Mozilla's open-source Outlook alternative Thunderbird gains an impressively fast and new way to search your e-mail, a new migration assistant, and a download manager in its latest update. Arriving on-time for its development calendar, Thunderbird 3.1 for Windows, Mac, and Linux debuts several helpful new features, along with performance improvements and bug-fixes.
The biggest change to Thunderbird is the Quick Filter bar. Although the global search field was impressive when it was introduced in Thunderbird 3, Quick Filter accelerates the search process by making a number of filters readily available. It lives just below the tab bar, above your list of e-mails. Type a query into the search field and filters to confine the search to Sender, Recipients, Subject, and Body appear below the filter. These can be applied individually or combined for broader results. To the left of the search field are more filters, designed for keyword-free searches. They focus on specific kinds of e-mails, including Unread, Starred, Contact, Tags, and Attachment. There's also a pin, which will allow you keep a filter active even as you switch folders.
The new migration assistant is also big news for users who are making the jump to Thunderbird. It's hard to convince a new user that your program is worthwhile if it doesn't make importing easy, and thankfully version 3.1 addresses what was generally viewed as a mediocre migration process from the last version. The assistant now will let you also roll back interface changes from Thunderbird 2, such as bringing back the previous toolbar, and it will link you to add-ons such as Compact Header that restore some functionality that was lost in last December's upgrade to Thunderbird 3.
Thunderbird shares the same engine as Firefox, Gecko 1.9.2, an improvement from Thunderbird 3.0's Gecko 188.8.131.52. The latest version also ports Firefox's download manager to Thunderbird, giving users much better control over downloading attachments. Users should expect generally better performance from Thunderbird 3.1 because of various bug-fixes that were implemented, most notably with the search bar and message indexing. If you have a deep inbox, though, you can still expect Thunderbird to take several hours to index all your messages the first time you use it.
Mozilla has made the full list of changes available at Thunderbird Web site.