Mozilla Messaging has released the third alpha of upcoming Thunderbird 3 (code named Shredder). Originally planned as a beta, the Thunderbird team reversed its decision as there’s still plenty of work to be done including the most expected integration with the Lightning extension to provide calendaring features.
This alpha brings a few interesting improvements like the inclusion of some common controls (like reply forward and delete) to the message preview pane, and the option to add a contact to the address book by starring it.
A field for adding the birthday of a contact has also been added.
Another welcomed improvement is integration with Windows Vista search engine, so you can search messages, feed items, and newsgroup messages form Vista’s own search interface. The first time you run Alpha 3, it prompts whether you want to enable the feature or not.
Performance wise, messages are downloaded in the background for IMAP accounts, and can be set for the whole account or specific IMAP folders, for a better offline experience.
Thunderbird 3 Alpha 3 is available in about 30 languages and can be downloaded from Mozilla Messaging. Keep in mind that this is alpha quality so you may want to avoid using it with any data you may miss.
Shredder Alpha 3 release notes.