Some of the things that pushed me to do this were:
- With the Opera browser I was not aware of anything like FoxyProxy, which is very useful for me when accessing my company intranet.
- My web bank page did not show properly (perhaps their fault?) with Opera.
- Had issues with logging in my favourite forum with Opera (oddly enough not in all computers).
- The full editor of blogger does not display properly in Opera.
- I didn't notice Opera browser being particularly faster than Firefox.
- Opera Mail did not let me put my own tags to messages, which was a bit annoying sometimes.
- Opera Mail did not let me configure my mail servers with not standard ports, which was annoying if I wanted to access my company servers through SSH tunnels.
- In a few occasions Opera Mail just stopped working, and after restarting all the messages would be gone (the local copy only), so it had to download them again from Google Mail.
- Lately Opera Mail started to think that I had millions of messages and would never finish synchronizing with Gmail. After restarting it, it would recognize again properly that I have only thousands.
So, I decided to try the new Thunderbird 3.1 for e-mail, and if it was up to the job, then go back to the Firefox/Thunderbird tandem. So, I collected the things that I need from a mail reader and did a comparison of Thunderbird, Opera Mail, and Gmail. I'm not interested in doing a comparison of all their features, only the ones that I tend to use. I haven't looked in any depth at the documentation of any of the readers, so some of the things here might be wrong. If you find that any of this information is incorrect or that there are better ways of doing something, please let me know, I'd love to hear it. Thunderbird did now manage to do everything I needed, and I don't get the problems mentioned above (plus it is open source software), so I'm now migrating to Firefox/Thunderbird... for how long?
Here it is a list of things that I want my mail reader to do:
- No folders, use tags instead
- GMail: tags are called labels, and you can easily create arbitrary new labels and assign as many as you want to each message.
- Thunderbird: you can also create Tags and assign as many as you want to each message.
- Opera Mail: as far as I know, only the prebuilt tags.
- Don't mark messages as read automatically
- GMail apparently marks a message as read as soon as you open it. I don't like this at all. I don't even want to mark a message as read after a given set of time. For me "unread" means that I still have to do something with it, so I want to mark it as "read" only when I decide.
- Thunderbird. No problem. In Preferences, Advanced, unmark "Automatically mark messages as read", and I have to mark them as read explicitly.
- Opera Mail. This was also easily configurable.
- Efficient searching and filtering of messages
This is probably the most important feature for me, and for basic searches I think the three readers are very good. For "incremental searches" I think Gmail is the winner, but Thunderbird 3.1 second.
By incremental search I mean a situation like this: I want to find all mails that have something to do with "braemore statements", and once I found these, I want to find which ones have the word "winter" in the body.
- GMail. This is very good for incremental searches. Type "braemore statements" and a list of mail appears, then type "winter" and press again and bingo.
- Thunderbird. If I type all the words of an incremental search in the "Search all messages" box (thus not making it really incremental), then I also get the result, but ideally one would only type "braemore statements", then click on "Open as list" and then do a "Filter these messages", including the Body, but this does not work well and it seems to hang forever. (Filtering by body does seem to work at least in the Inbox, but it looks like it is really slow, while the Ctrl+K search is really fast. Go figure....).
- Opera Mail. The search option was very fast and quite good in general. For incremental searches it is very good. Type "braemore statements" in the general search box, then one the mails have been found, type "winter" in the quick filter, and bingo! This is what I was hoping it would work in Thunderbird as well, but for some reason it is not just yet.
- Good keyboard shortcuts
- Make "read" messages disappear from view but keep them available
- Thunderbird. In my Inbox I just click on the "Unread" quick filter and bingo. I only see the "unread" ones but all the rest are somewhere in there. Much cleaner view.
- Opera Mail also does this without any issues.
- Good display of HTML messages
- Possibility of deleting attachments
- Different personalities
- Gmail: I don't think this is possible at all.
- Thunderbird: it has support for different personalities, and I have used it in the past. Very convenient. This, together with the possibility of using non-conventional ports was very useful for me. Different personalities with Google Mail as SMTP server does not seem to work (Gmail at the end sends the message with you gmail address, and that's all), but when using non-standard port for my SMTP server, I can send (regardless of where I am) mail through my company SMTP server (via ssh tunnels). This allows me to fake my e-mail address (to avoid spam) when sending messages to newsgroups, and to send mail to internal mailing lists at our company (which rejects mails if coming from an outside address).
- OperaMail. I think this is only possible if you have different mail accounts, so you can select which one to use every time you send a message, but I don't think it is possible having, for instance, different signatures associated with the same mail account.
- Automatic filtering of messages