Thunderbird 3 Beta 1 taking over where Shredder leaves off

Mozilla Messaging has unveiled the first Beta release of Thunderbird 3, calling it a “milestone” but acknowledging that it’s still a work in progress. CEO David Ascher is very happy with the release:

“We’ve gotten Thunderbird to the point where we’ll be able to experiment with exciting new ways of managing, viewing, sorting, and processing mail. And lots of other people will be able to as well. Out of that, we should be able to figure out ways to make email work better for millions of people. That’s pretty exciting to me!”

His enthusiasm is contagious – a lot of upgrades have been made since Thunderbird 2, incorporating feedback and suggestions from previous releases. Highlights include faster message loading for IMAP, a tabbed mail interface, an improved reader view and a better Address Book interface, a new Add-Ons Manager, integration with Windows Vista search and Mac OS X Address Book, and better import from other clients.

“In some ways, this is a typical beta,” says Ascher in his blog, but “[i]t’s also a good beta in that we’ve moved the product forward.” However, he continues, the release of Thunderbird 3 is also “far from a typical beta” because major feature changes and upgrades are continuing which will (or will not) be integrated into future beta releases.
 
Ascher previews some cool experimental add-ons, including improved (and simplified) account configuration, a slick tabbed UI, and the ability to save messages by conversations (though that’s not the default). The search function will also be drastically improved – much smarter and more efficient, without requiring users “to think like database programmers, which most of us aren’t,” Ascher notes wryly.
 
What I love most about this release is its forward-thinking aspect: Ascher’s excitement is evident, and he is genuinely looking forward to all the ways in which foundational parts of Thunderbird can be “platforms for experimentation, whether by us, or by others.” The open source nature keeps Thunderbird naturally dynamic.

Developers and the curious are invited to read the Release Notes, test it out, and give feedback.