It turned out that a few weeks were really more like a few minutes. Mozilla Messaging has released the first alpha of Shredder (icon wanted), the code name of Thunderbird 3.
As planned, this new release has the main goal of letting Thunderbird users that its email client is alive and healthy and this alpha packs a year of work since the last major Thunderbird release.
Like Firefox 3, Shredder Alpha 1 is based on Gecko 1.9 featuring the same memory improvements we have seen suring its development. It also brings one of its limitations: Thunderbird 3 will be available for Windows 2000 and later Windows releases. Windows 95/98/Me users are out.
While at this stage, any feature can hardly be considered final (think Places in Firefox 2), there’s some interesting stuff to look at:
Most notable, messages can be opened in individual tabs effectively reducing the clutter. It’s not the default behavior for double clicking on a message though, you will have to right click and select Open message in new tab.
Like Firefox 3, the Add-ons Manager is now integrated with Mozilla Add-ons so you can easily search and install themes and extensions without leaving Thunderbird. instead of downloading the .xpi or .jar files, you just have to click on Add to Thunderbird… to install an add-on.
For Mac OS X users, Thunderbird is now a native Cocoa application and integrates with Mac’s address book.
There’s still no sign of the most significant feature planned for Thunderbird 3: integrating Lightning, a Thunderbird extension that adds full calendaring functionality, as this release is more about consolidating all the work of the year into a release.
A second alpha, targeted for July, should be another interesting update as there is an intensive ongoing brainstorming for easier ways for users to search and organize their messages, contacts and agendas.