Best of: Thunderbird Extensions

[Last Updated: June 2, 2008]

With the upcoming release of Thunderbird 2.0 just around the corner, I figured there would never be a better time to compile some of the best add-ons available for this popular open source e-mail client.

What is Thunderbird? Thunderbird is a free desktop e-mail and news client from Mozilla that is a popular alternative to using Microsoft Outlook. Between the software itself, and the extensions and themes that will be covered below, you can get pretty much any feature that you’ve come to rely on in Outlook, making it easy for Outlook users to make the conversion.

Does Thunderbird have Shortcuts? If you’re looking for Thunderbird shortcuts, you can find a virtually complete list of them on Leslie Franke’s Thunderbird Cheat Sheet.

How do I Install the Extensions? For experienced Firefox users, you’ll quickly learn that installing extensions on Thunderbird works a little differently. There are actually two ways to get your extension successfully installed:

Download and Install Method:

  • Browse to the web page that has the download link for the extension.
  • Firefox Users – Right click on “Install Now for Windows” (or whatever the download link is called) . This avoids Firefox thinking its a Firefox extension.
  • Other Browser Users – Left click as normal.
  • Select “Save link as” from the context menu. Press the Save button.
  • Start Thunderbird.
  • Press the Install button in Tools -> Add-ons -> Extensions in Thunderbird.
  • Browse to the .xpi file. Press the Okay button.
  • Thunderbird will display a “Software Installation” window. Press the “Install now” button when it becomes enabled.

Drag and drop to the extensions/add-ons window:

  • Browse to the web page that has the download link for the extension.
  • Start Thunderbird.
  • Go to Tools -> Extensions (its Tools -> Add-ons -> Extensions in 2.0)
  • Left click on “Install Now for Windows” (or whatever the download link is called) in your browser and drag it over the Thunderbird window in the Windows Taskbar (at the bottom of the screen). Don’t release the button. After a second the windows focus should shift to the Extensions/Add-ons window. Drag the mouse to that window and release the button.
  • Thunderbird will display a “Software Installation” window. Press the “Install now” button when it becomes enabled.

That should covered everything you need, so without further delay, here are some of my favorite Thunderbird extensions currently available:

- Appearance -

  • Buttons – Adds buttons to the Thunderbird Toolbar to make navigation easier.
  • Contacts Sidebar - Adds your address book contacts to their own side panel.
  • Cute Menus – Adds icons to your menu items.
  • Flatstyle – Gives Thunderbird a Microsoft Outlook style appearance.
  • Tiny Menu – Compacts your menu to save space.

- Calendar -

  • Lightning – The extremely popular calendar for Thunderbird, modeled after Mozilla’s stand-alone Sunbird. This is the only extension truly needed to get the full feel of Outlook. (You can now sync with Google Calendar as well). Lightning Multiweek adds a multi-week view option within Lightning.

- Composing/Replying to an E-mail -

  • Automatic Zip Attachments – Zips all attachments prior to sending an e-mail.
  • Nested Quote Remover – Removes nested quoting automatically when you reply to an e-mail.
  • Quick Quote – Allows you to quickly quote a portion of an e-mail in your response.
  • Quick Reply – Adds a text box beneath the message allowing you to do a quick reply. (May not yet work with Thunderbird 2.0)
  • QuickText – Allows you to insert pre-defined snippets of text into e-mails as often as you want.
  • Signature Switch – Allows you to switch between multiple e-mail signatures.

- Internet -

  • ThunderBrowse – Adds a URL bar allowing you to view e-mail links on the internet within Thunderbird.

- Miscellaneous -

  • Del.icio.us Complete – Social bookmarks manager that integrates Del.icio.us into Thunderbird.
  • Dictionary Search – Adds a dictionary to the right-click context menu.
  • Email Notification Randomizer – Gives a random sound to notify you of new e-mail.
  • Minimize to Tray – Allows you to minimize Thunderbird to the system tray. Can also close to system tray and more!
  • Skype Toolbar – Adds a Skype toolbar to Thunderbird allowing you to call all your Thunderbird contacts via Skype.
  • Update Notifier – Lets you know when there is an update to your Thunderbird extensions.
  • WorldWeather – Displays your local weather in Thunderbird.

