Hands On Review of Thunderbird 3

After a long wait, Mozilla finally releases version 3.0 of Thunderbird. This latest version of Thunderbird brings much changes and makes it even more powerful than its ancestor. In this article, we take a look at the Thunderbird 3.0 and show you what you are going to expect in this great software.


If you are using Windows/Mac, you can download the installer and do a standard installation in your OS. However if you are using Linux, the installation method is slightly different.

There are two ways to install Thunderbird 3 in Linux (Ubuntu):

First method:

  • Download the tar file from the Thunderbird download site.
  • Extract the tar file to your Home folder. You should now see a Thunderbird folder.
  • Open up the Thunderbird folder. Locate a file with filename thunderbird
  • Right click on this file and select Properties. Click on the Permissions tab and checked the box “Allow executing file as program“. Close the dialog window.
  • Double click on the thunderbird file. When prompted, select Run.

That’s it. Thunderbird 3 should now run in your Linux OS. This is so far the easiest method to run Thunderbird 3.0 in Linux. The downside is that you have to update it manually everytime a new build is released.

Second method (PPA method):

Open up a terminal and type the following:

sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list

Add the Mozilla daily build PPA into the sources.list

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/ubuntu-mozilla-daily/ppa/ubuntu karmic main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/ubuntu-mozilla-daily/ppa/ubuntu karmic main

If you are still using Jaunty, remember to change the karmic to jaunty

Save and close the file. Back in your terminal,

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com --recv-keys 247510BE
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install thunderbird-3.0

This will install Thunderbird in your Linux and it will update automatically when a new build is released. (Note: Thunderbird will be renamed as Shredder if you install via the PPA)

New features

The first thing that you will see when running a fresh install of Thunderbird 3.0 is the prompt to set up your email accounts.


Adding your Hotmail or Gmail account is very easy. You just need to enter your username and password and it will do the rest of the configuration. You don’t need to know any IMAP, SMTP, TLS settings, the wizard will check a database and find the right settings for your account. It also supports IMAP by default, so you can sync your online account with Thunderbird easily.

Tabbed content

Thunderbird 3 comes with tab support so you can open your emails in tabs. Search results are automatically opened in new tabs so you can return to your mailbox easily.


New search features

This is one of the most powerful improvement in Thunderbird 3. The search function now includes a highly customizable filter. You can now filter your search to pinpoint the exact email your are looking for.


Also, in your search result, there is a side pane where you can further filter your search result. This is very useful if you have a large number of emails in your inbox.


Activity manager

Activity manager shows all the activites taking place in the background. It gives you a quick glance of your Thunderbird status.


One-click Address Book

The concept used here is the same as the bookmarking concept in Firefox 3. Basically, for any emails, you can click the star beside the address to add it to the address book. Click it again to to add more details like a photo, birthday, and other contact information.


Smart folder

If you have set up multiple email accounts in Thunderbird 3, you can now manage all the inboxes in one place. The Smart Folders feature combine special folders like your Inbox, Sent, or Archive into one folder. Instead of going to the Inbox for each of your mail accounts, you can see all of your incoming email in one Inbox folder. Smart folder is activated by default.

Better toolbar placement

This is one of the few small changes to the interface that makes a big difference. The email toolbar now appears at the header of each email, so you can quickly decide if you want to reply, forward or simply delete the mail.



Like Firefox, Thunderbird also supports addon. The differences between Thunderbird 2 and 3 is that you can now install addon right within Thunderbird (just like how you did it in Firefox). Previously, you have to download and install the extensions manually.


Some other Gmail-like features

Here are some of the new features that are already available in Gmail, but is now integrated into Thunderbird


For long time Gmail users, you will find this feature familiar. The Archive function allows you to store your important emails in the Archive folder. This is useful if you want to keep the emails for future reference, but don’t want it to appear in the inbox.

Attachment reminder

This used to be available as an addon in Thunderbird 2, but it is now upgraded as the main feature. Basically, it will scan your email content and sense any mention of file attachments. It will then remind you to attach if you have not done so.



Like ‘Starring‘ your emails in Gmail, you can now ‘tag’ your emails according to its importance. You can also create your own tags.


Things that have been demanded but not yet integrated in Thunderbird 3

The thing that is most demanded by the public is the integration of the Lightning extension into Thunderbird. Lightning is an extension that adds Calendar features in Thunderbird. It is only with Lightning that Thunderbird becomes more complete and get a chance against Outlook, or even Evolution (in Linux).

The good thing is, you can still install Lightning in Thunderbird 3 via the addons.

Have you tried Thunderbird 3? Do you like it? Let us know in the comments.


Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.

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