Mozilla Thunderbird is a free and open-source[8] email client software which also functions as a full personal information manager with a calendar and contactbook, as well as an RSS feed reader, chat client (IRC/XMPP/Matrix), and news client. Available cross-platform, it is operated by the Mozilla Foundation's subsidiary MZLA Technologies Corporation. Thunderbird is an independent, community-driven project that is managed and overseen by the Thunderbird Council, which is elected by the Thunderbird Community. The project strategy was originally modeled after that of Mozilla's Firefox Web browser and is an interface built on top of that Web browser.[9]

Mozilla Thunderbird
Developer(s)
Initial releaseJuly 28, 2003; 20 years ago (2003-07-28)
Stable release91.5.0[1] (January 11, 2022; 2 years ago (2022-01-11)) [±]
Preview release129.0beta[2] Edit this on Wikidata (11 July 2024) [±]
Repository
Written inC, C++, JavaScript,[3] CSS,[4] Rust, XUL, XBL
EnginesGecko, SpiderMonkey
Operating systemWindows 10 or later; macOS 10.15 or later; FreeBSD; Linux[5]
Size50 MB
Available in65 languages[6]
List of languages
Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Asturian, Basque, Belarusian, Breton, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (British), English (US), Estonian, Finnish, French, Frisian, Gaelic (Scotland), Galician, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Kabyle, Korean, Lithuanian, Lower Sorbian, Norwegian (Bokmål), Norwegian (Nynorsk), Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Portuguese (Portugal), Romanian, Romansh, Russian, Serbian, Sinhala, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish (Argentina), Spanish (Spain), Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Upper Sorbian, Vietnamese, Welsh.
TypeEmail client, personal information manager, instant messaging client, news client, feed reader
LicenseMPL-2.0[7]
Websitewww.thunderbird.net

Overview

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Thunderbird is an e-mail, newsgroup, news feed, and instant messaging client with personal information manager (PIM) functionality, inbuilt since version 78.0 and previously available from the Lightning calendar extension. Additional features are available from extensions, which allow the addition of features through the installation of XPInstall modules (known as "XPI" or "zippy" installation) via the add-ons Web site that also features an update functionality to update the extensions.

Thunderbird supports a variety of themes for changing its overall look and feel. These packages of CSS and image files can be downloaded via the add-ons website at Mozilla Add-ons.[10]

With contributors all over the world, Thunderbird has been translated into more than 65 languages,[6] although email addresses are currently limited to ASCII local parts.[11][failed verification] Thunderbird does not yet support SMTPUTF8 (RFC 6531) or Email Address Internationalization.

Email features

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Message management

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Thunderbird manages multiple email, newsgroup, and news feed accounts and supports multiple identities within accounts. Features such as quick search, saved search folders ("virtual folders"), advanced message filtering, message grouping, and tags help manage and find messages. On Linux-based systems, system mail (movemail) accounts were supported until version 91.0.[12] Thunderbird provides basic support for system-specific new email notifications and can be extended with advanced notification support using an add-on.[13]

Junk filtering

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Thunderbird incorporates a Bayesian spam filter, a whitelist based on the included address book, and can also understand classifications by server-based filters such as SpamAssassin.[14]

Standards support

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Thunderbird follows industry standards for email:

  • POP. Basic email retrieval protocol.
  • IMAP. Thunderbird has implemented many of the capabilities in IMAP, in addition to adding their own extensions and the de facto standards by Google and Apple.[15]
  • LDAP address auto-completion.
  • S/MIME: Inbuilt support for email encryption and signing using X.509 keys provided by a centralised certificate authority.
  • OpenPGP: Inbuilt support for email encryption and signing since version 78.2.1,[16][17] while older versions used extensions such as Enigmail.

Authentication support

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Email providers have increasing been introducing OAuth authentication in addition, or instead of, more traditional authentication methods, most notably by Gmail and Outlook. Thunderbird has full support for OAuth authentication and provides instructions for Outlook users transitioning from Outlook's now-deprecated "basic authentication".[18]

File formats supported

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Thunderbird provides mailbox format support using plugins, but this feature is not yet enabled due to related work in progress.[19] The mailbox formats supported as of July 2014 are:

  • mbox – Unix mailbox format (one file holding many emails)
  • maildir – known as maildir-lite (one file per email). As of August 2019 "there are still many bugs", so this is disabled by default.[20]

Thunderbird also uses Mork and (since version 3) MozStorage (which is based on SQLite) for its internal database. Mork was due to be replaced with MozStorage in Thunderbird 3.0,[21] but the 8.0 release still uses the Mork file format.

Big file linking

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Since version 38, Thunderbird has integrated support for automatic linking of large files instead of attaching them directly to the mail message.

