Friday, December 12, 2008

Thunderbird 2 the email client + customisation my experience

I first started using Netscape Navigator for my browsing & email client needs in 1996. Later I started using Outlook Express (all different versions, from now on referred as OE6) for over a decade. I was never really happy with it but I had no better alternative (TINA factor), even tried Outlook 2000 but found it memory hungry (in those days) & above very slow.
I had heard of other email clients and had installed Eudora once to check its facilities, but was not impressed. OE never seemed to have had any improvement to its functionality. (Except for regular ‘security patches’) Then in beginning of 2008 I installed ThunderBird 2 (henceforth called TB2) and found it much to my liking & with its add-ons it was awesome. It takes about 19 – 21 secs to open first time and uses around 26 MB of memory. It seemed to have almost everything I wanted. But never migrated to it as there were news reports of TB3 in the offing. But in December ’08 I decided to take the plunge. My friend calls me a ‘Microsoft Refugee’ actually I think of my self as a ‘OE6 refugee’
Some of the features I always wanted in an email client are
a) The user can change the mail storage location. OE has this but not Outlook 2000. so that its no longer in the default C:\ drive.
b) Address book storage location is same as the point ‘a’.
c) Email mail a/c settings storage same as in point ‘a’
d) Mail filters could be saved ie: imported or exported.
e) Real time spell check something like in MS Word.
f) Could increase font size in message window by just ctrl +.
g) Wanted smileyes in the mail composer.
h) Auto zip facility of attachments inside the mail composer.
i) Option of easily changing the signature in the mail composer.
j) Easily save attachments automatically in one location (of limited use) or easily save attachments in the location of your choice and even automatically taking the subject line as the file name. (Useful when the attachment is a bank statement eg: (‘Bank Statement from ‘start period’ to ‘end period’ for ‘a/c number’’). This is the level of customization possible in TB2 using extensions.
A lot of these facilities are possible, as TB2 allows a lot of customization by using extensions. All this open source ie: It’s free. :-)
I changed from OE 6 to TB 2, installation is very straightforward and when given a choice to import mail, mail settings, address book. Select mail settings. After that open TB 2 look around to get a feel of it & then import the address book & email thru Tools -> Import.
Default Email a/c Next job is to make an email a/c default, of course if there is only one a/c it will be made default anyway & this para wont be necessary. All email id’s will be seen separate and one below another in the left side pane. Click on the one you want as default and then click on ‘View settings on this account’. The ‘Account settings’ window will now open. Now click on ‘Set as Default’ button. Next in the same window scroll down in the left pane that shows the folders of the email a/c’s and right at the bottom, click on ‘Outgoing Server SMTP’. Select the smtp entry for the default a/c & click on ‘Set Default’, so much for making an a/c default.
Address Book. Now for the address book. If in your previous client you had all your contacts in one folder, then the same will be seen in TB2. But if like me you had segregated your contacts in OE6 into separate folders, then you are going to be disappointed, as all the contacts will be jumbled up in one folder. You will have to make separate ‘folders’ called ‘address books’ (File -> New -> Address Book), in TB2 and drag contacts into the different ‘address books’ of your choice. I guess there is a trade off somewhere.
Mail Import. The imported emails will exist in a separate folder under ‘Local Folders’ called ‘Outlook Express Mail’ with all the separate folder tree structure you had made in OE6 (I assume you had many folders to segregate your mail in OE6). You will have to make a folder with the appropriate name in the relevant destination location. Then go to the imported folder, select all its contents (I assume you know how to do that), right click and click on ‘Move To’ and the relevant destination folder you see. It might so happen that if you have many folders of mail with a lot of contents then there is a possibility that, when you right click on the selected mail you cannot see the relevant destination folder you just made. Don’t fret just close TB2 & open again you will see it, and then do the needful. This ‘donkey work’ will have to be done there’s no escaping it.
In OE you could have had many email ids in your mail profile or you could make different profiles for each email id. If it’s the latter you will have to import mail separately. But import the mail from the second profile only after you shift the mail from the ‘Outlook Express Mail’ folder of the previous mail import & deleting the ‘Outlook Express Mail’ folder, which would then be empty.
If it’s the former then you have a chore of separating mail in the imported OE ‘Inbox’ folder as the contents can be for different a/c’s & also from the imported OE ‘Sent’ folder as the contents can be from different a/c’s.
The mail segregation can be done as follows.
There are two ways of doing it
a) Create a filter (this will be a temporary filter) to separate the mails AND transfer them to the relevant folder.
b) For the relevant folder type the relevant email-id in the search field (top right side of TB2) and then drag separated mail to their destination folder.
This would filter out most mails in these two imported OE folders, but problems could arise in the imported OE ‘Inbox’ folder where your email-id is in the Bcc list. In that case you may have to manually go thru each mail on an individual basis.
Message Filters. After this chore is done now for the ‘message filters’. I presume that if you had many folders in OE6, you would have made mail filters also called ‘Message Rules’ in OE6. Here too there is no escaping the drudgery of making each filter separately as OE6 never had a import/export option. You will have to go to Tools -> Message Filters, select the relevant a/c then click on New to make the filter. I have not elaborated as I presume if you had made a rule in OE6 you can do the same here. it would be a good idea to export your message filters to a folder (created by you) in your Thunderbird profile, so that way you have a backup of your filter when you take a backup of your profile.