- POP3 -

  • Mail Redirect – Allows you to send messages from Thunderbird to another E-mail address.
  • Webmail – Allows you to get around POP3 restrictions with Yahoo and Hotmail. Installation instructions can be found here.

- Shortcuts -

  • Mouse Gestures – Adds mouse gestures.
  • QuickMove – Allows you to assign keyboard shortcuts to quickly move messages to assigned folders.

- Sorting -

  • Attachment Extractor – Integrates one-click attachment extract option from selected messages. Once attachments have been extracted it can delete, detach or mark messages as Read.
  • GMailUI – Adds GMail style archiving and message search functionalities.
  • Nostalgy – Allows for quick and easy folder navigation and message movement. Also allows you to set rules and provides several keyboard shortcuts.
  • Quote Collapse – Allows you to collapse all quotes in your e-mails to make them more readable.
  • Remove Duplicate Messages – Detects and deletes duplicate messages.

- Themes -

  • Modern Modoki – Based on the extremely popular Fusion theme for Netscape 8.0.
  • Noia 2.0 eXtreme – Silver theme with nice icons. Is based on the popular Firefox theme with the same name.
  • Own – Silver theme designed to integrate well with the look of Windows Vista/Microsoft Office 2007.

As with my other lists in my “Best of” series, I will be updating this list regularly in hopes of keeping it current and useful. If you rely on any extensions or themes that I missed, please comment below with a link to the extension so I can get it added.

Getting an Early Look at Thunderbird 2.0

As we get ready for the upcoming release of Mozilla’s Thunderbird 2.0, the reviews have been sprouting up all over the blogosphere.  I was working on one for this site, but decided that Leslie Franke’s First Look at Thunderbird 2.0 does a great job of covering whats new and what to expect from this amazing desktop e-mail software.  As a result, tomorrow I will instead be posting a Thunderbird installment for my “Best of” series that has been ongoing since the creation of this website.

In the meantime, head on over to Leslie’s site and get yourself familiarized with Thunderbird 2.0.

Huge List of Open Source Software

While browsing the Internet today I ran across this huge list of free open source software.  It appears to be a virtually complete list, but lacks any real organization, making it difficult to find what your looking for on the list if you don’t know the name of the software.   Adding some categories would make it a outstanding resource for fans of open source.

101 Fantastic Freebies

I was excited to see that PC World has released the 2007 edition of their 101 Fantastic Freebies.  In the article, they cover ways to make your computer more productive, informative, secure, and entertaining with free software and services.  You can check them out by category or in alphabetical order.

For your reference, here is last year’s list (which seems suprisingly outdated).

Thunderbird Release Candidate 1 Available

I’ve been waiting for awhile now for Mozilla to catch up to Microsoft Office 2003 (which I am currently using) in hopes of switching to open source, so I’ve been beta testing Thunderbird 2.0 since they announced their first beta version. Now it looks like they are confident they have gotten rid of all the bugs, as yesterday they made Thunderbird Release Candidate 1 available for download.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t include the tabs feature we were all hoping for (Thunderbird 3.0 hopefully!), but here are a few of the things you can enjoy in the new release:

  • Message Tags: Create your own tags for organizing e-mail. Messages can be assigned any number of tags. Tags can be combined with saved searches and mail views to make it easier to organize your e-mail.
  • Easy Access to Popular Web Mail Services: GMail users can now access their accounts in Thunderbird by simply providing your user names and password.
  • Updates to the extension system: The extension system has been updated to provide enhanced security and to allow for easier extension installation.
  • Visual Theme: Thunderbird 2’s theme and user interface have been updated to improve usability. Those who are comfortable with Microsoft Outlook will appreciate the similarity.
  • Folder Views: You can now customize the folder pane to show favorite, unread or recent folders.

If you’ve been waiting to make the switch from Microsoft Outlook, now is as good a time as any. In my experience, the release candidates are pretty stable, so I recommend giving it a try.

Top 10 Free Windows Downloads

Lifehacker is at it again, providing an amazing Top 10 list of Free Windows Downloads.  As always, it looks like they’ve done their homework in creating a great list, giving readers an idea of which applications to download and what software they replace.  

