Mozilla Updates Thunderbird E-Mail App

Version 1.5 of the open-source e-mail client features improved security, support for podcasting.

Mozilla on Thursday released the latest version of its e-mail client with a host of new features, including better security, automatic updating, and other enhancements aimed at providing a more user-friendly e-mail experience, according to the company.

Thunderbird 1.5, an open-source application, is available as a free download. Mozilla is a spin-off of the open-source Mozilla Foundation that handles all of the product releases for the group’s open-source projects.

According to Scott MacGregor, technical lead on Thunderbird for Mozilla, there have been 18 million downloads so far of the software, which appeals to both consumers and business users. He says that while most people think of Thunderbird as a good alternative for a consumer application such as Microsoft’s Outlook Express, it also is comparable to enterprise e-mail software such as IBM’s Lotus Notes and Microsoft’s Outlook. In fact, MacGregor says, some large corporations have migrated to Thunderbird for their corporate e-mail, and several of those deployments have more than 40,000 users on the system. He says he is not at liberty to provide the names of those companies, however.

Among the new security features in Thunderbird 1.5 are Kerberos authentication and integration with server-side spam filtering. The new client also includes a built-in phishing detector to help protect users against e-mail scams, providing an “extra line of defense” in preventing users from getting caught up in e-mail identity-theft and information-theft scams, MacGregor says.

Improvements to the user experience in Thunderbird 1.5 include autosaving of messages in progress as drafts, as well as automatic spelling checking as the user types a message. MacGregor notes that the new automatic-updating feature of Thunderbird 1.5 will make users particularly happy, since it means they won’t have to keep checking the Mozilla Web site for the periodic stability builds the Thunderbird team provides for the software.

“Before, you’d have to hear there was an update, or on your own periodically check and see if there’s a new product release,” he says. “Now we’ll let you know.” Mozilla added automatic software updating to its popular Firefox browser in the latest release of that offering, Firefox 1.5, which was made available on November 29.

Thunderbird 1.5 also has new support for podcasting, as well as improvements to how the client deals with RSS feeds. Thunderbird 1.5 allows users to reach podcasts via a dialog box that provides access to a “helper” application such as a Web browser or audio player. The e-mail client can detect whether the podcast is an audio or video file, and will run it in the correct player on a user’s computer, MacGregor says.

In addition, Thunderbird 1.5 users can receive RSS feed updates as e-mail messages and filter and organize these updates as they would regular e-mail, he says.


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