Thunderbird and Firebird

No, they’re not comic book superheroes, cutsey nicknames for two gay guys or anything else like that. Thunderbird and Firebird are Mozilla’s own “dynamic duo”.

If you’ve never heard of these two birds, they’re a stand-alone Web browser (Firebird) and email client (Thunderbird) from mozilla.org, who brought the world the Gecko rendering engine and created most of the technology behind Netscape 7. They include amazing features like pop-up blocking (Firebird), tabbed browsing (Firebird) and automatic spam filtering (Thunderbird). The pop-up blocking works so well that Netscape initially took it out of Netscape 7 because it was blocking AOL’s own pop-ups. Tabbed browsing is the greatest invention for Web browsers since forever. Instead of opening multiple windows when you’re browsing more than one site at once, you can just open a new tab in the window you’re using. That keeps all the pages in one place that you can easily find, instead of trying to remember what window is what site (especially if you’re using Windows XP and all your browser windows have collapsed into one taskbar button group.

The best part about Thunderbird’s spam filtering is that it learns as it goes what you consider spam and, better yet, what you consider to NOT be spam. After a little training (you have to spend some time initially telling it exactly what is and what is not spam) it’ll start identifying spam on it’s own, with very few false positives. Before long, you’ll be able to just turn the spam filtering system totally automatic, and you won’t even see the spam, it’ll automatically be deleted for you.

If you use Netscape, you should consider replacing it with these two programs. They work better, with less Netscape-specific advertising crap. If you use Internet Explorer and Outlook or Outlook Express, you should give Firebird and Thunderbird a try. I guarantee you’ll like what you see.

It’s been about a month now since I finally kicked the Outlook/Internet Explorer habit, and I couldn’t be happier. Especially Outlook.

The best part about Thunderbird and Firebird is that they come with everything they need to get the job done, and no more. This keeps the size of the download down. Anything beyond the basic functionality they come with can be added by downloading small plugins called “extensions”. Here’s a list of the extensions you’ll want to add:

Firebird:
Google Bar
JAVA (if you don’t already have it from a Netscape installation)
Paste and Go
Popup ALT Attributes
Things They Left Out

Thunderbird:
Get All Messages

You can get the Firebird installer for Windows at http://seb.mozdev.org/firebird/. The current version as of this entry is 0.6.1. Download the first file under “Milestone releases” to get the most recent stable version. The Firebird extensions can be downloaded from http://texturizer.net/firebird/extensions.html.

You can get the Thunderbird installer for Windows at http://seb.mozdev.org/thunderbird/. The current version as of this entry is 0.2. Download the first file under “Milestone releases” to get the most recent stable version. The Thunderbird extensions can be downloaded from http://texturizer.net/thunderbird/extensions.html.

The more daring amongst you can try the latest “Nightly builds” version, which is (usually) more recent, but more likely to be bug-ridden.

Give them a try. You’ll be impressed.

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