Mar 062009

With Thunderbird 3 rapidly approaching, I figured now would be a great time to give it another try — especially since I’m trying to find ways to get better organized with my email.  In particular, I want to start tagging messages to keep track of items that require follow-up, or that have been followed-up on already.

I installed Thunderbird 3 beta 2, and almost immediately ran into my first hiccup.  I prefer to read every message in its own window.  Thunderbird does support this.  However, clicking the delete button to delete the message you’re reading doesn’t delete the message and close the window, the way you’d expect.  Instead, it deletes the message and loads up another one into the same window.

I don’t want this behavior.  To me, it’s counterintuitive.  Fortunately, I found that there’s a bug filed on this, and that bug has a patch even — which works even today, despite being a very old patch.  So I built myself my own copy of Thunderbird (Shredder, actually) with this patch applied.  Awesome.

Now I’m left with two problems:

First, it appears that when you apply tags to messages, those tags don’t get stored onto the IMAP server so that you can see them from other computers.  This severely limits their usefulness.

Second, there continues to be no way that I can find to view all my unread messages in a single list, instead of having to flip from one inbox to another.  I find this very frustrating.

Those are the two reasons why I guess I’m watching back (once again) to Apple Mail, despite it also not having integrated tagging support.  I may try the MailTags add-on for Mail, to see if it does the job for me.

There are other minor quibbles I have — things that would certainly not drive me away from Thunderbird, but don’t help either.  These include things like not having any obvious way to get rid of the tab bar (I don’t personally have any interest in tabbed mail, although I see the value for others).

Thunderbird keeps getting closer to being what I want in mail, but there’s still stuff left to do, so I’ll just be patient and keep trying it now and then.

 Posted by at 10:37 AM

  8 Responses to “Another Thunderbird experiment”

  1. Does IMAP even have a way to store tagging metadata? I’m not sure it’s even feasible unless the client creates an X-Moz header of some sort and stores it in there. Though I’d imagine that adds new complexities to searching. Gmail doesn’t seem to support searching by custom-header yet despite all the search work they have done.

  2. I know the MailTags add-on for Apple Mail does this, presumably the way you suggest, by adding custom headers to messages on the server.

  3. You tag problem: we do save tags on the server – if your server supports it. I suggest you have a chat to bienvenu about it.

    All unread messages in a single folder? Easy:

    1) File -> New Saved Search.
    2) Give it a name and somewhere to put it,
    3) then where it says “Select folders to search” choose your inboxes (or whichever folders you want)
    4) Enter the criteria “Status” “isn’t” “Read”

    Select OK, job done.

    Note you also have the Unread Folders view (click on the at the top right of the folder pane, but I expect that isn’t what you want.

  4. Hey, that worked. It didn’t work the first time I tried it, so I must have set it up wrong somehow. Sweet.

    Now to figure out the tags thing…

  5. About the tags (the old labels) on IMAP.
    They’re stored using keywords on the server – if supported, like Standard8 said.

    Tabs can be “disabled” with: mail.tabs.autoHide

  6. Once upon a time I used PM Mail on OS/2. Even though it was a long time ago it had features I still miss daily.

    I like to read mail in messages in their own windows as well. PM Mail had a row of buttons: Previous, close, next; delete and show previous, delete and close, delete and show next. I really miss them.

  7. Thunderbird most certainly does support viewing messages in their own window, that’s the way I use it.

    Pick the vertical layout with the folder list the entire height on the left and the mailbox summary list and the preview pane on the right above and below each other. Then drag the divider between the summary list and the preview pane all the way to the bottom so the preview pane disappears. When you want to look at a message, either double-click it, or hit the Enter key with it highlighted. It’ll open in a new window.

    I’m pretty sure it stores tags server-side, too. I do it with my Mozilla mail and tags I’ve set in Thunderbird show up in the Zimbra web client. They have funny names though. They show up as $LABEL1$, $LABEL2$ and so forth. If you try to rename them in Zimbra, they’ll disappear out of Thunderbird, though… Zimbra apparently does something different than Thunderbird for keeping track of which label is named what.

  8. Oh, I misread your thing about opening messages in a new window. You’re only talking about deleting them from there. And yeah, that annoys me, too, sometimes. Other times I’m glad it works like that. Depends what I’m doing. It’s just like the “going to the next bug or back to the same one” debate after making changes to a bug on Bugzilla.