Despite the popularity of instant messaging, Twitter and the like, e-mail is still one of the most frequently used online communication channels – especially in the business sector. In comparison to many browser-based solutions Mozilla Thunderbird a desktop client for Windows, Linux and macOS, which is also available as a portable version. The free software from the manufacturer Mozilla is one of the most popular open source programs and offers pretty much everything you need to work with e-mails – and even more.
All-round peace of mind when working with e-mails
Mozilla Thunderbird leaves little to be desired when it comes to handling e-mails. Probably the largest open source competitor to Microsoft Outlook for Windows, it has all the features you need to write and manage electronic mail. Standard features include replies, all replies, and forwarding, as well as adding attachments before sending. An integrated address book helps to manage contacts – with a search function you can keep track of the entire mail collection. If you want to put e-mails on the sidetrack, you can archive them with Mozilla Thunderbird – here they are stored in folders with year numbers. With a click on an e-mail – no matter in which folder – it opens for viewing in a lower area of the program window. A double-click opens the mail in a separate tab, so that you can access it easily at the top of the window.
Create an email account
Of course, before using Mozilla Thunderbird, you need to download it and create an account, as with any email service, before installing it. The program comes with a wizard that performs all settings and setup procedures automatically – provided it knows the provider associated with the e-mail address used. This is convenient because it saves users the hassle of searching for and setting up appropriate servers for each email protocol.
Protocols for e-mail exchange
A word about those very protocols: E-mails from Thunderbird are downloaded via POP3 from the provider server – they are sent via SMTP. The e-mail client can also use IMAP, but this can only be used if the respective provider supports this protocol. IMAP is a bit more practical than POP3 because it doesn’t simply download email from the server. Instead, the changes do not take place locally in Thunderbird, but on the mail server itself. If you now switch to another e-mail program or a web frontend, for example, all data is always up to date.
Originally, email privacy was considered as carefree as surfing the web. There wasn’t actually any encryption. However, this has changed in recent years. In the meantime, e-mails are exchanged between client and e-mail server via an encrypted connection. However, they then lie unencrypted on the provider’s server.
The Thunderbird add-on Enigmail protects the e-mails better and encrypts the e-mails so that only the recipient can read their content. Even on the email provider’s server, email content remains encrypted, making unwanted access more difficult and increasing security and privacy.
Encrypt and expand
Mozilla’s free email client comes with a host of features, including an RSS reader that lets you subscribe to and receive information and news feeds on any topic.
If you need or want more features, you can take a look at the many available add-ons, add-ins and extensions that can be downloaded and added to Mozilla Thunderbird. For example, you can integrate a spell checker or add dictionaries – both for different languages.
Like version 57 of Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird also had changes in the API for the extensions. Thus from version 60 of Mozilla Thunderbird only add-ons that use the new API and are compatible with version 60 can be used. The old API has disabled Mozilla with version 60, so extensions that have not been adapted will no longer work.
Precautions against spam and phishing
To completely prevent spam and other digital inconveniences is almost impossible – even Thunderbird is not omnipotent here. However, an adaptive spam filter is on board the Mozilla software and moves suspicious messages directly to the spam folder. Thanks to a self-learning blacklist, the filter does this even better and more reliably over time. If mail garbage lands in your inbox, users can simply click on the “Junk” button to throw it directly into the spam folder. This click is then remembered by the blacklist – in future, the unwanted e-mails are automatically sorted out by the software. The filter also checks mails for common phishing criteria and issues a corresponding warning if suspected. However, this feature is not error-free – so you should always think twice about opening an e-mail from an unknown sender. Of course, this warning applies twice to links in e-mails and opening unknown e-mail attachments.
Mozilla Thunderbird is available as a version for installation on Windows, Mac and Linux. The software can also be used portably under Windows and Linux. The corresponding portable version Thunderbird Portable is also available for download and can be started directly from removable media such as USB sticks without installation.
Alternatively, there is other e-mail software that we present in the special The best free e-mail clients.