Only a few generally available programs exist for email clients. Included with Windows is Outlook Express, an easy-to-use email program that initially offered such poor security that many users decided to look elsewhere for email. Today, Outlook Express is better, but many users still refuse to even consider using it. Outlook Express offers an NNTP client in addition to email.
Included with Microsoft Office is a more advanced version of Outlook Express named Outlook. Outlook is a somewhat more robust program and offers many good enhancements. Surprisingly, Outlook doesn't offer a news client.
From QualComm comes Eudora, an established name in email clients. It is available in both free and paid-for versions. As with Outlook, there is no NNTP client in Eudora.
Netscape offers Netscape Mail, an email client bundled with Netscape Communicator. This program is probably the least used of the various email clients.
Mozilla Suite also has an email client, from which Thunderbird was developed. This heritage makes the two seem a bit similar, but Thunderbird has many more features.
Finally, Thunderbird is an email client that has the benefits of being free, available for many platforms (such as Windows, Linux, and Macintosh), and easy to use. With Thunderbird, you have both an email and a news client in one compact package.
Thunderbird offers as many features as any competing program. It also adds some interesting capabilities that are either nonexistent in other email programs or severely limited in scope. These are as follows:
Themes These are supported in Thunderbird in the same way they are in Firefox. This lets you create a look and feel that is your own, or you can use an existing theme to jazz things up.
Extensions These add new or improved functionality and are available from Mozilla's website. You can also write your own extensions just like Firefox extensions.
IMAP/POP/SMPT email protocol support This allows Thunderbird to interface with virtually any email system.
Built-in RSS reader This enables the reading of RSS feeds. (This functionality is similar to the RSS support found in Firefox.)
Support for HTML-formatted email This is in addition to the plain-text format.
Search feature This is powerful, fast, and easy to use. The results of searches are saved in search folders.
Filters The Thunderbird filters enable you to process messages as they arrive from the server. A message may be placed in a specified folder, deleted, or have a number of other actions performed on it.
Message functionality Messages can be arranged in groups, based on sort criteria.
Action labels For example, Important, Work, Personal, To Do, and Later can be applied to emails.
Return receipts If you worry that your message might not be received by the person to whom you sent it, you can use return receipts. If other people send email to you with a return receipt request, Thunderbird can be configured as to whether to send the receipt.
Address book Thunderbird maintains an address book that holds names of people to whom you frequently send email. The address book can be configured to automatically add the email addresses from your outgoing emails.
LDAP Thunderbird can use the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) interface to augment its address book features.
Import functionality A powerful import facility is built in to Thunderbird to enable users of other email clients to import addresses, messages, and settings.
Blocking capability You can block the loading of remote images that are frequently used by spammers and tracking services, unless the sender is in your address book.
Multiple accounts Power users with multiple email and newsgroup accounts are in for a treat with Thunderbird because multiple accounts are easy to configure and use.
Thunderbird offers tremendous value for the cost (free) and, as such, is a valuable addition to any user's computer.
In addition to this book, two online documents are useful in learning how to use Thunderbird. The first, "Getting Started with Thunderbird 1.0," is at http://mozillanews.org/?article_date=2004-12-07+16-19-25. The second, "Managing Thunderbird Mail Accounts," is at http://mozilla.gunnars.net/thunderbird_mail_setup.html.