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Bit The Bullet, Moving To Thunderbird

I'm a heavy e-mail user, and basically live out of my inbox because of all the companies I deal with an work with. I regularly check 10 accounts several times a day, a few of those several times and hour, and receive hundreds of messages per day. Prior to today, I had all this filtering into Outlook 2003, all via POP3 download, with a few add ons and filters to make my life easier in there. I have been using Outlook for years, so I have several archived PST (Outlook's storage file) files on my hard drive, but I also have one large PST that is my main working file. I also needed it recently for use with MS Exchange as well as ActiveSync connections with my phone. After all these years, and despite archiving on a regular basis, Outlook just drags more and more. Not only that, but IMAP support in Outlook always seemed like an after-thought. It also was a pain to look up messages if I didn't have them properly sorted, because Outlook didn't have built-in indexing of messages (not until 2007, which I don't have). Third-party indexing solutions seemed to only make the slow-down problem worse, and never seemed to index things properly.

I'd been looking at moving to a different email client for a while, but never did as Outlook has always Just Worked™. But I decided to make the move to Thunderbird, now that it's mature enough to handle all I could throw at it.


My biggest hesitations to moving to the program earlier were few:

  • One, I needed to be able to import my PST file and all its folder and contacts into Thunderbird, something that earlier builds of Thunderbird couldn't do (I tried it on 2.0, and it couldn't handle the PST file). The only work-around I'd seen anywhere was to import the file into Eudora, which would handle the file, and then import the Eudora file into Thunderbird, which seemed like the long way around. I downloaded Thunderbird 3.0, which was released not too long ago, and it appears to be able to read/import from the PST file, so that eliminated that problem.
  • Two, I needed built-in calendar support. While Sunbird, has been around a while, I didn't want to run a separate program. Lightning being mature and stable is really what I needed, and now that it's at 1.0 beta, it's good enough. However, I still needed to get all the calendar info I had in Outlook into Lightning, and Lightning couldn't read the PST file. So I had to use the command-line FreeMiCal to export my Outlook data into a standard ICS format that Lightning could use.
  • Lastly, I needed a way around to keep my calendar and contact data synchronized with my phone. Since my phone runs Windows Mobile, the easiest way is to use ActiveSync, but now that over-the-air options exist for syncing via Google (thanks to Gmail's Exchange support), I can now keep everything in sync over the air (using some add-ins for Thunderbird as well). I haven't set it this all up yet, but that's my plan on how I'm going to do it.
  • I needed good Exchange support, but the Exchange server I was occasionally needing access to is now getting decommissioned, so that's no longer a factor.
I still have a truckload of tweaks to do to my Thunderbird install, but thanks to a bunch of extensions (of which I'll document here sometime), I've already got myself up and functional and working. I still need to add a couple of my Gmail accounts into here, but so far, so good. Memory usage is better, and CPU usage is better (after the initial indexing of the messages after import). And I've finally joined the 21st century and am using IMAP to access my e-mail.

Posted by Jake on 01/25/10 @ 10:34 AM
Posted in Geekdom, Jake | Permalink



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