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Giving Thunderbird New Wings

Some folks are a little disappointed when they figure out that Thunderbird actually looks and behaves a whole lot like Eudora. For many users, the difference seems little more than cosmetic. So, what's the big deal?

Most fundamentally, the big deal is that Eudora is obsolete and Thunderbird isn't, which ultimately affects the cost of support. And we always want to lower costs, especially in today's economy.

But the big deal is more than that. Thunderbird has features that open up new possibilities for email services. The migration to Thunderbird is only the first of several stages towards improving and diversifying the email services that SCLS provides. You'll be hearing much more about that soon.

In the meantime, you yourself can enhance Thunderbird with just a few clicks. Just like Firefox, Thunderbird supports Add-Ons that give it additional capabilities. Below is a quick overview of a few Thunderbird add-ons that I find priceless.

Lightning and Provider

The Lightning extension for Thunderbird adds a calendar and To-Do list minder to your email client. It lets you easily store private calendar data locally, or access iCal-compatible systems on the Web. When Lightning is combined with Provider for Google Calendar, it lets you integrate both public and password-protected calendars hosted by Google.

This convergence of email and time management exists in other products like Outlook/Exchange and Google Apps, but I personally find the Thunderbird/Lightning/Provider combination to be superior. I use these tools every day and don't know how I managed without them.

Allow HTML Temp

Call me old school. Call me a curmudgeonly luddite. I don't care, I truly believe that the combination of email and HTML is a blight upon the earth, an abomination.

HTML inside email is totally inefficient, highly unsafe and often rather unsightly. So as both a PC safety measure (strong protection against spam, phishing and malware) and for my own sanity, I always read my email with Thunderbird configured not to render HTML. If you're interested, this is done with View > Message Body As... > Plain Text

Well sooner or later, along comes a message from the opposing camp, from someone (typically from a commercial vendor's marketing department) who thinks that HTML in email is the bee's knees and the one true way. Their message to me is all HTML and hardly any plain text or even none at all; "Click here if you can't read this"? Doh!

So I can't read this message without changing my settings. Then later, I have to remember to change them back. Or, I can just click the "Show HTML" button provided in the Thunderbird toolbar by the Allow HTML Temp extension. This causes the HTML in the message I'm currently reading to be rendered, but it lets me keep my preferred View configuration set to Plain Text. Only this message gets rendered, and only once.

I hardly ever actually use this add-on, but when it's needed I really enjoy its ease of use.

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