We've been following the beta releases of Mozilla's e-mail application Thunderbird 3 pretty closely over the last few months. It's a terrific free, cross-platform, open source alternative to the native e-mail apps that come bundled with Windows and Mac OS X. Thunderbird 3 also integrates nicely with Gmail, making it a great option for people who want to stick with their Web-based email but want the additional features of a desktop email app.
Mozilla released Thunderbird 3 Beta 4 this week that sports more than 200 changes over the past beta release, including new search tools, tabbed email messages, and better IMAP folder synchronization. I've been playing around with the new beta version for a couple of days now and I like what I've seen so far.
Once Thunderbird was installed on my system, set up took about 60 seconds thanks to an email account wizard that managed my Gmail settings with no effort on my part. I added additional email accounts by simply choosing Account Settings option from the Tools menu.
All my email accounts and their associated folders lined up like good little soldiers, but I don't want to look at all of them constantly. Fortunately, Thunderbird 3 has Smart and Favorite folder options that let me view only selected folders to cut down on the clutter. It also tracks and displays which folders I've visited recently for easy reference.
The Compose New Email window has all the tools you'd expect, including some nice touches like address auto-fill and easy drag-and-drop from the desktop.
One of my favorite features is Tabbed Email Messages, which makes switching between emails as easy as switching between Web sites in Mozilla's Firefox Internet browser.
Additional features expected to make the cut in the final version of Thunderbird 3 include advanced filtering tools to sort mail by sender, folder, mailing list, etc., a new message summary view, a better message archiving system, and more. There's no official release date yet, but when Thunderbird 3 does drop, it's an app that's well worth checking out.
If you want to try the beta version now, it's available for download here but remember, it's a preview release for testing purposes only. If you do decide to take it for a test drive, take a minute to give some feedback to the Thunderbird team about your experience.
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