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35. Freeware Thunderbird zaps spam

By Mark Alberstat

On an average day, the mail servers at Chebucto Community Net receive about 100,000 pieces of e-mail. Unfortunately, only about five per cent are legitimate e-mails. The rest is a variety of spam and viruses. Thanks to spam and virus filtering, most of that junk never reaches the intended recipient.

At the other end of the thousands of legitimate e-mails is a wide range of e-mail clients. Some users simply use the web-mail services offered by their providers, while most use some type of e-mail client such as Microsoft Outlook. These are generally called POP accounts (POP stands for post office protocol) and come in two varieties, POP2 and POP3. POP3 is the newer version of the two.

Although Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express have a huge presence in the marketplace, one freebie client that has been coming on strong in recent months is Mozilla's Thunderbird.

Like its space-age puppet counterparts, Thunderbird can rescue you from a myriad of problems, and the latest release (Version 0.6) is quickly gaining recognition for its "junk mail" controls. With many other e-mail clients, the user has to create filters to sort out the junk from the good mail. With Thunderbird, it is as easy as going into the tools and then the junk mail controls, the adaptive filters tab and enabling the adaptive junk mail detection option. A similar service is available for other POP clients but as add-on applications, such as Norton's AntiSpam, which runs around $40 to $50.

Not only is Thunderbird a great program to use, it is also free. By using it, you are throwing your support behind the idea of open-source software and all that it stands for. Another advantage of it being an open-source product is that it is constantly being worked on with more and better features in the works.

Thunderbird is also not a Windows-only application. Although the latest version does have a Windows installer, there are also versions for Linux and Mac OS X. The Apple-heads will be happy to hear that version 0.6 has a new pinstripe theme that fits in nicely with the overall look of that OS. The Mozilla site also links to unofficial builds of Thunderbird that come in such flavours as Solaris, Java Desktop, French, German and Norwegian.

Another great feature of Thunderbird is that it avoids being bloated, over-produced software by its broad use of extensions. For Thunderbird, extensions are small programs, or plug-ins, that add new functions to the base download. These functions can be anything from a toolbar button to a calendar or instant weather feature. There are 42 extensions available, and all are free of charge and found at the main Thunderbird site. For those who are as interested in style as well as substance, Thunderbird has a variety of downloadable themes that change the overall look of the program but not its functionality. The 35 themes run the gamut from A-W, starting with Apollo, which is based on GANT icons, to Walnut, which has a wood-grain look to the icons and task bar. One caveat about the themes, however, is that not all have been updated for the recent release.

Although no e-mail programs are perfect, Thunderbird offers excellent anti-spam capabilities, along with some customization options that are all well worth the look if you're inundated by spam or would like to consider open-source software.

To download the latest version of Thunderbird go to:

For an article on the junk mail filter with Netscape that also applies to Thunderbird go to:

For an extensive article on installing and using Thunderbird go to:

The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, email If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


The Mousepad Index


Originally published 30 May 2004


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