For example, here is #10:

Top 10 Windows Downloads, #10: Replace WinZip and WinRAR with 7-Zip, a free open source file archive manager that can extract and zip up multiple file formats, from regular old .zip’s to .rar’s and .7z’s.

If you hate constantly clicking over to the next page to see the full list, you can also grab the whole list at a glance using this zip file. 

Organizing your Desktop and Bookmarks

I spend a lot of my spare time trying new products and services which are then reviewed on this website.  As a result, I have accounts all over the place, a host of passwords, and a major clutter on my computer’s harddrive.   Many would describe my files as an “organized mess.” 

I’m always looking for tips on keeping things organized and recently I ran across an article from Mac Apper which does a great job of giving tips for Mac users.  What about Windows users?!?

A few things I use to help keep things in order:

  • Google Browser Sync – Syncs your various computer Firefox browsers. Includes all bookmarks, cookies and will restore last web session.    I’ve considered the switch to Foxmarks (which I’ve heard is better), but I love my Google account and like the additional syncing of cookies, passwords, etc.
  • Google Desktop – Allows you to search your computer for whatever files you are looking for easily.   Use to slow down your computer, but the latest stable version hasn’t given me any problems yet.  Includes Outlook toolbar and GMail search.
  • Download Manager – Fast and efficient download manager that integrates well with the major browsers. Also works great with FlastGot extension for Firefox users.
  • Keepass - Securely manages my passwords for me.

What other software do you use to keep yourself organized?  (Preferrably free or affordable)

Thunderbird Add-on: Buttons

Download Squad has posted about a nice Thunderbird Add-on known as Buttons. If you use Thunderbird as your E-mail client, you’ve probably noticed the lack of buttons in the default build. With the addition of this add-on you can get some of those missing buttons back, helping to make it look more like Microsoft Outlook or another desktop E-mail clients.

On a side note, it looks like Thunderbird will be going to a release candidate build soon for version 2.0. This version was supposed to be out in mid 2006, so hopefully its worth the wait. I’m currently using the Beta 2 version available and have been very pleased so far.

Thunderbird users may also be interested in Google Operating System’s article about how to Add GMail features to Thunderbird.  GMail and Thunderbird are two of my favorite applications, so this was a great find for me!

Best of: Free Software

[Last Updated: June 2, 2008]

If you’re like me, you are probably a big fan of things that are free. Unfortunately many people don’t realize that the internet houses all sorts of free software, including software that is comparable or in some cases actually better than their paid counterparts.

As a result, I decided to create a post that collects the top 2 or 3 free software alternatives from around the internet and keep them all in one place. As new free software is created or improved, this list will continue to be updated in the hopes that it will remain a valid resource over time.

Note: This list is intended to be a collection of free software. If you are interested in a list of the applications that are web-based, I recommend you check out my post Best of: Web-based Applications.

Here is my compilation of free software, broken down into categories, and includes a brief description of each:

- Anti-Virus -

  • Avast – Free anti-virus software for non-commercial use. Does require regular re-registration.
  • AVG – Free and lightweight anti-virus software that works for Windows Vista and Linux.
  • ClamWin – Popular alternative anti-virus software.

- Adware/Spyware Removal -

  • Spyware Terminator – Currently the best free adware/spyware removal tool.
  • Spybot – Has trouble keeping up with current adware/spyware, but makes for a good secondary scanner.
  • Windows Defender – Microsoft’s product offers a quick and effecient way to rid yourself of annoying adware/spyware.

- BitTorrent -

  • Azureus – Open source java-based BitTorrant client with plugins available.
  • uTorrent – Smaller and quicker BitTorrant client.

- Blogging Software -

  • Windows Live Writer – Allows you to blog from your desktop.

- Calendar -

  • Sunbird – Mozilla’s calendar and organizer service.
  • EssentialPM – Another free calendar and organizer service.

- Computer Cleaner -

  • CCleaner – System optimization and privacy tool that allows Windows to run faster by freeing up disk space.

