Text 1 Nov 1 note Thunderbird

People always give me shit about loving Thunderbird, and fuck them. I always prefer desktop apps over web apps, and I think store-and-sync solutions are the way to go rather than crafting entirely new UIs in requires-a-connection HTML. What can I do with Thunderbird that I can’t do using Gmail? Pay attention to five (yes, I have five) different email accounts that I’ll use - I use one as my primary account, but I have others that will occasionally get messages that I want to receive. I have three personal emails (old Hotmail, newer Gmail that Google automatically changed all of my services over to and I still receive offline GChat messages on, and a more professional-looking university account.) I also have the email account of a website I’m the webmaster for, and whatever work email I’m using right now (I switch jobs a lot, as anyone at Waterloo will tell you). It’s also becoming fairly popular to have an email for a project that you’ll do - let’s say you have a decently-popular library on Github, and two “fuckyeah<pluralnoun>” Tumblrs, and a novelty Twitter account you’re running. Plus you’re in a band that’s totally gonna make it; these are all emails that you’d probably love to make, but the overhead of creating another email account is annoying and you don’t want twelve other accounts to check - this is where Thunderbird really shines. I wish they had the same talent for pushing super-useful filter types as Gmail, or the same creativity in interfaces as other applications, but there are  killer functions I can’t get anywhere else. Automatic Dropboxing or Ubuntu-One-ing of attachments over a certain size? Yes. Easy signup of custom email domains for your mom? Cool. This is some decent innovation in the space and it’s good shit when you’re on it, man.

So here’s some more shit I’d love to see.

Firstly, I’d love to see a backup function. You can already do it by Dropboxing the mailbox folders, but I think there’s more explicit and more easy ways it could be set up, and it should be set up through the application so it feels like it’s part of the same package. One of the big things I like about Thunderbird is that I own my email - I have a copy of all of it that I can access at any time, regardless of my connectivity to some external server. This is actually a huge selling point to me - it’s like having MP3s. Yeah it’s all data on a hard drive, but it’s just an audio stream with some compression, which means I can do whatever I want with it in a way that I can’t with streaming music services, as great as they are. I don’t feel like I’m free to do what I want with my Rdio music, and to a very visceral extent it’s been demonstrated to me that it belongs to someone else and I’m using it under their terms. For a few days I couldn’t listen to GOOD Music’s Cruel Summer - this is a #1 album, guys - for reasons unknown. Wasn’t told why (although it was most likely some kind of dispute with a label), didn’t know when it started and when it finished, but the shit I had access to changed on me. This is like Amazon deleting my eBooks, this is like Netflix randomly pulling A Serbian Movie, this is shit that’s out of my hands. Every act demonstrates to me that I’m not in control of my entertainment, which means I own it as much as I own books in a library.

When I use Thunderbird, I own my emails in a very visceral way. Provided my computer hasn’t crashed and I have it all saved on IMAP (see aforementioned “roll my own webmail” system), I can search through conversations I had decades ago on my first email address.

Other things I would love to be able to do on Thunderbird:

  • Something more interesting than threaded email. Love the conversation view add-on, get somebody else to design an email experience that’s beautiful and actually makes me more productive. You know what would actually be awesome? Wave integration between Thunderbird users. Do it seamlessly and do it in the background so nobody notices until they hear that they can do all this awesome shit with what they thought were static messages.
  • Roll my own webmail. I’d pay a few bucks a month for a Thunderbird-run webmail client as long as it didn’t suck. Let me access my email from anywhere.
  • Thunderbird mobile. The email app is great in most mobile ecosystems, but I think Thunderbird could innovate. Let me sync my accounts and passwords, use add-ons, etc.
  • Hook into SMS, store my SMS messages, either with the app or through some kind of external service. “Desktop SMS” using this app, send and receive text messages while I’m at work without all of my shit vibrating all over the place.
  • I love the chat service for something like Facebook Chat because with the new messaging/chat duality that’s happening with Facebook it doesn’t quit fit both email and simple chatting. I’m not feeling Thunderbird for something as thin as MSN or google chat, but it’s actually super-convenient for “longer-form” messaging that integrates into email or similar messaging services like Facebook Chat and GChat (who sends my offline messages to my email). If it could download all of my previous messages for a specific account (not sure if that’s even possible with the Facbook messaging API) so I could see history for all contacts and search through it all…bliss. It also removes another information silo - I now have control over my Facebook messages in a way that I didn’t used to, and can search through them, read them offline, etc.
  • A better way to coordinate where and when I get notified of my messages. Tried setting up a desktop SMS service and I’ll get the SMS on my phone, and an email and a GChat message…both of which notify my desktop and phone. That’s five notifications (minimum - thank god my tablet isn’t here) where I need one.
  • Sync for Thunderbird! This one should actually be I have a home computer and a work computer (and potentially a phone, if Thunderbird happens), I hate setting up accounts I don’t remember the passwords to, and the password manager is honestly the only way I’ll find passwords for mail accounts that I haven’t set up in >4 months.

I’d also love a contacts app that synchronizes everything to everything and can combine my contacts together and keep them there. From an idea I had earlier:

  • A contacts organizer that rolls a little black book. Backed by some service, but also available for download and import to let my phone/email client/whatever use it. Something that separates active contacts from the people you know and just want to find out about. Something to hide “personal information” from everything else/anyone else, so you can keep notes on people to remember things about them (“so-and-so’s girlfriend, we’re all a little iffy on the relationship but who knows maybe she’s actually not a huge bitch when they’re alone together”), but hide potentially sensitive things from them unlike the “Notes” field in most Contacts solutions.
  • Add the ability to copy information they’ve provided (websites, other accounts, emails, birthdays, etc.) through other services to your main service. Android has a great implementation of that, mobile phones can do it really well, why can’t desktop apps? And turn that on as a synching feature. Maintain control over “primary” information. Default to what you’ve set, but keep an eye open for changes they’ve made since you made a change, have the option to permanently ignore things… keep a good record and avoid spam/jokes/whatever, but keep an eye out for actual useful data about people.
  1. cnvandev posted this

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