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Mozilla's next Thunderbird gives Gmailers hope

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All you need is, um, a GB of RAM

While on the whole Thunderbird 3.1 is a much needed improvement over its predecessor, it's worth noting that the new app has a new set of system requirements, including the need for a worrying 1GB of RAM.

Considering that the 2.0 release only needed 64MB, it's not hard to see why some call the Thunderbird 3.x line bloated. In my testing Thunderbird never went over 250MBs of RAM, but that's still a significant jump from 2.0, which was considerably less RAM-heavy.

Thunderbird 3.1 RC filer feature

Quick Filters: the only thing missing is the ability to customize

Thunderbird 3.1 is also not without its annoying quirks. For example, search results are limited to 10 returns, forcing endless clicks of the "more" button to see all the results. Similarly, while the ability to select multiple messages and see a snippet of each is one of the handiest features, the snippets are only two lines which is often not quite enough to get the gist of a message.

Other niggling complaints include burying the option to turn off HTML e-mail three menus deep in the account preferences section. And of course, Thunderbird's platform integration - that is, how well the user interface fits the various operating systems it runs on - lags well behind its sibling, Firefox.

More serious complaints include the inability to sync contacts with popular web mail providers like Gmail and Yahoo!. There is an add-on that will work with Gmail, but it hasn't yet been updated to support Thunderbird 3.1, and - frankly - contact syncing should be built into the app.

Still, even if you have to manually import your contacts, Thunderbird 3.1 is a worthy e-mail client and definitely worth the upgrade if you're using 3.0. If the horror stories of early 3.0 adopters put you off and you're still using Thunderbird 2, it's safe to jump back in the water.

Even if you swear by web mail interfaces, Thunderbird is a good option to keep around for backing up your accounts. Just periodically fire up Thunderbird, let it download your messages and you'll spare yourself the pain when Google shuts down your e-mail account for no apparent reason.

Thunderbird 3.1 is a free download, you can grab a copy from the Mozilla Thunderbird website, here. ®

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