When I last wrote about Mozilla Thunderbird 3 ten months ago, I wasn’t too pleased with what Mozilla delivered. Judging from the comments on that article, a whole bunch of other people had problems aplenty when TB hit the big version 3, stemming from the program itself and not what OS it was running on.

Thunderbird is now at version 3.1.6, A lot of things can change in ten months, so I downloaded TB 3.1.6, installed and tried it out.

I’m happy to say that all the instability problems I encountered with 3.0 are now gone in 3.1.6. TB 3 is no longer the clunky, crash-happy beast it was when first introduced. Instead it works and gets your mail chores done in fine style. At this point I can now say that if you’re looking for a good free mail client, you can put Thunderbird back on the list.

Thunderbird 3.1.6 vs. Other Free Mail Clients

It’s better to show TB as it would compare to its closest competitors based on platform you intend to run it on. With that said, here’s how TB fares per each respective environment:

windows
Windows

Main free competitor on this platform: Windows Live Mail

Windows Live Mail seems to be getting worse as time goes on. WLMail was actually really good when it was simply Windows Mail, first appearing in Vista. It was designed right and worked great. Then came Windows Live Mail, and per each release of that software, Microsoft continues to mess up this client to a point where Windows users say, "Um.. can we have Outlook Express back, please?", but we obviously can’t go back to that.

The only good thing about WLMail at this point is DeltaSync, the mail protocol used for connectivity to hotmail.com, live.com and msn.com email accounts. If you use Hotmail in WLMail, that’s a good setup. If you’re using POP or IMAP however, you would be much better off with Thunderbird.

apple
Mac

Main free competitor on this platform: Mail.app

Apple’s Mail.app is a very old mail client built upon very old code. How old? Old as in originally part of the NeXTSTEP operating system, that’s how old.

Mail.app has only had 4 versions. Version 4 was introduced with OS X v10.6 (Snow Leopard) that includes Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 support.

This mail client more or less follows the "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" type of programming mentality.

There are only two types of people when it comes to Mail.app. Those who love it and those who hate it with no in between. The ones who hate it are usually Gmail users who typically report seriously wonky Gmail IMAP connectivity when using Mail.app. It does however do POP3 quite well.

Thunderbird 2 was not liked too much by Mac users because it was a bit unstable, but TB 3 as far as I’m aware fixed most of the off-again/on-again stability in the OS X operating system.

Basically put, if you use IMAP connected email, Thunderbird is the better choice over Mail.app.

linux
Linux

Main free competitor on this platform: Evolution

Evolution is a great mail client that also has OS X and Windows versions. This software has all the features a good free mail client should have. Evolution’s only real pitfall is that it runs best on Linux. If you run it on OS X or Windows, it’s just not the same and will encounter some stability issues periodically.

If you only use the Linux environment, then by all means, use Evolution. But if you’re an OS hopper of sorts, Thunderbird is the better choice because it’s more consistent between OSes and stable on all three major platforms.

Thinking of giving Thunderbird another go?

If you hated it before, let’s just say with 3.1.6 you’ll hate it a whole lot less. 🙂