Proposal to start a new implementation of Thunderbird based on web technologies

Tanstaafl tanstaafl at
Thu Apr 13 15:21:25 UTC 2017

On Wed Apr 12 2017 11:50:11 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time), The
Wanderer <wanderer at> wrote:
> So far as I recall, there are only two main things I still want from the
> Thunderbird 2 UI which I've been unable to regain:
> * Tab-free access to all features, including e.g. the Add-ons Manager.
> (I don't want a tab bar in my Thunderbird, and anything which would open
> in a separate tab I want to be in a separate window instead.)

I also prefer windows to tabs in Thunderbird (love tabs in Firefox
though), and would push for this capability as an option in any rewrite.
Basically, everything that by default opens in a new tab should be able
to be set via a preference to open in a window - and for me, better
would be a global option to disable tabs completely. I love tabs in
Firefox, but have no use for them in my mail client.

> * Quick-filter functionality in a text-box widget, rather than a
> separate toolbar. (I've actually stopped using quick-filter
> functionality entirely since that change came in, since the appearance
> and disappearance of that additional toolbar is just so unpleasant for me.)

While I have grudgingly gotten accustomed to the loss of vertical space
caused by the Quick Filter bar, I too much prefer the old textbox widget
you could add/move to any toolbar and would switch to that in a
heartbeat given the opportunity.

There was an excellent attempt in bug 570815
( in late 2010
(after the existing search widget was removed) to bring it back as an Addon:

Unified Search

I used this for years, but the quirks just got to be too much trouble to
deal with, and I eventually grudingly uninstalled it. I really wish that
Iago (the one who made the Addon) had continued working on it until it
was perfected. It had one serious problem (it would somehow get out of
sync with the Quickfilter toolbar settings and filtering went wonky),
and some less serious UI issues that seemed like would be easily
resolvable, but he eventually just stopped responding, not sure why.

> Neither is likely to ever come in "current Thunderbird",

See above Unified Addon. It is entirely doable, and some (much?) of the
work has already been done in the form of the Addon. Some of the
problems with it could be remedied by not trying to incorporate the
'Global' searching capability, just the regular filtering of current
folder, which is one of the last things Iago was considering when he
disappeared (you can follow what happened mostly in the bug).

> and it's far from clear that either would come in a complete rewrite
> either, but I think the odds are better in the latter case.

Yes, it would definitely be high on my list of 'improvements ' to
incorporate during the rewrite, but as long as the Addon framework
(WebExtensions?) still allowed for powerful Addons, it would still be
possible to do it that way.

Note: it was explained on one of the other lists (tb-planning? dev?)
that it is entirely possible for Thunderbird to add WebExtension APIs
independently of what the Firefox devs add for Firefox.

> (Then again, I'm still using Thunderbird 31, because I haven't been able
> to take the time to do upgrade testing in a VM so I don't risk my live
> data on something that might have negative UI changes and no way to
> revert them. So it's entirely possible that there have been other UI
> changes I haven't yet taken into account.)

There is no risk whatsoever - as long as you simply duplicate/backup
your profile folder. This is trivial, so that is no excuse not to
upgrade. Also, if you're running a VM, you can also take snapshots for
this purpose (although that is way overkill for just upgrading TB). It
is very doubtful there are UI changes that would be deal breakers, but
it may take a little work to fix anything you don't like. I heavily
customize my UI, and it has never been a real problem for me since the
carnage during the transition from 2 to 3+.

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