Mail on your Mac is a decent email app. It handles multiple accounts, signatures, features a Junk Mail filter, and most of the bells and whistles we expect to use in email.
Is there a better way? Maybe. But different, for sure. Mozilla’s Thunderbird email app is still free, still loaded with non-Mail-like features, and a competent (if somewhat complex) alternative.
Here’s my list of 12 Thunderbird email functions you’ll like using (and each is a little different than Apple’s Mail).
Account Setup Wizard – Most of us have more than one email account, and Thunderbird handles them well, including IMAP, SMTP, and SSL/TLS. Even better, the wizard simply requires your name, email address, and password to handle setup.
Email Tabs – Tabs are all the rage in the 21st century. Even Apple hasn’t caught up. Thunderbird has tabs which let you open multiple messages at once, then click between them. Double click a message in the inbox and it opens into a tab message.
Address Book – This is remarkably handy. Click on an address in a message and add the name and information to the Address Book. Also add photo and other contact information with a click.
Attachment Reminder – Sometimes I don’t pay attention to the paperclip on a message in Mail, which is a reminder that the message has an attachment. Thunderbird also has a reminder, but also has a reminder for when you’re sending an email with an attachment. Have you ever sent a message without attaching the attachment?
Built-In Search – Sure, you can search your email mailboxes in Thunderbird. But you can also search the web. Click to grab a search engine and search away without switching to a browser first.
Quick Filters – I love this feature. It’s a Quick Filter Toolbar so you can filter all your email with a click. Click a tab for whatever you want to sort.
Email Archive – This is so needed. Many of us have many, many years of email messages. They’re not always useful, but too valuable to throw away. Thunderbird has a built-in archive. That gets messages you want to save out of the inbox or folders, but still accessible.
Smart Folders – Most of us organize our email messages into mailboxes or folders. So does Thunderbird, but there’s an added bonus for multiple email account users. Everything shows up in one Inbox folder, but behind the scenes, the messages are still segregated.
Add-Ons – Mozilla’s Firefox is famous for add-on utilities, and Thunderbird gets into the game with an Add-ons Manager. Don’t bother using the browser to find more functionality. It’s built in.
Junk Mail Filter – yep, that’s built-in, too. It works similarly to Apple’s Junk Mail filter and must learn what’s spam and what’s not as the email arrives.
Privacy And Protection – I’m pretty sure privacy will be a big issue in coming years, so Thunderbird offers a few privacy functions. For example, it blocks remote images in email messages so the sender cannot track you unless you want them to (a similar feature is in Mail).
And, there’s built-in Phishing protection which attempts to identify scams and trick email that asks for confidential or personal information. You even get a warning when you click on a link in a message that doesn’t go where it says it’s going.
Automatic Updates – This is a trend whose time has come. I love automatic, set it and forget it updates. Firefox and Chrome have them. Now Thunderbird. These updates are frequent, too. Come on, Apple. More frequent updates would be in everyone’s best interest.
Thunderbird is cross platform, so there’s a similar version for Windows PCs. And it’s free– open source. If Apple’s Mail has bitten you a few times, there’s an alternative. But Thunderbird is more complex than Mail, has more features, and a decidedly Windows-like look and feel. But it works. And it’s free.