22 September 2020

Thunderbird Reborn!So there I was, reading my e-mail the other day, when I received an upgrade notice from Thunderbird.

Great! Maybe they’ll fix things… So I upgraded.

Welcome to Thunderbird 78, where everything has changed!

Well, sort of…

My add-ons no longer worked, the folder pane was hideously black and white, I lost my CompactHeaders, and my message pane buttons were all screwed up. SIGH…

But, not to worry… Big things are in store for good old Tbird, and many of the annoying changes are easy to fix!

What happened to versions 69-77?

There aren’t any.

You see, in our modern era of a “new version” of software every 3 days, Mozilla decided to just skip from 68 directly to 78.

Why? God only knows. But don’t you feel better knowing that Thunderbird is now TEN versions newer?! 😛

What’s new?

Actually, a lot… You can read the Thunderbird 78 changelog here.

You really should check it out… There are a lot of new little features, as well as a few big ones – like:

  • Settings is now it’s own searchable tab, like Firefox
  • The Compose window is re-jiggered
  • New address bar
  • Support for end-to-end e-mail encryption

Okay, but what’s BAD about Thunderbird 78?

Oh, there are a few annoying changes. For example, look at how colorful things are now:

Thunderbird BLACK!
This is what it used to look like in v68:

Thunderbird 68 - with COLOR!
Yeah, that new black-n-white look is hideous. What’s worse, all your old add-ons don’t work any more.

That’s right! Mozilla is changing add-ons in Tbird AGAIN…

You can read more about Thunderbird add-ons here.

In short: We’ve gone from Overlay Extensions to Bootstrap Extensions to WebExtensions… and now (hopefully finally) we’re at MailExtensions.

Most likely, that means you’re favorite add-ons are hosed! Again.

Fortunately, as you’ll see below, the Tbird community is rapidly cranking out replacements – and in many cases, they work better than the old ones.

So all is not lost…

Whatever! How do I get my colored folder icons back?

Easy! You can now customize the color of each folder icon – one by one. It’s tedious, but it works.

First, pick the folder icon whose color you want to change – like the Junk folder.

Right-click the folder, and choose Properties. You’ll see this:

Change Folder Color
Click the colored box after Icon Color, and you’ll get a color picker:

Colored Folders - Color Picker
Note that if you want to make multiple folders the same color, you can choose a color and then click the Add to Custom Colors button to make your life easier!

After colorizing, my folder pane now looks like this:

Colorized Thunderbird 78 folder pane
AH! That’s better!

Oh no! My Message Pane is ugly and huge again!

If the info bar in your message pane looks like this now:

Message Pane - Thunderbird 78
You can fix it. I prefer a compact header, and buttons that have no text. I also insert spaces between the Junk and Delete buttons to prevent clicking the wrong one.

First, to fix the buttons, install the add-on Message Header Toolbar Customize.

With a little tweaking, your header bar in the Message Pane will look like this:

Message Pane - Thunderbird 78 - Fixed
Almost there! Now, I was using the old add-on CompactHeader, but it’s no longer supported in Thunderbird 78.

Fortunately, just a few days ago, I discovered Compact Headers. Install that, and BOOM:

Message Pane - Thunderbird 78 - Fixed AND Compact
MUCH better!

But, but… What about my other add-ons?

Be patient!

Many of them are already almost compatible with the new MailExtension add-on.

I’m guessing that many of the most popular add-ons will see new versions released quite soon.

So, keep an eye out, and don’t fret!

And finally… Thunderbird is gonna get WAY better!

Don’t faint!

If you’re a Thunderbird fan and you’ve been lamenting the slow development pace, hold on to your hat!

You might want to check out the Thunderbird 78+ Roadmap.

Some REALLY cool things are in the works…

  • An all-new, modern Address Book
  • Tons of speed improvements
  • Switch from mbox -> maildir for storing e-mails (YAY!)
  • Better message indexing + search
  • Responsive Layout
  • Folder Pane improvements
  • Calendar improvements
  • Better support for mailing lists
  • And much more!

So, while change may be painful, it appears that Thunderbird isn’t going anywhere anytime soon – despite everyone else’s love of webmail.

In fact, this is all part of big changes with the Thunderbird development team, as well:

There was a time when Thunderbird’s future was uncertain, and it was unclear what was going to happen to the project after it was decided Mozilla Corporation would no longer support it. But in recent years donations from Thunderbird users have allowed the project to grow and flourish organically within the Mozilla Foundation. Now, to ensure future operational success, following months of planning, we are forging a new path forward. Moving to MZLA Technologies Corporation will not only allow the Thunderbird project more flexibility and agility, but will also allow us to explore offering our users products and services that were not possible under the Mozilla Foundation. The move will allow the project to collect revenue through partnerships and non-charitable donations, which in turn can be used to cover the costs of new products and services.

Thunderbird’s focus isn’t going to change. We remain committed to creating amazing, open source technology focused on open standards, user privacy, and productive communication. The Thunderbird Council continues to  steward the project, and the team guiding Thunderbird’s development remains the same.

And that IS good news for those of us who prefer not to store our e-mail in Google’s all-seeing eye…

Stay tuned for more Thunderbird news!

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Thunderbird 78: Change is in the air, but don’t panic!
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4 thoughts on “Thunderbird 78: Change is in the air, but don’t panic!

  • 25 September 2020 at 15:54
    Permalink

    Really getting frustrated with Thunderbird. The new folder icons are junkyard dog ugly, don’t care if you /can/ color them. Previous icons were easy to spot.

    The constant breaking of plug-ins is maddening.

    It’s great that the foundation is fixing things under the hood that need updating and adding features, but the messing with the UI seems gratuitous — let’s change it for change sake. I know a certain Redmond WA company guilty of that and it’s alienating people massively.

    Reply
    • 25 September 2020 at 17:15
      Permalink

      I know, it’s seriously annoying. On the other hand, I’m amazed (and quite happy) that at least SOMEBODY is trying to make a better mail client. Everyone and their dog uses Gmail via the web. So, good mail clients are a dying breed.

      Well, I guess we’ll see where they take Tbird in the months to come…

      Reply
  • 20 October 2020 at 02:52
    Permalink

    I just spent an hour trying to make layout vertical again. so message preview is on right, not bottom. Did not find how… Any ideas???

    Reply
    • 20 October 2020 at 09:26
      Permalink

      Press the Alt key. In the titlebar at the top of the Tbird window, click: View -> Layout -> Vertical view.
      That worked for me!

      Reply

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