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Keep in touch and up to date with Thunderbird 3

17 March 2010, Software Publisher

Having a computer connected to the internet invariably means managing at least one email address, and it is likely that you also make use of RSS feeds and newsgroups to keep up to date with the latest news. Ordinarily this could mean having to frequently visit several web sites or making use of a number of different programs, but Mozilla Thunderbird can be used to take care of all of these methods of communication in a single interface.

At its heart, Thunderbird is an email client, but it also provides the option of using the program to access newsgroups and manage RSS feeds. The new tabbed interface introduced in Thunderbird 3 means that it is easy to switch between different aspects of the program. The first time the program is launched you will be provided with the opportunity to import email accounts from another email client. This process includes importing your email settings, messages and contacts, so it is easy to make the transition to Thunderbird.

Once a main email account has been setup, you can then click Tools > Account Settings to start to configure additional options. To add more email accounts, click the Account Actions button followed by Add Mail Account and then use the wizard to configure account settings. News feeds and newsgroups can be added by clicking Account Actions followed by Add Other Account before selecting either Blog & News Feeds or Newsgroup account.

If a large number of newsgroups, feeds and email accounts have been added to the program, it could quickly results in a cluttered interface which would be difficult to navigate. However, by right clicking any of the entries in the left hand Smart Folders panel, you can opt to open any items – such as an individual newsgroups or news feed – in a new tab to allow for easy switching between accounts.

To make it easier to manage the large number of messages and posts you are likely to receive having set up Thunderbird, message filters can be used to automatically organise them into folders. Click the Tools menu and select Message Filters before using the drop down menu to choose whether you would like to create rules and filters for email, feeds or individual newsgroups. You can then click the New button and use the dialog to configure  the filtering settings – for instance, you may decide that emails containing a particular word in the subject line should be automatically deleted, and that newgroups posts about a certain subject should highlighted.

But the real stand out feature of Thunderbird is its support for add-ons. Just like Mozilla’s Firefox web browser, new features and options can be added to Thunderbird through the use of extensions. Click the Tools menu and select Add-ons and a number of recommended add-ons will be displayed in the dialog that appears. You can also click the Browse All Add-ons link to visit the Thunderbird Add-ons web site where you can browse through all of the available extensions. With add-ons that can be used to change the appearance of messages and posts, add new features to the program and generally change the way Thunderbird works, you’re bound to be able to find several extensions you’d like to install.

With its support for blogs, newsgroups, news feeds and email, Thunderbird is one of the most versatile programs you can installed on your computer. With versions available for Windows, Linux and Mac, even if you find that you are regularly working with different systems, the program can be installed on each of them to provide a uniform experience.

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