December 09, 2004

Moving from Outlook to Thunderbird

Writing about web page

Get Thunderbird

Following on from my little bout of Firefox advocacy, next in line is email.

I've been an Outlook Express and then Outlook 2000/2003/XP user for years and years. My general anti-Microsoft stance has been getting stronger and stronger recently (but that's a whole other entry), so I've been wanting to get away from Outlook for a while now because of various issues I have had with it.

So, Thunderbird has finally reached version 1.0 and I took the plunge.

Why change?

  • Outlook was getting too slow, it just couldn't really handle my 10000 or so emails.
  • It's memory footprint was getting huge and often locked up for 30 seconds or so when reading emails occasionally. Outlook has just bloated with features that I really don't need or want any more.
  • Outlook has been crap at handling the LDAP account that I've recently started using
  • I intend to try and switch to Linux at some point and the sooner I get used to using non-Microsoft software, the better.
  • Security/Privacy. Thunderbird is much safer and better protected from spam and viruses.

The experience

The Thunderbird download is a nice small 5.8MB and of course, it's free. It offers to import your Outlook settings and mail when you first load it up and depending on the size of your inbox has everything nicely and faultlessly imported in no time at all. Simple as that.

The interface is very similar to Outlook, but simpler. In terms of reading/writing/managing your email, it's great.

It must be noted that Thunderbird does not aim to do everything that Outlook does, it does not have a built in calendar (but you can add one via a free calendar extension ). In general I think my conversion is a success and I don't regret it, however, there are a few things that will hopefully be improved with Thunderbird.

  • I used to be really reliant on Outlooks popup notifications that announce when a new email arrives. It lets you see who it is from and be able to click on it to see the whole email or delete it with one click. However, the Thunderbird popup just tells you that you have a new email, no more info that than.
  • The email grouping can be slightly annoying, it requires a couple more clicks to arrange folders nicely, but it is no biggy.
  • The address book does not have quite as nice a view of contacts as Outlook does.

However, Thunderbird is always improving and will no doubt keep me happy as time goes by.

Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0 Getting Started Guide

- 7 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

[Skip to the latest comment]
  1. It's faster but I think Outlook has a more logical layout.

    09 Dec 2004, 21:50

  2. I'm fairly impressed by Thunderbird – I'd tried it before to read newsgroups with, but I'm half considering switching over from Evolution 2 – it doesn't depend on all the Gnome libraries. I'll have to use it for a while and see, but so far it looks good.

    Andrew is never pleased with any Mozilla product, so I'm not going to argue with him. :)

    09 Dec 2004, 23:07

  3. Steve Rumsby

    I've just started using Thuderbird too, after quite a varied history of previous email clients. A fair chunk of recent history has been with Outlook (versions from 87 to XP). I decided to toe the party line for a while and use GroupWise. More recently I've been experimenting with GMail.

    There are a number of things I liked about Outlook that I've never really found in anything else. The biggest is synchronisation support for a handheld PC of some sort. I've uses Psions, Palms and Windows CE machines. All synchronise easily with Oulook, usually using supplied (and therefore free) software. I haven't found anything that will synchronise as well with Groupwise, or at all with anything else. Of course, I'm talking about the whole PDA dataset here, not just email.

    Yes, Outlook is bloated, but having all the functionality in one app makes some things work very well. I like being able to drag 'n drop an email onto my contacts list and create a new entry. Or drop an email onto my task list and create a new task with the body of the email as a note. Or drop a contact onto my task list to creat a new task with that contact attached so I know who it is for.

    I agree Thunderbird is a nice email client. It even works well as an IMAP client for my Groupwise mailbox (much better than Outlook, which was horribly slow). I'll probably stick with it as my MUA for the moment, at least here in the office. But until it interoperates smoothly with an addressbook, todo list and notes list, and they all sync with my handheld, they won't replace Outlook at home. I need to keep all this stuff synchronised on my PC, PDA and phone, and Outlook is the only common denominator.

    Sad, but true.

    09 Dec 2004, 23:35

  4. Having said that I like Thunderbird, I'm now considering just using mutt or pine to check my emails over ssh – I've noticed that my username and password are being sent in plaintext over the network when I use POP (and I presume IMAP as well).

    Evolution 2 (on GNU/Linux) has support for Groupwise since Novell bought Ximian, and other free mail clients won't be long in catching up. So when are ITS going to install GNU/Linux everywhere? I suppose you might want to go with Suse, since Novell bought them as well. Not my first choice of distro, but hey. :) Go on, pick a date.

    09 Dec 2004, 23:56

  5. Ooh, relax, I've worked out how to do SSL secured connections. :) Yay.

    10 Dec 2004, 00:14

  6. The layout options in Thunderbird are fairly good now. Especially when using a nice high-res screen, it copies some of Outlooks alternate layouts really well, giving lots of room to viewing big emails.

    I know what you mean about all that integration Steve, as I said, it is very well integrated and slick. However, I barely use it. I might drag and drop to a task or contact or something once a month. For the rest of the month I'm just cursing about other things :)

    I'm sure that if I needed to do the sync'ing that you're talking about, I wouldn't have changed because that does sound easy, but hey I am PDA-less. I should look into that :)

    RSS support is nice in Thunderbird, but I just use Bloglines anyway.

    10 Dec 2004, 00:28

  7. someone

    the evolution email client included with some linux distobutions (since you're planning on switching to linux) works rather like outlook (with the popup notifications and such) and has a calandar.. blah blah

    09 Jul 2005, 22:35

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