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Full user review
"Great in so many ways, but can be very frustrating"
FREE; customize with themes & tons of functionality extensions; fairly easy to set up with Google Mail accounts especially; great spam filtering; handles multiple accounts well & can do multiple sub-folders well.
Crashes too often - frequently after "updates" installed; can be a HUGE resource hog (CPU 99% isn't rare); no user manual; online support is pitifully unorganized (both forums & "Mozillazine" articles)
I really love Thunderbird... Except when I hate it.
I was forced to find a full-featured email client when my Office 2003 disk "disappeared" at the same time my ex did (go figure) and Thunderbird was the most obvious choice. Most of the time I love it, in spite of its quirks.
The array of themes should provide a look for just about anyone's taste; even more impressive are the extensions available. Much like its browser brother, Firefox, Thunderbird expands its functionality through the use of these add-ons, which can provide options from changing how your mouse wheel scrolling works to a calendar (complete with the ability to synch with online calendars such as Google's). I also love being able to sift messages down through as many layers of sub-folders as I need through simple filters. It supports both POP & IMAP (through the use of extensions for webmail), although Hotmail/Live Mail doesn't always play well - which is not the fault of Thunderbird. I have over a dozen email accounts all under my Thunderbird roof, and usually the whole program runs seamlessly.
Unfortunately, it seems that nearly every "update" I install (frequently after ignoring prompts to do so for a few days or weeks) brings my harmonious email world to a screeching halt. Currently, I have been trying for 3 days to get the thing to work at all after installing version 22.214.171.124; all it does is keep "processing" folders (and it doesn't tell me which ones) and hogging my entire CPU. In general, Thunderbird is often heavy on resources, which is a big downside.
Once a problem with Thunderbird comes up, the next problem follows immediately: there's no help file. What there is is a poorly organized online system of articles, lumped with Firefox articles under the name "Mozillazine," and an equally poorly organized group of forums. I have spent hours searching both sources to little avail, and since forum posts never seem to be archived (I've been led astray by seemingly-helpful responses from years and versions long past) and Mozillazine articles rarely if ever updated, it makes for a very frustrating and unproductive experience. The forum moderators end up answering the same basic questions repeatedly; if the forums had better organization with subcategories & a FAQ in each of those, it would cut down on both users' & moderators' efforts. A lot of the Mozillazine articles are pretty confusing for non-techies like yours truly; to their credit, forum moderators reply quickly and will kindly give more detailed and plain-spoken instructions when asked.
If Thunderbird didn't drag down my whole system and do so especially when updated, and had better-organized and more user-friendly help, I'd give it 5 stars without hesitation. But for a not-so-techie like me, these issues really hit hard.