Thunderbird support extension

Eric Moore tanstaafl at emoore.ftml.net
Wed Jun 2 01:22:56 UTC 2010


I disagree with the top support issue focus. I think it would be better 
to focus on what it can fix/diagnose reliably, and not try to be a 
silver bullet.

Trying to enforce recommended settings can easily backfire and will be 
very version dependent. I suggest the extension be less ambitious and 
just do two things. You could provide another extension later on that 
knows how to tweak settings and performance or enhance tools -> import 
to know how to import/merge other Thunderbird profiles etc.

1. A general health check of the current profile and profiles.ini - tell 
the user if something seems wrong because its inconsistent or can't be 
found, and suggest what they should do about it. For example, if the 
account directory only has the mandatory folders and the account 
directory isn't in the default location look in panacea.dat to see if 
there is any sign that there used to be several user created folders. 
Perhaps the local directory setting accidentally changed, causing the 
user to lose access to most of their folders.

Similarly if the user has two POP gmail accounts and it finds 
pop.gmail-1.com though pop.gmail-7.com check whether most of them look 
like deleted old accounts or its a indication that the local directory 
occasionally changes for no good reason.

If you want to get ambitious that could include checking for and 
offering to fix corrupted folders (after backing them up). I'm used to 
three cases - one where rebuilding the index is sufficient, one where 
you need to replace the folder with a new empty folder and move the 
messages from the corrupted folder to it, and the hard case where you 
normally need to use a text editor to edit the mbox file to recover as 
much as possible (deciding what message fragments to lose, when to add a 
dummy from_ line because the start of the message is gone etc.).

2. Run a troubleshooting wizard that is designed for non-computer 
literates that verifies the basic functionality of Thunderbird (are you 
missing any messages or folders, can you send messages etc.) and steps 
though the various areas to narrow down whats wrong. Then it makes 
several specific suggestions on how to fix it. The focus is on divide 
and conquer of problems with basic functionality, not the top support 
issues.

I suggest it be fairly Thunderbird version independent so that it 
improves over time rather than trying to chase a moving target. This 
means that certain areas such as message synchronization wouldn't get 
added for a long while.

A lot of users don't understand the official terminology (are messages 
listed in the message pane, thread pane, folder listing or ...?) so 
small screen shots identifying what its talking about would help.




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