HTML formatting and code insertion

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Thunderbird provides a wysiwyg editor for composing messages formatted with HTML (default). The delivery format auto-detect feature will send unformatted messages as plain text (controlled by a user preference). Certain special formatting like subscript, superscript and strikethrough is available from the Format menu. The Insert > HTML menu provides the ability to edit the HTML source code of the message. There is basic support for HTML template messages, which are stored in a dedicated templates folder for each account.

 
The Lightning calendar in an older version of Thunderbird

Markdown support is provided through the Markdown here Revival add-on.[22]

Security

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Thunderbird provides security features such as TLS/SSL connections to IMAP and SMTP servers. It also offers inbuilt support for secure email with digital signing and message encryption through OpenPGP (using public and private keys) or S/MIME (using certificates). Any of these security features can take advantage of smartcards with the installation of additional extensions.

Other security features may be added through extensions. Up to version 68, the Enigmail extension was required for OpenPGP support (now inbuilt).

Optional security protections also include disabling loading of remote images within messages, enabling only specific media types (sanitizer), and disabling JavaScript.

The French military uses Thunderbird and contributes to its security features, which are claimed to match the requirements for NATO's closed messaging system.[23]

Limitations and known issues

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As with any software, there may be limitations to the number and sizes of files and objects represented. For example, POP3 folders are subject to filesystem design limitations, such as maximum file sizes on filesystems that do not have large-file support, as well as possible limitations of long filenames, and other issues.[24]

Other features

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Thunderbird on Ubuntu Linux, being used as an RSS feed reader

While primarily used as an email client, Thunderbird is also a news aggregator, which is named News Feeds and Blogs in the application. It supports RSS and more recently added Atom as well.[25]

The software has a chat client for instant messaging, supporting the IRC, XMPP, and (since version 102) Matrix protocols,[26] and the Odnoklassniki network. In the past, it also had support for Twitter, Google Talk and Facebook Chat.[27]

Thunderbird is also a newsreader for Usenet, using the NNTP protocol and supports NNTPS. Intended for reading use, it does not support NZB for binary downloading, nor does it have a search function for the newsgroups.[28]

Since version 91, Thunderbird has a built-in PDF document reader.[29]

Cross-platform support

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Dark mode, minimal UI, hide tabs with the extension

Thunderbird runs on a variety of platforms. Releases available on the primary distribution site support the following operating systems:[30]

Unofficial ports are available for:

Ports for older versions available for OS/2 (including ArcaOS and eComStation).[33][34]

The source code is freely available and can be compiled to be run on a variety of other architectures and operating systems.

Android and iOS versions

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In June 2022, the Thunderbird project announced that it would be collaborating with email client K-9 for Android to build a Thunderbird version for Android.[35] To this end, K-9 lead developer Christian Ketterer joined the Thunderbird team in 2022. The plan was to transform K-9 Mail into Thunderbird on Android, including the respective name change and adoption of the Thunderbird branding. As soon as K-9 Mail had been brought into alignment with Thunderbird's feature set and visual appearance, this changeover would take place, according to Thunderbird's Jason Evangelho.

In the 2022 Financial Report published on May 8th, 2023, Ryan Sipes (Product and Business Development Manager) mentions plans of hiring an iOS developer later that same year to start laying the foundation for Thunderbird on iOS.[36]

Release compatibility

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Operating system Latest stable version Support status
Windows 10 and later, Server 2016 and later Current stable version: 128.0.1esr (x64) 2018–present
Current stable version: 128.0.1esr (IA-32) 2015–present
7, Server 2008 R2, 8, Server 2012,
8.1 and Server 2012 R2
Older version, yet still maintained: 115.13.0 (x64) 2018–2024
Older version, yet still maintained: 115.13.0 (IA-32) 2009–2024
XP, Server 2003,
Vista and Server 2008
Old version, no longer maintained: 52.9.1 (IA-32)[37] 2004–2018
2000 Old version, no longer maintained: 12.0.1 2004–2012
Old version, no longer maintained: 10.0.12esr 2004–2013
NT 4.0 (IA-32), 98 and Me Old version, no longer maintained: 2.0.0.24 2004–2010
95 Old version, no longer maintained: 1.5.0.14 2004–2007
macOS 11 (ARM64) and later Current stable version: 128.0.1esr 2021–present
10.15 and later (x86-64) Current stable version: 128.0.1esr 2019–present
10.1210.14 Older version, yet still maintained: 115.13.0 2016–2024
10.910.11 Old version, no longer maintained: 78.14.0 2013–2021
10.610.8 Old version, no longer maintained: 45.8.0 2009–2017
10.5 (IA-32 and x64) Old version, no longer maintained: 16.0.2 2007–2012
Old version, no longer maintained: 10.0.12esr 2007–2013
10.4 (IA-32 and PPC)–10.5 (PPC) Old version, no longer maintained: 3.1.20 2005–2012
10.210.3 Old version, no longer maintained: 2.0.0.24 2004–2010
10.010.1 Old version, no longer maintained: 1.0.8 2004–2006
Linux (X11/Wayland) Current stable version: 128.0.1esr (x64) 2011–present
Current stable version: 128.0.1esr (IA-32) 2004–present
Legend:
Old version
Older version, still maintained
Latest version
Latest preview version
Future release


