Just in case you missed it, the Mozilla Thunderbird development team recently announced that they will be scaling back development on new features to this fan-favorite email client and primarily focus on stability and security work.
It some circles it might be called “hitting a plateau.”
- Thunderbird: Stability and Community Innovation - Mitchell's Blog
- Thunderbird to Slow Down Development, Focus on "Security and Stability" Only - Lifehacker
- Thunderbird/Proposal: New Release and Governance Model - MozillaWiki
- Thunderbird Extended Release Support for Your Organization, Business, Enterprise - Overview - Mozilla.org
- Mozilla puts Thunderbird in maintenance mode - Mozilla Links
So what does that mean if you use Thunderbird as your email client? Well. Probably not very much.
Thunderbird is a very mature email client and already packs almost all the primary features that one could need into it already. Toss on the Lightning calendaring plugin and you have a full-featured email and activity duo. There are more than many Add-ons for Thunderbird. Myself--aside from Lightning--I only use the following additional extensions; Color Folders, Attachment Tree, Extra Folder Columns, and AttachmentExtractor. That’s it.
So I don’t really have any concerns or cares at the present moment regarding T-Birds slow-simmering.
However, just in case that ever does become an issue with me--or maybe you are looking for some new email client platform--I did some looking around and found the following free email clients that are in active development and could be considered worthy replacements for Thunderbird. I tossed them all on my Windows 8 system and took them for a whirl. Here’s my alternative preferences.
Windows Live Mail - Microsoft. Who knows what Redmond will call it next year as they kill off the “Windows Live” branding and repackage it as something Win8’ish. Doesn’t matter. This email application is the very first one I recommend to most all family and friends. It has a dead-simple interface. It has decent email message handling security and rules/filter capabilities. And setup of a new email account (or multiple ones) is a breeze. There isn’t much not to like with this one.
eM Client Email Client - eM Client. I would be lying to say that I had heard of this email client before yesterday’s search. I had not. However the reviews and comment'-feedback were ridiculously good so I had to check it out. I am amazed. A review of the Features left me highly impressed. It supports both web-based email servers as well as the more traditional email server connections. It contains a full-featured calendar along with event management, task lists, and contacts. Yes, you can import those items from most all other email clients. They have a free edition (registration required) along with a more featured ($) version. Installation was a breeze and setup was a piece of cake. The interface is really, really well designed and (hard-to-admit) outshines Thunderbird. I had no problems getting it going and feeling instantly at home. If T-Bird ever gets its goose burnt, eM Client will probably be my replacement choice, hands-down. Check it out!
DreamMail Europe Community - This free email client was also very easy to get going and set up. Like eM Client the user GUI is very approachable. All the major features you would want in an email client are present.
Pegasus Mail - David Harris. - This is a free email client that is much more advanced. It doesn’t have the same degree of “wizard support” like Windows Live Mail, eM Client, or DreamMail to get your web-based email accounts going. You will need to know in advance some of the more technical bits of your email system such as the POP3 and STMP server names as well as any special ports and security settings connections to them require. The user interface is more detailed than the previous clients mentioned. All this to day it is a more technically advanced email client than average users would probably want or need. However if you want a lot of control regarding your email client and accounts, and the advanced configurations don’t concern you, it is worth checking out.
Sylpheed - Like Pegasus Mail, this email client requires a bit of detailed work getting things going. The interface is more simple to navigate than Pegasus, but you will need to feed it some more technical details to get it configured. Once running, it is very direct to use and is something most average users shouldn’t have any issues with.
i.Scribe - Has a very nice and basic interface. Configuration will require the POP3 and STMP sever details of your host. However I did find it very easy to navigate around in and find all the critical things needed to get it up and going. There are message filters and advanced security setting options. All in all a nice little application.
Microsoft Outlook 2010 - Microsoft - Yeah, I know, it is neither free nor a very “light” email client. That said, if you have it as part of an already installed MS Office suite load, it might be worthwhile to give it another look. I know many folks who are so used to using MS Office at work that they feel right at home running and using it for their personal email client needs at home.
This isn’t a list of the “only” email clients for Windows out there. There are more, many smaller and many “portable”. However these were the ones I considered myself most likely to use after downloading, configuring to a POP3 “web-mail” account, and running on Windows 8.