tabs for Thunderbird

Anticipating requests, I've spun some tab-enabled builds of the latest version of Mozilla's mail/news desktop app for Linux, Mac, and Windows.

Note that the Mac version is no longer compatible with Mac OS X 10.2, as my Mac build machine (a.k.a. my laptop) has been upgraded to Leopard and XCode 3.0 and no longer has the 10.2.8 SDK on it.  It should work on 10.3.9+, 10.4, and 10.5, however.

p.s. Congrats to the Thunderbird team on the release of!  Getting a security and stability release out the door is no mean feat, requiring careful coordination between several groups of talented folk with a high standard for software quality that they consistently achieve.  Bravo!


LpSolit said...

Why not offering it as an extension?

Myk said...

LpSolit: because I had to change a bunch of core code that isn't easy to extend. I would have to ship most of Thunderbird in the extension and jump through hoops to override the core functionality, and each version of the extension would only apply to a single dot release of Thunderbird, so you'd have to upgrade the extension every time you upgraded Thunderbird.

Doron said...

if i run this build, will it just replace my current version, but keep all me settings and email (if i install at same location)?

is it also possible to go back to the non-tabbed build?

in any case, i think it is great you offer this, and can't wait to see it in thunderbird 3.0.

Myk said...

Doron: if you install the build, then it will overwrite your existing version if you install it to the default location. But it will keep all your settings and email regardless of where you install it.

If you want to use both the tabbed and the non-tabbed versions, just install this version to a non-default location.

Note that you need to enable tabs to use them. Just go to Preferences/Options > Advanced > "Open new messages in:" and select "A new message tab".

Pär said...

Very nice!

Possible bug: when I open a message in a tab it seems to "forget" what encoding to use and I need to go to view -> character encoding and select "Western ISO-8859-1" to make it look ok again. This is very visible in email that contains for exmaple swedish characters (like "å", "ä" or "ö").

Myk said...

Pär: hmm, indeed, I see that as well. I'll look into it and see if I can figure out what's going on there.

CaseyD said...


I seem to of lost the ability to compose messages. The tabs are nice, tho.

This is OS X 10.4.9

I'll roll back and try again.

Myk said...

caseyd: hmm, I haven't seen that. Does you still have the same problem after reinstalling?

CaseyD said...

hey Myk -

The stock does not have the compose problem.

A reinstall of the tab supporting does.

The window menu lists compose window(s) being open, and the focus has gone from the main window. The window menu has extra, unlabeled positions which when selected display a "Message Compose" popup (no decorations) telling me "An error occurred wile creating a message compose window. please try again"

odd, eh?

CaseyD said...

Myk -

I've found that it works fine in 10.4.9 PPC. Prior postings were Intel.

There was lots of CPU pegging at first (various CPUs in this Quad) but finally a compose window appeared. after that it's quick.

Thanks for this build!

Myk said...

caseyd: Thanks for the additional info! I've seen the build work on an Intel Mac, so it sounds like this problem doesn't depend on the architecture. Perhaps it's related to some information in your Thunderbird profile, which could be different on the two machines.

I looked around for bugs reporting the issue, and I found a number of open bug reports citing similar problems with stock Thunderbird, including bugs 203555, 329222, 377662, and possibly 307672.

Unfortunately I don't see a clear explanation for the problem, although there are some suggested workarounds in comments 13 and 26 of that last bug.

Compose windows get specially cached so they open faster, which is why you saw the first compose window take a while on PPC. I wonder if something about that cache could be going wrong, although that's just an in-memory cache, as I recall, and so shouldn't be affected by application updates.

But maybe the XUL cache is involved. It stores optimized copies of user interface files, including the files that make up the compose window, on your hard drive, and if it didn't get invalidated and recreated when you switched applications, then the new application might be trying to use the cache created by the old version, which could cause this problem.

If so, you could fix it by shutting down the application and then removing the file called XUL.mfasl in the /Users/<your username>/Library/Caches/Thunderbird/<your profile folder name> folder (make a backup before removing just in case, although it's safe to remove because it's just a cache, and the app will recreate it if it's missing).

Then restart the application and see if the compose window works.

JC said...


Just a comment: start Thunderbird and click on a message; the message text is shown in the preview pane (no other tabs opened).

Then, double-click on a different message: I end up with two tabs showing the same message (the one I double clicked on)... The first message is lost...

I think what I should get is a new tab with the message I just double clicked, and the message I clicked first on the original tab. Am I missing something? I am using a Windows XP box.

Myk said...

JC: nope, you're not missing anything; that makes perfect sense. I'm guessing that when you double-click, then Thunderbird focuses the second message on the first click, causing it to load in the initial tab, and then opens it in a new tab on the second click.

To get the behavior you describe, which seems like the right behavior to me as well, Thunderbird would have to either wait for two clicks or undo the focus event when it sees the second click.

It seems like both of these options have unwanted side-effects. The first option delays a single-click-to-focus hile it waits for a possible second click, while the second option causes the focus to jump twice, which is likely to be disorienting.

So I'm not sure there is really a solution, although I agree that there's a problem.

JC said...

Myk: How about using the middle mouse button (the 'wheel' on my MS mouse) to open a message in a new tab (as an alternative to Right-click -> Open Message in New Tab)?

I often use the middle mouse button in Firefox to open links and bookmarks on new tabs...

Myk said...

JC: that's a great idea!