Mozilla Thunderbird 3 Review

thunderbird-icon Mozilla, the organization behind Firefox and other open source programs, just released version 3.0 of the Thunderbird email client.

They’ve packed quite a few changes into the new version, such as a tabbed interface, a new search tool and a streamlined setup for Gmail and other online mail services.

I’m a long time Gmail user, so switching to a PC client to read my mail instead of viewing it through a web browser is still feeling strange to me. However, the setup process was as simple as providing my login and password. Within 2 or 3 minutes, I was sending and receiving mail with no problems.

The T-bird main interface isn’t anything exciting to look at, and looks like most other email clients at first. However, there are lots of themes available to make it look just how you like it.

thunderbird-standard thunderbird-aero thunderbird-walnut

The new search interface is almost unbelievable. It’s very fast and it can find anything you’ve ever written once all of your mail is indexed.


The tabs in Thunderbird are a big improvement for those who need to multitask. Opening an email in a tab is as simple as double clicking and right-clicking on a message opens it in a tab in the background. T-bird will also remember what you had open in the tabs when you close the program. The next time you return, the previous mail and searches will still be displayed.

Another thing many people will like is that you’ll be able to use Thunderbird on all of your computers, whether you use Windows, Mac or Linux.

If you enjoy creating nice looking emails, Thunderbird has a good many features to help, fonts of all kinds and tools to insert images, tables, links and HTML code.

The biggest plus in my estimation, is the addon support. There are lots of cool addons for Thunderbird, similar to the addons for Firefox. The first addon that I used allowed me to synchronize my Gmail contacts with T-bird. That certainly saved me time and effort.


The download for Windows is less than 9mb and it installs easily with very few steps.

Download / Main Page for Thunderbird

Techie-Buzz Verdict:


Mozilla has made several excellent improvements with this version. In many cases, they’ve got a real shot at leaving the other email clients far behind in popularity. If you need an email client, Thunderbird is a winner for many reasons.

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

Published by

Clif Sipe

Promoting Freeware and Free information since 2004. Owner of with over 2000 pages of freebies. Please subscribe to my Google Feed or follow me on Twitter @clifnotes.

  • Jon Cverna

    This new version has caused my Earthlink account to stop sending mail.

  • Michael Tiffany

    I must respectuflly disagree with Techie-Buzz's verdict of "Highly Recommended". I tried Thunderbird 3 and was, to be charitable, disappointed. Of the many complaints I could make about the UI, I think the worst thing about Tbird 3 is its lack of support for the Lightning calendar add-on, which, I would like to point out, was promised as far back as February of 2008. An, while Tbird 2 has its bugs, such as the broken "Next" and "Back" buttons which do not actually work, I was expecting those to be fixed and functional in Tbird 3, not removed (or at least so well hidden I couldn't find them). And finally, still no ability to export your data? Even MS Lookout lets you export, albeit to a proprietary PST file format.

    • Excellent points. Since I'd never used T-bird before, I was not aware of their past promises. Would you be interested in submitting a "guest post" with your points. It could be titled something like "Why I Don't Like Thunderbird 3" or "How Thunderbird 3 Failed to Improve".

      See this page about our offer to publish Guest Posts:

    • Steelsnake

      Lightning works perfectly fine in TB3, though at the moment you'll need the nightly build. Non-working extensions are however the responsibility of the extension author to get updated, not TBs responsibility.

      Back/Forward is where it always has been: Right click the Toolbar, select Customize.

      You are correct about export. Exporting the address book is possible (and easy: Tools->Export from the address book… works fine), exporting mails not so much. For that, I prefer IMAP myself… that's where emails should be stored these days anyway, in my opinion.

      • Michael Tiffany

        First, pardon me for being slightly incorrect, when I criticized TB3 for lack of support for Lightning, I should have been more precise: TB3 sucks because it did not integrate the Lightning calendar add-on, as promised back in February of 2008.

        "Lightning works perfectly fine in TB3, though at the moment you’ll need the nightly build."

