The Mozilla Foundations Thunderbird 1.0 is a serviceable messaging application, albeit one without the group calendaring features of IBMs Lotus Notes or Microsoft Corp.s Outlook. Its a good fit for any company looking for a cross-platform client that doesnt require advanced groupware features. Released last month as a free download from www. mozilla.org/thunderbird, Thunderbird combines e-mail and RSS and newsgroup readers with good search and organization tools. eWEEK Labs found this releaseone of the few e-mail clients available for Windows, Mac OS and Linuxworth consideration as a client, particularly for companies that arent using the shared calendaring and scheduling features found on messaging servers such as IBMs Lotus Domino and Microsofts Exchange.Furthermore, users can add on to Thunderbird through third-party extensions. Thunderbirds extensions make the client more directly comparable to Outlook and Outlook Express, both of which have good third-party add-in support. The key missing features that would make Thunderbird a more useful corporate messaging client are group calendaring and schedule management capabilities. The Mozilla Foundation is working on Sunbird, a calendar application that can run separately or work with Thunderbird, Firefox and the integrated Mozilla browser application, but the current 0.8.2 version doesnt offer the integrated scheduling features we would like. Click here to read Labs review of Firefox. For example, we couldnt invite other users to an event when creating it, although we could send e-mail invitations for events after they were created. And although we could subscribe to published calendars stored on a server that supports the WebDAV (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning) standard, Mozillas calendar application doesnt support free-time and busy-time look-up on a server. If all users configure their calendars to automatically publish updates, its possible to work around this problem in small workgroups. From a management perspective, we liked the way we could group messages in Thunderbird. For example, we could group by date in the same way Outlook 2003 does. Further, we could create custom message views that function basically the same way as Outlooks saved searches do, letting us view, for example, just messages from a particular sender. Thunderbirds Bayesian filter-based junk mail controls worked well in our tests. Even with minimal training, the controls proved effective at discerning spam from opt-in marketing messages. The inclusion of the RSS reader alone makes Thunderbird worth downloading and installing, if only because it eliminates the need to install (and pay for) a plug-in for Outlook. Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.
In terms of functionality, Thunderbird sits between a full-featured application such as Notes or Outlook and lighter e-mail-only clients such as Microsofts Outlook Express, Qualcomm Inc.s Eudora and Apple Computer Inc.s Mail application. Thunderbirds message organization, anti-spam and search features, which in tests worked nearly as well as those found in Outlook and Notes, elevate the product above the basic e-mail application.