Unofficial ports

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Operating system Latest stable version Support status
Solaris 11 Older version, yet still maintained: 115.12.0 (x64, SPARC V9) 2011–
10 and OpenSolaris Old version, no longer maintained: 52.9.1 (IA-32, x64, SPARC V9) 2005–2018
8–9 Old version, no longer maintained: 2.0.0.24 (IA-32, SPARC V9) 2004–2010
HP-UX 11i v1–v3 Old version, no longer maintained: 2.0.0.24 (IA-64, PA-RISC)[38] N/A
FreeBSD (Tier 1) 13 and later Older version, yet still maintained: 115.13.0 (x64, ARM64) 2021–
12 Old version, no longer maintained: 115.6.0 (IA-32) 2018–2024
OpenBSD -stable 7.5 Older version, yet still maintained: 115.13.0 (x64, ARM64) 2024–
6.9 Old version, no longer maintained: 78.14.0 (IA-32) 2021
4.1 Old version, no longer maintained: 1.5.0.12 (PPC, SPARC V9, Alpha) 2007
-release 5.8 Old version, no longer maintained: 38.1.0 (PPC) N/A
5.7 Old version, no longer maintained: 31.4.0 (SPARC V9)
4.9 Old version, no longer maintained: 3.1.7 (Alpha)
4.6 Old version, no longer maintained: 2.0.0.22 (ARM)
Legend:
Old version
Older version, still maintained
Latest version
Latest preview version
Future release


History and development

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2003—2010

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Logo of Thunderbird 2004–2009
 
Logo of Thunderbird 2009–2018

Originally launched as Minotaur shortly after Phoenix (the original name for Mozilla Firefox), the project failed to gain momentum. With the success of Firefox, however, demand increased for a mail client to go with it, and the work on Minotaur was revived under the new name of Thunderbird, and migrated to the new toolkit developed by the Firefox team.

 
A pre-release version of Thunderbird

On December 7, 2004, version 1.0 was released, and received more than 500,000 downloads in its first three days of release, and 1,000,000 in ten days.[39][40]

Significant work on Thunderbird restarted with the announcement that from version 1.5 onward the main Mozilla suite would be designed around separate applications using this new toolkit. This contrasts with the previous all-in-one approach, allowing users to mix and match the Mozilla applications with alternatives. The original Mozilla Suite continues to be developed as SeaMonkey.

On December 23, 2004, Project Lightning was announced which tightly integrated calendar functionality (scheduling, tasks, etc.) into Thunderbird. Lightning supports the full range of calendar mechanisms and protocols supported by the Mozilla Calendar infrastructure, just as with modern (post-0.2) Sunbird.

On October 11, 2006, Qualcomm and the Mozilla Foundation announced that "future versions of Eudora will be based upon the same technology platform as the open source Mozilla Thunderbird email program."[41] The project was code-named Penelope.

In late 2006, Debian rebranded Thunderbird as Icedove due to trademark and copyright reasons. This was the second product to be rebranded.[8][42]

On July 26, 2007, the Mozilla Foundation announced that Thunderbird would be developed by an independent organization, because the Mozilla Corporation (a subsidiary of the foundation) was focusing on Mozilla Firefox development.[43]

On September 17, 2007, the Mozilla Foundation announced the funding of a new internet communications initiative with David Ascher of ActiveState. The purpose of this initiative was "to develop Internet communications software based on the Thunderbird product, code, and brand".[44]

On February 19, 2008, Mozilla Messaging started operations as a subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation responsible for the development of email and similar communications. Its initial focus was on the then upcoming version of Thunderbird 3. Alpha Preview releases of Thunderbird 3 were codenamed "Shredder".