        Not to be rude, but WTF? "Just download the nightly build?" How about "kindly get it right before it's released?" Who the heck is interested in downloading nightly builds other than developers?

  • Sandeep

    Freaking waste mail client, its been bad to worst.

  • ee

    Hi there,

    well when I see thunderbird 3 I must think of kde 4 when it got released the first time and I really dont understand, why it is available for public download. i got it through my update function on vista 32bits. i got two unsent folders, two junkmail folders acting simultanesly one in my trash, one outside. new folders i put inside my inbox are not there but in local folders… sorry, this is not about a nice update. it doesnt make sense at all. i've got thousands of emails, in several folders and several rules and if i do an update i expect them to work after this one and not to find a completely messed up thunderbird. btw on kde4 the ui looks horible. hmm, i am looking for local mail client for the 21st century, well for 2009 at least, but thunderbird3 isnt it. too bad.

    • Hank Man

      Completely agree. Not yet ready for prime time or even release. Basically an early Beta.

  • Brian Whalen

    I really dont like the sync feature. Now mail that spamassassin would previously defend my system from is now a threat, because the mail is downloaded for indexing purposes. Is there a way to disable this?

  • Han Man

    Thunderbird 3 is a not yet ready for prime time. If you have a POP3 mail server forget it. Go Gmail; we are.
    Mozilla should have left TB 2.0.23 on sites for continued download.
    Grades: I for incomplete and F for not knowing it.

  • Thunderbird 3 arrived with a big promise of wonderful new features. My immediate experience was that it"felt" clumsy, complicated and slow, in lots of small hard-to-pin down ways. It no longer does some of the things I really liked, and it now does a bunch of stuff I have no interest in. It is not nice to use :-(

    A message to the developers… people like things that are nice to use!

    It's NOT about features. A classic engineering mistake is to think that more features = better. The success or otherwise of a product is about the total user experience (not the cleverness of the engineering).

    In my experience TBird 3 is a big leap backwards. I'm going back to an older version if I can… or somewhere else. They just lost me.

  • Greg

    WTF…??? Did Microsoft take over the development of TBird?? Sure looks like it. Makes me wanna cry!

    • Hi Greg – thanks for the comic relief. Don't count on Microsoft to screw up everything. Their newest email client "Windows Live Mail" is actually pretty solid, but does not allow plugins/addons as far as I know. It includes a built in calendar that works very well.

  • Oaken

    Having upgraded to T3 and found few new handy features, I'm still very disappointed.

    For the all reasons given above, and still no synchronization! It's time now to look elsewhere for me.

    For anyone wishing to roll back to earlier versions I'd recommend File Hippo;

  • George Agelopoulos

    Sorry to hear this criticism. I am using TB for a long time and I am pretty satisfied (and I have high expectations). TB 3 mail import/export (as in previous versions) works great (with fine features) with the ImportExportTools Extension. Previous / Next buttons work fine: they take you to the previous / next message you were viewing. TB has always been great with handling multiple email accounts. Migration from TB2 was simple; I mainly use TB Portable, and I only need to copy the mail folder, the extensions, the address book and the prefs file to the new installation for everything to work fine. The Xnote plugin also has been great for commenting emails.

    I have not had any issues with TB 3, and recommend it.

    • I also must respectfully disagree with the review. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of upgrading from version 2 to 3 and regret the decision for these points alone. I have noticed that TB3 is not nearly as stable on the Mac OS X Snow Leopard system. Twice now, in the past two months, I have had TB crash on me and numerous corrupted files, folders, emails. When trying to restore from a backup, the files still appear to be damaged. As a business professional I need to be able to back up all my emails and use throughout the year. Unfortunately, these bugs have cost me valuable time trying to recover damaged email files.

    • Jared

      I also used TB religiously but have decided to uninstall it because TB 3 is awful. Even though I specified my POP and SMTP servers and the proper ports, it still decides to search every combination of IMAP, MAIL, POP, SMTP on standard and SSL ports. Because of that, it takes forever to send and receive email.

