by Bill Snyder

Firefox and Thunderbird 11: Better Search and Sync Lead Way in Upgrades

Mar 19, 20123 mins
BrowsersEnterprise ApplicationsInternet

New Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail client has tabs on top and Web search built in, with instant messaging coming soon. Firefox browser has improved synch features.

Sometimes a tab is just a tab. But sometimes it’s more. And that’s the case of Thunderbird 11, the newest version of Mozilla’s open-source e-mail client. (Download it here.)The new T-Bird debuted last week, and the very first thing you’ll notice is that the tabs have moved to the top of the window, just where they are in the Firefox browser, which is, of course, T-Bird’s sibling.

At the moment, the change in the position of the tabs is mostly cosmetic. But as T-Bird evolves — and like Firefox it’s on a rapid pace — the tabs will do much more than mark an open e-mails or a mailbox. Eventually, they’ll contain functions like search, instant messaging, even compose or the address book, according to Mozilla’s Mike Conley, who explained the change in a blog post.


Although these super tabs are still a few releases down the road, the new T-Bird design does do some things differently and as Conley puts it, “more contextually.” When you click on a tab that represents an e-mail, you’ll notice that there’s now a bar above the tab that repeats the subject line and tells you what box the email is in. If you’re like me and tend to keep way too many e-mails open at a time, that’s a very handy feature.

You’ll also notice that the search box that you use to search for e-mails now also can be used to search the Web. When you type in a term you’re looking for, you also get the option to search on the Web. The results come up in a tab, though when you click on suggested links your default browser opens them up.

First Look at Firefox 11 Browser

For now, the default search option is Bing, and oddly enough, Google is not an alternative. In reading some blog posts about this, I’ve learned that there is some corporate stuff going on that drove the decision, but it may change in the future. Google or not, it’s a handy little feature.

By the way, since I’m now actively using several e-mail addresses, I’ve found that T-Bird does a great job managing two separate accounts. With very little effort, I configured T-Bird to drop e-mail from both accounts into a single inbox. There are a few little glitches, but if you need to handle multiple accounts, T-Bird is a very serviceable solution.

Meanwhile, Firefox 11 is also available. Unlike the T-Bird upgrade, the changes in this one are mostly under the hood. It does, however, improve its ability to synch. You can now sync add-ons across devices, regardless of the operating system they use, as long as Firefox runs on them. Mainly we’re talking Android smartphones and tablets, since Apple’s iOS is not compatible with Firefox.

In the past you could only synch bookmarks across devices. If you only want to synch bookmarks, you can do that on an Apple product, though my experience on the iPhone is that it doesn’t work very well.