So today I decided to try Thunderbird 0.9 for Windows. I've never used Thunderbird before since it doesn't work on my Linux machine. Of course, Firefox doesn't work either except for version 0.7. Unfortunately, I've reached my limit of dealing with gtk dependencies.

The first thing I noticed after running Thunderbird is that it didn't migrate any Mozilla mail, although it did seem to be smart enough to retrieve some junk mail from my mail server. So I imported mail manually. The second thing I noticed is that I can now search the entire message right from the toolbar. To do this:

  • Select Find In Message from the search dropdown.
  • Type some search text and wonder why nothing is happening.
  • Relize that you should have selected the similarly named Entire Message instead.
  • Type some search text and smile that it actually worked.

The third thing I noticed was that the attachment pane has been moved to a spot along the bottom of the window. Nothing wrong with that.

The fourth thing I noticed was that I couldn't find any of Thunderbird's new features. No RSS support to be found. No message grouping to be found. I found them eventually by looking them up on some online help pages.

There's one feature that neither Mozilla Mail nor Thunderbird have which I need. After using a mail client all these years, I find that the biggest problem I have is trying to find a message I looked at recently. There are various search features, but unfortunately, they require that I know something about what I am looking for. For instance, I can find a message containing 'I have put the mockups of the UI on the web site.', by searching for 'mockups' or 'UI'. However, the way one searches in applications by using keywords and building expression-like syntax using a bunch of fields and dropdowns isn't how anybody's brain actually thinks. Instead of thinking 'search for the word mockups', I would think, 'that message that had the screenshots'.

How could this be improved? By making a view of the messages that Thunderbird thinks the user is most interested in. It can do this by knowing that 95% percent of messages that someone receives aren't very interesting. How would it know which messages are the 5% of the interesting ones? By watching the user read their mail.

Chances are that if I look at a message for three seconds, it isn't interesting. On the other hand, if I clicked a link in the message, it was probably an interesting message. A variety of factors can be used. Did I scroll the message in a manner that suggested I was reading it? Did I move the message to another folder? If I replied to it, it may have been interesting, but chances are that I have already finished with it. And so on.

Neither Thunderbird nor Mozilla Mail track how many times I viewed a message, or when. I'm not so interested in when I received a message, but when I looked at it, since I'm far more likely to remember that. If I've viewed a message several times, chances are it's interesting. Why not have a recently viewed list?

And what about a view which combines all messages into one? Trim out the less interesting messages, and trim out all the quoted text and signatures, and you've got a nice compact display of text that is easily searchable with type-ahead find. What about a summary of all links in all my messages? What about a page containing all images?

Ooo, I can see those extensions now...