Thunderbird e-mail doesn't soar to Firefox's heights

Box Score

Despite hitting a home run with the Firefox Web browser, Mozilla's Thunderbird 1.0 is an infield single in comparison. Not that Thunderbird is a poor product. It's a new stab at an old category'e-mail client software. But whereas Web browsers have always left room for improvement, e-mail programs haven't, so we have a hard time making the case for switching.

Useful features

On the plus side, Thunderbird comes with a strong spam filter and a good built-in RSS reader. It also supports useful add-on features such as PalmOne synchronization, which we hope will motivate other e-mail software developers to bundle similar functionality. In fact, Thunderbird includes everything you might want in an e-mail program, including support for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and Solaris. Therefore if you're dead-set on cutting ties to Microsoft, Thunderbird won't let you down.

But migrating from Outlook to Thunderbird could be a headache, and that's our primary complaint. In our experience, transferring e-mail and data from Outlook 2003 was anything but smooth. Folders got jumbled and some attachments simply didn't move. After the simple transition from Internet Explorer to Firefox, our Thunderbird experience was disconcerting.

Changing e-mail clients is never easy, whether the choice is Thunderbird, Eudora or something else. Based on our testing, there just isn't a compelling reason to use Thunderbird. Outlook is a good program that many people already have, set up to handle e-mail in their favorite way. The fact that Thunderbird can't smoothly import Outlook data is a flaw too significant for us to overlook.

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