Why Thunderbird Still Wont

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2005-10-07 Print this article Print

Fly for Enterprise Use"> For example, the built-in phishing detector makes clicking your way into Internet fraud sites harder. Its not perfect: I found it gave false positives quite frequently. That said, Thunderbird also caught all the real phishing e-mails that came my way.
Doubtlessly, some poisoned messages will escape it as phishers grow ever sneakier, but anything that helps stops phishing is A-ok in my book.
It also has improved handling of reply and forward options based on message filters. If youre like me, and you spend a lot of time dealing with e-mail, these options can help you automate your mail handling. Another handy new tool for dealing with e-mail is that the program now gives you the option of deleting attachments from messages. I find this very handy for getting rid of large PDF files and the like while keeping the cover letter, which had the real information I needed. For business users, Thunderbird has added many new features. For example, instead of requiring you to re-install the program for an update, you will now be able to patch the program in place with a small download. In addition, you can now integrate Thunderbirds spam detection with server-based detection. In my case, I use SpamAssassin on my Linux-based e-mail servers. The program can also use Kerberos authentication, which makes it easier to integrate with a network directory system. In an experiment, I was able to integrate Thunderbird usage with Novells LDAP eDirectory running on Novell Linux SBS (Small Business Server). It was not a walk around the park, but it was doable. Before, integrating Thunderbird into a serious business network would have been nigh unto impossible. Thats all great, but I still cant recommend Thunderbird for large business use. It still doesnt have individual, never mind group, calendaring and schedule management capabilities. The Mozilla Foundation knows that this is a weakness. Its programmers are working to address it. In the past, this has been in Sunbird, or the Mozilla Calendar extension project. More recently, Mozillas developers have been working on Lightning. This program, according to its Web site, "aims to integrate into the main Thunderbird UI and user interaction model as tightly as possible." The developers, however, to the best of my knowledge, do not have any plans to support Extended MAPI (Microsofts Messaging API) in any version of Thunderbird. This is unfortunate. While you can use Thunderbird to send and receive mail from Microsoft Exchange if the Exchange server has been set to support POP (Post Office Protocol), SMTP or IMAP, without Extended MAPI support Thunderbird cant access Exchanges calendaring functionality. And, no matter what one thinks of Exchange as a program, it is the scheduling engine for many businesses. So it is that while I can look forward to the final release of Thunderbird 1.5 as a great replacement for Outlook Express and the like for individuals and small businesses, I still will not be able to recommend it as an enterprise program. If you want an open-source e-mail client that also supports scheduling and can deal with Exchange, your choice remains Novells Evolution on Linux. There are no good open-source alternatives for big business e-mail on Windows. Hopefully, as Lightning matures, the Mozilla Foundation will be able to present users with a compelling enterprise-level Thunderbird, but 1.5 will not be it. eWEEK.com Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way. He can be reached at sjvn@ziffdavis.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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