It’s Monday so let’s not start the week off with a difficult question, like “Which government healthcare plan is best?” Instead, I’ll make it easy. What’s the number one most used email application for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users? Allow me to go out on a limb and declare Apple’s own Mail.app as the winner.
Email, as I’m sure you remember about a dozen times a day, is the killer app for internet users. Because it’s so frustrating dealing with email each day that it may very well kill us, and I don’t see a solution nearby or on the horizon to help extinguish the email flames of hate.
Here’s the problem. Apple’s Mail is free and comes with every new Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Mail is competent for average folks, but there is a market for high end email apps. Interestingly, there’s also a market at the low end; anything that’s an alternative to Gmail or Apple’s Mail app.. That includes Thunderbird. Yes. Thunderbird, once Mozilla’s answer to Outlook, continues to defy the odds, is better than ever, but answers the email scourge the same way as other email apps– with familiarity.
See? Been there. Done that.
If you’re not scared off by the decidedly Windows-like user interface, what you’ll find in Thunderbird is a comprehensive package of email features and functions, some familiar, some unique, but all of which make the app just another email app with a better price and more features to learn.
Thunderbird starts with an email account setup wizard that handles most every email account you’ll run into; from IMAP, SMTP, SSL/TLS, and about all you’ll need to get started is basic account information.
Tabs are the 21st century gift to web browsers and Thunderbird goes one better than Mail with tabs (mostly so it looks and works much like the Firefox browser). Built-in to Thunderbird is a one-click address book, multiple chat channels, and even a way to search the web without leaving email. And, yes, you can search for email content, too.
I like to think of Thunderbird as a catch-all email app. It has features not found in Mail, manages add-ons better, but also has a built-in Junk Mail filter (not any better or any worse than Apple’s Mail), phishing protection, Smart folders, large attachment options, message archives, and automatic updating.
See? Lots of nice options. The interface is a bit overwhelming at first. The only knock I have is that SpamSieve, the Mac user’s ultimate spam fighter, does not work with Thunderbird. Otherwise, it’s free and works. Mostly.
What’s missing in Thunderbird is a solution to the current email paradigm. Some of the new Mac email apps– including Polymail and Newton— attempt to move the nature of email forward, and both run on everything Apple while Mozilla’s Thunderbird does not, but in the end it’s all just email like it’s been since the 1990s, and despite the crazy business model, Thunderbird is the email app that just won’t die. Yet.
UPDATE – Oh, one more thing. My latest favorite email app is also free. It’s called Spark. I’ve installed it on Mac, iPhone, and iPad and it automatically syncs email accounts between devices. Sweet. More to come.