Mozilla Thunderbird

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CNET Editors' Rating 5.0 stars


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  • 3.0 stars

    "Great in so many ways, but can be very frustrating"

    April 20, 2009  |   By jojoquacks


    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; 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.

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2 replies to this review

  • Reply by ses6236 on May 22, 2009

    The rare and unusual usage of a software is, by definition, not something that the software developer is likely to test..."who would ever do that?"

    Try removing all of your email accounts but 1 and see if things work better. If they do, then add back one account at a time and give the TB a trial period sufficient to reproduce the problems of the past.

    Also, if TB is slow to respond give it time, especially if the cpu is busy. You might have a problem with hardware, in that it might be too slow, not enough real memory, not enough virtual memory (this boosts the page rate).

    Try to get somebody more expert than yourself to either help you or to debug the problem for a fee. My guess is that your problem is not TB, but rther something else in your hardware of software.

  • Reply by ses6236 on May 22, 2009

    You have had an exceptional experience. This is not the place for problem solving, the forums are. I have had an occasional "folder busy/in use" but not many. I found that simply closing/killing Thunderbird solved the problem.

    As to your other problems, there is something wrong either in your hardware, your operating system, other software on your system conflilcting with Thunderbird, the way that you installed Thunderbird or the way in which you are using TB. I gave these in descending order of where I would investigate first.

    It is possible that something like the number of email accounts installed might contribute to your problems. Your # of accounts sounds unusually high, and one would hope that that has no bearing on the situation, but that is still just about the first thing that I would investigate to solve your problems. The rare and unusual usage of a software is often exactly why unusual problems occur and the problems are so hard to debug.

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