Changing Mail Storage location

To create the mail storage location of your choice do the following

  1. Completely close Thunderbird.
  2. Copy the profile folder to wherever you want to store it. You can copy it anywhere except the application's program directory.
  3. Start the Profile Manager. A window similar to the one shown will open.
  4. Click on "Create Profile..." and, in the dialog that opens, enter a descriptive name for the profile you copied.
  5. Click on the "Choose Folder..." button. A "Browse for Folder" dialog box will open.
  6. Select the profile folder you copied and click OK.
  7. Review the path shown in the "Completing the Create Profile Wizard" dialog to make sure it is correct, then click "Finish" to create the new profile.
  8. Select the new profile and press the Start button to start Thunderbird using the moved profile.
  9. Next, check that you can see the folders for each account. If they're missing, use the "Browse" button for the local directory in Tools -> Account Settings -> Server Settings and Tools -> Account Settings -> Local Folders to specify the correct account and mail directories.
For backups of your email, address books, extensions, message filters all you have to do is make a copy of your profile folder, the same one you changed the location of above. That’s it, a far cry from OE6 where every thing was dispersed, so required far more effort.
Customization. This can be done, using extensions, which can be found, on the mozilla site. There are scores of extensions many very useful, some frivolous. Installations are straightforward. Download the required extension then, inside TB2 go to Tools-> Add-ons->Install.
I have found the following useful and am using them.
1. Attachment Extractor. Extracts all attachments from selected messages and then can delete, detach or mark-read and more
2. AutoZip Attachments. Auto Zip Attachments allows you to easily compress (zip) attachments. In mail composer. This icon will be seen in the toolbar of the mail composer window
3. British English Dictionary. (This works in FireFox too.)
4. ReminderFox ReminderFox. displays and manages lists of date-based reminders and ToDo's. ReminderFox does not seek to be a full-fledged calendar. In fact, the target audience is anybody that simply wants to remember important dates (birthdays, anniversaries, bills, etc) without having to run a whole calendar application. ReminderFox makes sure you remember all of your important dates via easy-to-use lists, alerts, and alarm notifications. This will be seen in the right hand corner of the status bar.
5. Signature Switch. Switch the signature on/off or choose a new one from your predefined set. This icon will be seen in the toolbar of the mail composer window.
6. ThunderBird Message filter Import/Export. Thunderbird Message Filter Import/Export is a thunderbird/mozilla extension to import/export message filters and will be found at Tools -> Message Filters (for exporting) & Tools -> Import Filters (for importing filters).
7. Webmail
8. Webmail Gmail
Some extensions may require additional settings change to customize for your needs. Eg: (1), (above) which I will show below.
These settings (shown below) will allow your email attachment to either be saved on the desktop (default) with the subject line of the email as the attachment file name or can be saved to a destination of your choice, with the subject line of the email as the attachment file name. Destinations other than desktop can be remembered for future use by the settings in the the ‘Advanced’ tab -> ‘Most Recently Used Folders List’ .
where \abc is the user profile name

 To Use (ver on Thunderbird 10.0.2 (Update as on 7-3-2012)

Once installed, just select the messages containing the attachments you want to extract, right click, and select 'Extract Selected Attachments' from the context menu. This will extract all the attachments from all the messages you have selected to the default Thunderbird download folder. If you want to choose the destination this time, select 'Extract Selected Attachments To..." to save to a folder of your choice. You can also access these functions from the 'Tools' menu in a 'Extract Attachments' submenu. There is also a Toolbar button you can add which gives you one-click extracting - left click to extract selected to default; right click to extract selected to a specified folder.


Anonymous said...

WoW a good one. But looks complicated :) Never the less will give it try as I am sick of my current email client

Anonymous said...

Great post. Have switched to using TB2. But I notice that when I click on the 'Inbox', its a bit slow to respond :)