against such programs, you should at least have the same basic capabilities.

    Yes, I know TB is free, but if it cannot satisfy the basic needs of people with multiple accounts, then it is useless and useless is still useless at any cost.

  4. InDiSent

    I love TB. I just wish i could sync it with my BB natively. I know there are some ways to do it…but it’s just too much trouble. BB support would be great in a future release.

  5. biesiad

    I totally agree that MT v3 is great. Only thing that I don’t like is the way that Thunderbird saves mail. For me it’s kind of messy. I’d much rather like the single whole-mailbox-file (i.e. Outlook’s .pst). But it’s just me.
    Thanks for the review though. Cheers.

  6. Robbert Vanolmen

    I am new in web design and on recommendation to use Mozilla/fire/fox.Question is: How do i go about it? What set-up do I need?
    I am wanting to migrate to Mozilla also.

  7. Robbert Vanolmen

    By the way I enjoy reading your collums every day!

  8. Vadersapien

    TB3 is great…been using it right since alpha 1…In my opinion it’s much better than Outlook or Windows (Live) Mail .

  9. bobbylight

    @Vadersapien, What are the advantage of using an email application such as TB or Outlook over just the basic web page login? Also how is TB better then Outlook?


  10. 1fastbullet

    I hated Thunderbird the entire time I used it- about two years.

    For a while, I didn’t have a computer. Then I had one but no internet access.I was using a U3 flash drive between the local library and home to attend to Email. Every damn time I opened TB to download new mail it would completely ignore everything stored on the U3 drive and download everything on the server again. Then, the multiple copies of Email would not be in chronological order.
    Sending Email was no prettier. Too often TB claimed Email had been sent when, in fact, it had not. From my experience I think it’s a total abortion and I have no intention to try any version of it again.

    Lately I’ve been using Evolution and, while it has some peculuarities, too, It has never been the crap TB is.

  11. 1fastbullet

    Actually, I think you’ve just hit upon the one quality I can see in TB.

    It isn’t MS Outlook

  12. Vadersapien

    The advantages of TB over Windows Live Mail: You can read your messages offline, it’s faster(you don’t have to load a web page each time).

    Advantages over both: It’s Theme-able, extensible, open source, can display webpages(from links in your emails)inside the application, has tabbed emails, is much less bloated and comes in a portable version you can run off your USB drive. Just make sure if use it for managing web-mail(GMail, Hotmail etc) to set it to keep the files on the server!

    I know some web mail services can do bits of the above, but I really just prefer machine-installed email client.

    Then again, with Google Chrome OS and other cloud-based OSes, web-mail is probably the future.

  13. bobbylight


    Thanks a lot, you have opened my eyes to testing out both software.

  14. bobbylight

    @Vadersapien you said

    Just make sure if use it for managing web-mail(GMail, Hotmail etc) to set it to keep the files on the server!

    Is that setting set by default or do I need to change something, sorry for all the question I just installed TB and like what I see so far, would you suggest any add-ons? I downloaded lighting since I need a calendar.

    Thanks again

  15. Vadersapien

    @bobbylight – I don’t think it’s default you can check by going Tools > Account Settings > Server Settings, and make sure “Leave messages on server” is ticked.

    I would recommend(apart from Lightning)”ThunderBrowse” and if you use Windows Vista or 7, “Glasser for Thunderbird”, “Contacts Sidebar”, and maybe even “AdBlock Plus” for all those ads you can sometimes can in newsletters etc.

    @Mysticgeek – You should write an article on Songbird too. It’s great music player and highly customizable(Since it’s based on XULRunner like Firefox).

  16. Janet

    Just wanted to say that I’m still wedded to Eudora. Eudora is up and working just fine in Windows 7. I did try an earlier version of Thunderbird and I didn’t like it as well as Eudora. I love the way Eudora allows me to manage mail, both via filters and via its system of folders, which work much like directories and files. I’ve got folders set up in Eudora containing thousands of valuable messages. Wish I understood why Qualcomm abandoned Eudora!

  17. Jeroen

    @Janet: Thunderbird was our replacement for Eudora when the free Eudora version stopped getting adverts and we could not get it to do so again. The two are quite comparable in my view; Thunderbird has folders and filters too, and we have been using it with satisfaction for the last several years.

    The upgrade from version 2.something to version 3 was a disappointment for me. The interface is much more cluttered, it is not faster but slower on my computer, and the new indexing thing is downright annoying, making TB unresponsive at awkwards points in time. An apparent bug is that the user can request TB to close (in the “correct” manner, with ALT-F4 or the close button) while it is indexing, and TB does close, even if it is in the midst of an indexing operation; this made about half of the messages in my (small) Inbox disappear without a trace.

    We have now rolled back to TB V2.

  18. JonMCC33

    It’s a great free option but unfortunately will never compete against something like MS Office Outlook 2007. You can buy it by itself for $85 and it is well worth the money for even a POP3 e-mail client.

  19. Mike Jones

    can’t get hotmail to work, tried till I’m blue in the face…all setting are correct it simply won’t work
    “Sending of password did not succeed. Mail server responded: authentication failed”

More Articles You Might Like

Enter Your Email Here to Get Access for Free:

Go check your email!