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Thunderbird 11 FINAL lands with minor changes, but Earlybird release hints at more to come

14 March 2012, Nick Peers

Mozilla has updated its email messaging client with the release of Thunderbird 11 FINAL. Version 11 introduces a slightly tweaked user interface – tabs are now placed above the menu bar – and promises to improve startup times and overall responsiveness.

Version 11’s lack of notable new features is disappointing, but Mozilla’s release of Earlybird 13.0a2, an early alpha version of Thunderbird, hints at more radical changes to follow.

Thunderbird 11’s only notable change is to move the tabs above the menu bar, a process that cannot be reversed, for reasons explained in this blog post. The idea is that Thunderbird’s tabs allow users to divide up the program into specific areas – such as an entire tab for the Lightning calendar plug-in, for example – and so represent a more logical layout for future builds.

Other changes are beneath the hood: Thunderbird 11 follows Firefox 11 in employing the latest Mozilla Gecko 11 rendering engine, while the release notes also claim improved start times are complemented by faster and more responsive use. A large number of  minor platform bug fixes and security patches have also been applied to this latest build.

The major change for Thunderbird 11.0 sees it envisage a tab-centric future.

At the same time, Mozilla has also released version 13 of its early alpha build of Thunderbird. Unlike version 11, Earlybird 13.0a2 debuts a number of major new features that will add to the program’s functionality. These include support for “Big Files”, a means of sharing large files via online storage facilities rather than cumbersome file attachments, and “Instant Messaging”, tools for working with IM clients including Twitter.

Other features planned for future releases include a major revamp of Thunderbird’s Address Book, a dedicated Home tab and the automatic shipping of “default” add-ins for Thunderbird.

Thunderbird 11.0 FINAL is available now as a free, open-source download for Windows, Mac and Linux. Earlybird 13.0a2 is also available for download on the same platforms, and will install alongside Thunderbird. As it is an early developmental version, we do not recommend it for everyday users.

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