      The account management is convoluted to the point of being useless and the rest of the GUI is not that intuitive.

      I am going to try seamonkey, and if that isn’t normal, I’ll be forced to use Evolution.

  • Regina

    I'm new to Thunderbird email. Is there a way to get rid of the email tabs. I'd rather just view the inbox. Thanks.

  • Charles

    Thunderbird 3 sucks. Simple as that. Let's forget about the tabs for a minute. I don't use them, and never will. The reply and delete, etc buttons in the headers? Who needs that? It's a complete waste of space. Can't be turned off. Just terrible.

    TB3 has turned into bloatware. The worst thing about bloatware is all the lame new features that you'll never use not only slow the program down but cannot be turned off.

    I'm sticking with TB2.

    • neto


    • Don

      I Agree, instead of having more room to view e-mails, there is a big ugly header, and empty space above it. Keep it simple and “customizable”, that’s what made firefox great.

    • rjyandun

      I’ve been a big fan of thunderbird for a very long time.. until TB3.
      It put my computer to croll. I get about 50 emails every hour, so connecting in the morning rendered my computer useless for 10 minutes until it would finish downloaded all the email.
      Even after turning the sync feature off, my computer got too slow. I tried all the new features, and I tried to like them, but gave up and went back to TB2. Now my computer feels fast again… but my lightning doesn’t work anymore since the database is in the newer format.. What file should I delete? I didn’t find any files named *.sdb under the Profiles folder. Please help.

  • XYZ

    Thunderbird 3 is just plain DANGEROUS right now. It sends out e-mails without asking me as I'm writing them. I check the send folder and am horrified to find half completed drafts going out multiple times. It often cannot save an e-mail it cannot send to drafts for some reason, or the send folder?

    Yes it has good potential once they fix all the bugs. But at the moment they risk a lawsuit.

  • Bill

    Thunderbird 3 is a steaming pile of shit. Try setting it up for POP3 sometime.

  • Big Red

    Well i think thunderbird is crap. First it wont recognize my password. After about 4 tries it does. Now it keeps telling me to use an unencrypted password. the password setting is for an unencrypted password. And for the life of me what ever happened to drag and drop to transfer your contact list. I’m sticking with the devil I know(windows live horrible) rather than thunderturd which I can’t even get set up to send mail or to transfer my contacts. just awful.

  • Don Christensen

    Ver2 was great! Not having a Send button is ridiculous! At least it should have been available in the Customize section. Now one must click on File and then Send a two step operation that only took one stop in old version. Bah! Humbug!

  • J Cohen

    Thunderbird 3 is absolutely dreadful. It is useless. Stoptinkering. The old version worked FINE. I don’t WANT choices made for me. I don’t want tabs. I don’t want the message taking up my whole window. I don’t want the whole thing to close if I close a message. I don’t want EVERYTHING downloaded every time I open it./ I HATE it./ I am going back to the earliest version I cna find. Why do people get paid to sit aorund making things worse for everyone?

  • tim

    thunderbird 3 is rubbish. I went back to version 2. Then I found out that lightning was not compatible. I had to re-install t3, export the calendar then re-install t2. thunderbird 3 sucks!

    • Thanks for the comments Tim. I’d be willing to bet that the Thunderbird group has heard your cries and will try to do better next time.

      Personally, I had no problems with it in my brief trial. However, you can ignore my opinion, since I haven’t used an email client much in about 6 years. Gmail rules. LOL

  • Vince Wayland

    Thunderbird 3.1.x on a Mac with lightning is not recognizable as a Mozilla product. It is clumsy, ill implemented, poorly integrated into the “Mac Way” and just flat out doesn’t work in some cases.

    1. Printing a monthly grid format calendar comes out portrait by default on multiple pages.

    2. Editing a mail address list is impossible. Creating a new list is impossible, too.

    I don’t know whether to go to imail, outlook or what.

  • Thunderbrid is such a bunch of smokin’ bullcrap, it’s hard to find words for it. Even a 10 year old webmail client is faster and more stable.

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