After my articles in my recent email newsletters, in which I wrote about dropping Eudora OSE and switching to Thunderbird, I received several emails from current Thunderbird users. In one case, it was a question about something the reader couldn’t do.
In this case, subscriber Richard Fuller wrote to give me his thoughts and complaints about Thunderbird:
I’m sorry to be the one who might spoil your love affair with Thunderbird, but I believe a word of caution might be wise.
I’ve used TB for several years now, ever since OE took to ‘losing’ various folders at frequent intervals regardless of how frequently I compacted folders. TB has a lot of good features, including excellent search functions, tabs, and the ability to ‘thread’ messages with similar content, but I still find it painfully slow at times.
However, the real bête noire is the Compose window. Leaving aside the stupid, gimmicky, and confusing non-standard toolbar buttons for font characteristics, of which I will say nothing, it has been an absolute nightmare to use from day one. Fonts changed willy-nilly and for no apparent reason, obstinately refusing to obey instructions to return to the desired format.
There is an anguished thread on Mozillazine dedicated to this and associated problems, with innumerable derogatory and angry remarks from frustrated users. While Mozilla obviously don’t consider it a priority and have persistently failed to address those issues, most of those who post on the forum, not least myself, consider the Compose/Editor feature to be a principal and vital function of an e-mail client.
For their part Mozilla have relied upon add-ons to address these issues, in which they have been only partially successful. Personally I’ve used three in a not entirely successful endeavour to tame the unmanageable beast: Quote and Compose Manager; Change Quote and Reply Format; and Compact Header. However, I never found an answer to the most infuriating problem of all, an insertion point that sits slap bang on top of a character so that you never know exactly where it is and spend your life making faulty corrections because you backspaced when you should have deleted, or vice versa.
That said, with recent updates things have improved. Fonts are a lot more stable and the dreaded undecided insertion point is at last where it should be, between characters instead of on top of them, and applying justification does not throw one’s entire composition into chaos.
Unfortunately some serious flaws remain. The Compose window still cannot replicate the fonts of messages one replies to or forwards, and the headers would still be a disaster but for the Change Quote and Reply Format add-on. It has a proclivity for arbitrarily deleting the odd word, and occasionally when highlighting text to make a type-over correction the type-over appears in completely the wrong place.
Don’t ask me how that’s possible, it’s more than my simple mind can grasp, but I assure you it’s true and not just finger trouble on my part. Not infrequently there is a lengthy pause when typing, then after a few seconds during which nothing happens as you type the whole lot suddenly appears as if by magic. Occasionally the insertion point/cursor goes AWOL for a while, leaving one lost and adrift in a sea of type. Possibly these characteristics may be caused by automatic saves; if so, it reinforces the accusation that TB is too slow.
Since the introduction of v5 there has been a further problem in that any incoming messages filtered to a specified folder cause an error message which states that the relevant *.msf file should be deleted. When that happens it halts the download of any further messages. Thus far, ignoring the message by merely clicking ‘OK’ seems to have caused no problems, but it’s another unfortunate sign that TB is still far from being a robust and polished product.
So TB is not all sunshine and roses, by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve put up with it because of its many useful features and in the hope of improvement, though as mentioned Mozilla have been disgracefully negligent in addressing the Compose window’s serious flaws. Time and lots have practice have made less arduous the job of coping with those that remain.
After reading Richard’s email, I wasn’t sure we were both running the same version of Thunderbird!
Maybe that’s because I had just upgraded from Eudora OSE, which was based on a version of Thunderbird that was over a year old – and a whole lot buggier than the current Thunderbird.
I’m so happy with all the bug fixes that were done. Until I read Richard’s email, I thought that the font problems in the email Compose window were all solved — because the blatant problems that were bugging me in Eudora OSE were now solved.
I have seen the problem about the .msf file that might need to be deleted. But, I’ve also figured out the circumstances that make the bug trigger, or at least one circumstance. If I start Thunderbird and then click the Get Mail button before Thunderbird finishes initializing, then I will invariably get the error dialog box. Click OK a couple times and it’s done.
So, what do I think? I still like Thunderbird. I’m not interested in using Outlook at home!