- Desktop Search -

  • X1 Enterprise – Indexes 370 different file types.
  • Google Desktop – Google is usually tops when it comes to search, but this is known to slow down your computer when installed. Includes Outlook toolbar and GMail search.
  • Yahoo Desktop – Yahoo’s version of desktop search, for people that prefer Yahoo products.

- Digital Image Editor -

  • The GIMP – Open Source image editor for people that went something similar to Adobe Photoshop.
  • Paint.net – Another alternative to Photoshop from students at Washington State University.

- Download Manager -

  • Download Manager – Fast and efficient download manager that integrates well with the major browsers. Also works great with FlastGot extension for Firefox users.
  • FlashGet – Complex download manager for advanced users.

- E-Mail Client -

  • Thunderbird – Free desktop E-mail client. Supports POP3 and IMAP. Can be improved via Thunderbird extensions.
  • Foxmail – Free desktop E-mail client that based out of China.

- Feed Reader (Desktop) –

  • GreatNews – Most popular desktop feed reader.
  • Snarfer – Another great feed reader rapidly rising in popularity.

- FTP Client -

  • Firezilla – Fast, reliable, and secure FTP client.
  • SmartFTP – Good alternative FTP client for non-commercial use.

- HTML Editor -

  • Nvu – Popular open source HTML editor.

- Instant Messenger w/Voice -

- Office Products -

  • OpenOffice – Popular open source Office suite.
  • AbiWord – Lightweight alternative to Microsoft Word.

- Password Manager -

  • Keepass – Popular password manager.

- PDF Creator -

- PDF Viewer -

- Phone -

  • Skype – Internet phone service. **Charges associated with service, but the software is free**

- Screen Capture -

  • FastStone – Feature filled screen capture service that doesn’t even require installation.
  • PrintScreen – Basic screen capture service.
  • WinSnap – Fairly professional screen capture service that will be able to do most of the stuff you want it to.

- Text Editor -

  • Edit Pad Lite – Text editor similar to Notepad, but with tabbed windows and more!
  • Notepad 2 – Designed to be an improvement over Notepad.
  • NoteTab Lite – Text editor with built in libraries.

- Video/Audio Player -

  • Windows Media Player – Microsoft’s audio and video player.
  • SongbirdNest – Open Source player from Mozilla.
  • VLC Media Player – Cross-platform media player and streaming server.

- Web Browser -

  • Firefox – Most popular alternative to Internet Explorer. Features versatility with extensions and themes. See my Users Guide to Firefox 2.0 for a full review.
  • Flock – Based on Firefox web browser, but includes several built-in social features. See my Users Guide to Flock for a full review.
  • Opera – Popular alternative browser known for its speed and security. See my Users Guide to Opera for a full review.

- Windows Explorer -

  • Xplorer2 – Replaces Windows File Explorer with some advanced options.
  • ExplorerXP – Replaces Windows Explorer for Windows 2000 and XP.
  • QTTabbar – Allows you to operate files and folders like tab browser folder grouping, histories, etc.

- Zip Utility -

  • 7 Zip – Open Source zip utility
  • IZArc – Zip utility that supports over 50 archive types.
  • TugZip – Free archiving utility for Windows that provides support for compressed, encoded, and disc-imaged files.

In reviewing the above list, the one thing that jumps out at me is that a lot of this software is open source. I think this helps demonstrate the power of open source software both as a way to drive down prices, as well as providing an overall better product in many cases, due to the unlimited resources available.

If you know of a qualifying product that you think should be included in this list, please let me know in the comments below!

30 Essential Pieces of Open Source Software

I’m a huge fan of free software, and always enjoy seeing what free software others can’t live without. The Simple Dollar created a list of their 30 Most Essential Pieces of Open Source Software.

You’ll find many of the classics you’d expect, including Firefox, Thunderbird, and OpenOffice. One notable that I love that isn’t included is Foxit Reader (which is better than Adobe Reader).

To see the rest of the list, check out the link above!

If you like the above list, I also recommend checking out 46 Best-Ever Freeware Utilities, which breaks the free software down into categories and gives you options of different types of software in each category.

To see other great resources from around the web, check out my Guides, How-To, and Reference page!