Thunderbird 3 plans include calendaring and more

David Ascher, head of Mozilla’s messaging subsidiary, has posted an outline of the roadmap for Thunderbird 3 signaling the start of a new stage in Thunderbird’s development which has lacked a clear plan of action since Thunderbird 2 release last year.

Increasing Thunderbird already large user base will become a priority, as a way to maximize its impact. As a new Mozilla subsidiary it also has the need to achieve financial sustainability and a larger user base would definitely help.

One approach will be adding so much requested calendaring functions to Thunderbird, making it a real competitor for personal information managers, mainly Microsoft Outlook. This means Thunderbird will bundle Lightning, a mega-extension that embeds Sunbird’s calendaring functions. It is not clear if a Lightning-less version will be made available.

Another area is better search capabilities to at least match Gmail and Yahoo! Mail accuracy. A more powerful interface to give extension developers more control and less limitations on what they can do. This already started last November with the announcement of STEEL, which aims to provide an easier interface for developers in the same way FUEL does for Firefox 3.

Overall user experience will be enhanced, for example with message tabs, to avoid the clutter when opening several messages in different windows at the same time. This improvement is already in place in Thunderbird developers releases and can be seen in Spicebird and the modern version of Yahoo! Mail.

In the back-end, they will aim to get rid of some obsolete data formats like Mork and RDF and replace them for easier to maintain data storage like SQLite-based MozStorage (coming with Firefox 3) which provides more powerful access mechanisms and is easier to maintain.

David also provided a rough schedule: first alphas this quarter, beta in the second, more betas now with integrated calendaring in the third and final release by year’s end. It seems that it will have to focus in the precise points mentioned here to stay within this very aggressive schedule.

But I think it is very necessary to have a Thunderbird release this year if only to prove the project is alive and kicking and Mozilla is pretty serious about messaging. Nothing talks better than results.

Thunderbird will also face competition from Spicebird, a project that has already succeeded in merging Thunderbird and Lightning and even XMPP based instant messaging. Could Mozilla hire the whole Synovel team? It would be a great boost in line with the recent head hunting Mozilla went on Humanized.

There’s also the never-heard-about-again topic of bundling Thunderbird and Lightning with OpenOffice.org. OpenOffice.org still lacks a PIM which the new Thunderbird could deliver, while benefitting from OOo greater business appeal as a Microsoft Office alternative.

13 thoughts on “Thunderbird 3 plans include calendaring and more”

  1. Although I’m currently using Lightning with Thunderbird I don’t think that Thunderbird should force everybody to have a calendar in their email-client.

    None of my friends have their calendars on their computers – most have them in their pockets or in their memories and forcing a calendar upon their email-clients would just be to bloat them and scare them away to webclients like Gmail.

    I’m glad that Thunderbird will be updated! I hope they will make it easier to categorize messages as well as minimizing the amounts of windows needed to read messages – tabs in other words – it’s part of what brought Firefox it’s success…

  2. Pingback: The Roadmap to Thunderbird 3.0 « OSS Blog
  3. Pingback: Brian Dusablon » Blog Archive » Thunderbird Avec Calendar!
  4. As per my opinion it’s a great idea to equip T-Bird with a PIM system (what about a PIM system as an extension? Oops … T-Bird Add-on)) as well as to start collaborating with OOo (also as per an T-Bird Add-on), which will move Mozilla to the immediate competitor of MS-Office Suite, but still keep T-Bird as a Stand-Alone version for customers, who do not need PIMs or Office suites.
    Many of my customers resisted to convert to Mozilla and OOo due to the lack of a real suite like MS-Office’s comfort.

  5. I can’t see the point in integrating the calendar in Thunderbird, there is already the Lightening addon and the suite version in Spicebird. Keep the core Thunderbird clean and let other projects integrate calendaring, chat and other things.

  6. I think Thunderbird can be kept as pure email client (like Outlook Express), and you can launch another product by combining Thunderbird with calendar, and IM too. Those who need only mail client will use Thunderbird, others can use the other product.

  7. Could it perhaps be a better idea to integrate the mail into Sunbird/Lightning instead of integrating the calendar into Thunderbird?

    If Mozilla did that it would en up with three strong products – rather than two.

  8. While this blog cites David Ascher’s comments in mozilla.dev.planning the meat of discussion was taking place in mozilla.dev.apps.thunderbird to which all followup was directed.

    For the calendaring goal, the plan is to enhance the Tbird side of the equation to ease integration of Lightning for a more robust extension targeted at personal and small business users. An element of this is some rework of the Tbird address book that Lightning can play off of. And for clarity, Lightning is and will continue to be a users option Add-on.

    The goal of migrating away from the Mork database technology is most likely to show up in the address book first. A Key issue with all potential Off-The-shelf Open-Source technology will be licensing compatible with Mozilla Foundation policy.

    One shift of focus for the Mail side of Tbird will be IMAP mail which can offer users features that POP3 servers can not support. The Tbird 3 alpha testers will get a surprise from what is happening with the Newsreader. Some long delayed work on filtering landed on the trunk with more patches in the pipeline.

    The current RSS feed handling was a hot topic in the discussions and the brainstorming is fueling some new design concepts to ease setup and use of feeds. Other concepts included the protocols API to ease Add-on Developers task of extending features for users looking for things like Jabber and Addressbook syncing with cell phones. Actually Jabber is available now as a Tb 2 add-on that uses screen space some will not like sacrificing. The Tbird 3 Tabs interface is the sort of solution some work in the core code can facilitate integration of future extension needs.

    As a member of the Thunderbird Community I am glad to see the project getting some news coverage. I hope some of my commentary satisfactorily addresses the other comments appended to this blog.

  9. I hope Thunderbird supports strong basic functions such as full support for DSN receipts. (Ex: not only read confirmation but also relay confirmation for sended emails. And stays as a core products with strong search and attchment organization, what a mail user frequently needs.
    IMHO Calendar can be a tightiy integrateable addon.

    Best Regards.
    FI

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