2011—2016

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Thunderbird 5.0, the first version under the software's rapid release cycle

On April 4, 2011, Mozilla Messaging was merged into the Mozilla Labs group of the Mozilla Foundation.[45]

Following in the footsteps of Firefox, Thunderbird switched to a rapid release cycle in 2011.[46] Version 4.0 was skipped so as to re-align Thunderbird with Firefox's version 5.0, both released in June 2011.[47] By the end of the year it had reached version 9.0.[48]

On July 6, 2012, a confidential memo from Jb Piacentino, the Thunderbird Managing Director at Mozilla, was leaked and published to TechCrunch.[49] The memo indicated that Mozilla would be moving some of the team off the project and further development of new features would be left up to the community. The memo was slated for release on July 9, 2012. A subsequent article by the Executive Chair of Mozilla, Mitchell Baker, stated Mozilla's decision to make a transition of Thunderbird to a new release and governance model.[50][51] On July 6, 2012, Mozilla announced the company was dropping the priority of Thunderbird development because the continuous effort to extend Thunderbird's feature set was mostly fruitless. The new development model shifted to Mozilla offering only "Extended Support Releases", which deliver security and maintenance updates, while allowing the community to take over the development of new features.

On November 25, 2014, Kent James of the volunteer-led Thunderbird Council announced on the Thunderbird blog that active contributors to Thunderbird gathered at the Mozilla office in Toronto and discussed the future of the application. They decided that more staff were required working full-time on Thunderbird so that the Thunderbird Team could release a stable and reliable product and make progress on features that had been frequently requested by the community.[52]

On December 1, 2015, Mozilla Executive Chair Mitchell Baker announced in a company-wide memo that Thunderbird development needed to be uncoupled from Firefox.[53] She referred to Thunderbird developers spending large efforts responding to changes to Mozilla technologies, while Firefox was paying a tax to support Thunderbird development. She also said that she does not believe Thunderbird has the potential for "industry-wide impact" that Firefox does.[54] Mozilla remained interested in having a role in Thunderbird, but sought more assistance to help with development.[55] Therefore, at the same time, it was announced that Mozilla Foundation would provide at least a temporary legal and financial home for the Thunderbird project.[56]

2017—present

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Logo of Thunderbird 2018–2023
 
Logo of Thunderbird since 2023

On May 9, 2017, Philipp Kewisch announced that the Mozilla Foundation would continue to serve as the legal and fiscal home for the Thunderbird project, but that Thunderbird would migrate off Mozilla Corporation infrastructure, separating the operational aspects of the project.[57] Mozilla brought Thunderbird back in-house in an announcement on May 9, 2017, and continued to support its development.[58][59] The Thunderbird development team expanded by adding several new members and overhauled security and the user interface.[60]

The interim/beta versions Thunderbird 57 and 58, released in late 2017, began to make changes influenced by Firefox Quantum, including a new "Photon" user interface.[61][62] Despite the removal in Firefox Quantum of support for XUL-based legacy add-ons in favor of WebExtensions, the stable/ESR release of Thunderbird 60 in mid-2018 continued to support them, although most would require updates, and it did not support WebExtensions except for Themes.[63][64] In 2018, work was underway for planned support in Thunderbird 63 of WebExtensions and to continue to "somewhat" support legacy addons, according to Mozilla.[65]

With the release of Thunderbird 68 in August 2019 it now only supports WebExtension addons.[66] Legacy Addons can still be used if a special "legacy mode" is enabled, but even for this, the legacy Addon has to be converted.[67] Alongside the transition, OpenPGP support was integrated directly into Thunderbird as a standard feature, seeking to supplant the Enigmail extension.[68] Mainly for licensing reasons, this is no longer based on GnuPG, but on the RNP library, which has more liberal licensing terms.[69]

On January 28, 2020, the Mozilla Foundation announced that the project would henceforth be operating from a new wholly owned subsidiary, MZLA Technologies Corporation, in order to explore offering products and services that were not previously possible and to collect revenue through partnerships and non-charitable donations.[70][71]

As of version 78.7.1, Thunderbird will no longer allow installation of addons that use Legacy WebExtensions. Only MailExtensions are now compatible with Thunderbird.[72][73] MailExtensions are WebExtensions but with "some added features specific to Thunderbird".[74]

Thunderbird 91 features various UI improvements (including a new account setup workflow), Apple silicon support, CardDAV address book support, built-in import and export tools for Thunderbird profiles, the PDF.js PDF viewer, and the ability to encrypt emails to BCC recipients.[75][76][77][78]

On June 13, 2022, it was announced that the Mozilla Thunderbird team would take over development of the Android email client app K-9 Mail, with plans for it to eventually become a mobile version of Thunderbird with synchronisation support.[79]

Releases

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Thunderbird development releases occur in three stages, called Beta, Earlybird, and Daily, which correspond to Firefox's Beta, Aurora, and Nightly stages. The release dates and Gecko versions are exactly the same as Firefox; for example, Firefox 7 and Thunderbird 7 were both released on September 27, 2011, and were both based on Gecko 7.0.



References

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  2. ^ "Beta Notes". July 11, 2024. Retrieved July 13, 2024.
  3. ^ "Firefox's addons are written in JavaScript". Rietta. Archived from the original on August 4, 2009. Retrieved December 19, 2009.
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