UI wishlist and new-release UI regression testing (was Re: Proposal to start a new implementation of Thunderbird based on web technologies)

The Wanderer wanderer at fastmail.fm
Sat Apr 15 13:53:25 UTC 2017

(This is drifting offtopic, if not already there. Also, I apologize for

On 2017-04-13 at 11:21, Tanstaafl wrote:

> On Wed Apr 12 2017 11:50:11 GMT-0400 (Eastern Standard Time), The
> Wanderer <wanderer at fastmail.fm> 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:


I've thought of a third one: the message header pane. AFAIK it's still
not possible to set things up so you get the same information in the
same space as was the case with TB2, and although the tweaks from
and ones based on but not identical to the ones from
come close enough that I can live with the result, they're not perfect.

>> 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).

It's good to know that I'm not the only one wanting these features, in
both cases.

(I should perhaps clarify slightly: I don't insist that the quick-filter
widget be a text box in the old style. I would have no problem if it
behaved exactly like the collection of widgets that appear in the
toolbar, albeit with less horizontal space between them than the toolbar
provides, and if those widgets could only be moved as a unit - as long
as that unit could be moved around like any other widget, rather than
being fixed in a separate toolbar.)

>> 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.

I've had it confirmed, on the dev-addons mailing list, that it is
explicitly intended that WebExtensions not provide any way to
significantly modify the existing UI (rather than do things like add
toolbars and so forth), apparently for maintainability and
separation-of-layers and keep-working-in-the-next-release reasons...

> 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.

...and the underlying structural reasons why that decision was made are
such that, much though I dislike it, I'm not sure it would be possible
(much less practical) to make a different decision on the Thunderbird
side with its significantly less available manpower.

>> (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.

I do that as a matter of course for upgrades, but it's not a panacea.

The trouble is that I have "connect automatically" mail accounts, and
filter rules set up which move new mail from the inboxes of those
accounts into Local Folders, as soon as the new mail is seen.

If I launch the new version, and it sees new mail and moves it, and then
I discover UI problems and revert to the old version and old profile,
then I will have lost those new mails with - as far as I can see - no
practical way to recover them.

In order to avoid that, as far as I can see I'd have to launch the new
version with the network disconnected and do all the UI testing before
reconnecting it (and hope I hadn't missed anything, and that there are
no regressions around receiving new mail or the filters I use), and at
that point it's almost less of a hassle just to do the VM test in the
first place.

If anyone knows of a practical Third Way around this problem, I'd be
glad to know about it!

> Also, if you're running a VM, you can also take snapshots for this
> purpose (although that is way overkill for just upgrading TB).

I don't run in a VM normally - I just spin one up for upgrade testing.
(And doing so is rather more of a hassle than it used to be, for
unrelated reasons, which is why I've taken so long to get to it for
post-TB31 releases.)

> 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+.

For me, the radical changes to the To/CC section of the compose UI would
have been a deal-breaker for the upgrade to TB31 - except that I didn't
do this type of testing for that upgrade, since I'd been working with
relatively-late pre-release builds as part of getting a couple of
restore-TB2-behavior-with-an-option patches in and hadn't seen the
changes there.

Discovering them after the upgrade, when I no longer had a viable way to
downgrade, was a nasty shock. I had to scramble to find the complex -
and probably fragile - userChrome CSS stanzas which someone on a forum
put together to revert those changes.

Having had that experience (immediately after having worked to fix the
remaining issues which had blocked me from upgrading from TB2), I no
longer trust that negative UI changes will not come in with a new
Thunderbird release, and I feel it necessary to apply the same
pre-upgrade testing practices as I use with Firefox. (I also don't trust
that the userChrome tweaks I'm applying - which I don't even fully
understand myself, in this case - won't break with the upgrade, since
there was talk about making further changes in this area specifically to
address people who thought the result was bad.)

   The Wanderer

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one
persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all
progress depends on the unreasonable man.         -- George Bernard Shaw

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