If you have been reading this blog for a while you know I have recently switched over from Thunderbird to Claws Mail. After all the fuss at Mozilla concerning Thunderbird I thought I would look for a replacement, not for immediate use, but for the future in case Thunderbird was shot down from it’s email flight.
Now that I have been using Claws Mail for a while I thought I would write up a comparison between Claws Mail and Thunderbird and maybe this way I can help some people making a decision.
I have been a Thunderbird user for years. I started using Thunderbird back in the days when I was still running Windows and I was looking for something to replace my Outlook Express. I chose Thunderbird because I also switched to Firefox and I was very happy with Firefox so gave Thunderbird a go. Over the years Thunderbird got better and better, more plugins came out and the functionality was outstanding.
I ran three plug-ins for Thunderbird:
- Enigmail – Very very good PGP manager.
- Signature Switch – To change my signature in my emails.
- Folder something, I forgot. I’ll talk about it further down in the article.
I was really happy with Thunderbird especially when I made the move to Linux on my laptop, no need to use a different email client, just download and install Thunderbird and it was like things never changed. So why did you change you ask? Well like I said in the beginning of the post, all the fuss at Mozilla was my main concern.
When I started using Claws Mail it took some getting used to, not long though, because most the basic functionality is the same, compose an email, reply, create filters etc.
I’ll list some functionalities and how they compare between Thunderbird and Claws Mail
When I started creating filters I quickly fell in love with the automatic filter creation, it basically checks the email headers and when it detects mail listing headers it will tell you it’s using that, with Thunderbird I had to check the message source and determine which header to use.
Just like Thunderbird you can still create a filter manually and use any header you like, the only thing is that in Claws Mail that header isn’t remembered, so next time you create a filter by hand you’ll have to type the header again instead of selecting it from a pull down list.
The possibility for archiving in Thunderbird is limited to the mail account, at least by default, there might be a plug-in available, so for an account you can say you want to keep 30 days of mail for example. With Claws Mail you can create processing rules for every folder you create, and I for one have a rule for archiving the items in that folder and besides deleting mail unconditionally you can add conditions in the rule, like don’t delete mail you have tagged as Important.
It’s a longer process to set up archiving but I believe it’s definitely a very big plus for Claws Mail.
Thunderbird doesn’t support GPG natively and in all honesty that’s a good thing because it paved the way for Enigmail, THE GPG plug-in for Thunderbird. Claws Mail also doesn’t support GPG natively but they ship a plug-in with the default installation and you only have to load through the plug-in menu.
The big thing for about Enigmail is the fact you can set up rules for the use of signing and/or encrypting. So if you always have to encrypt your emails to a certain person, just set it up and forget about it, when ever you email the mail won’t be encrypted unless you mail that person. It was something I used a lot and it was the main reason why I switched back in the beginning from Claws Mail to Thunderbird. I decided to change the way I use GPG, like I will always sign my emails regardless who I send it to, that way I don’t have to use rules. I still hope Claws Mail will some day implement this feature though.
This is way better in Claws Mail as it is in Thunderbird. In Claws Mail you have several options for your folders, I already mentioned processing rules, which are almost like filtering rules but not exactly. The other thing you can do is set which account to use and/or the recipient when you compose an email in that folder. This is especially easy for mail listing. In Thunderbird I used a plug-in for the last option.
There are several other options you can set per folder, I don’t use them but I can see them being useful, like a different dictionary for spelling.
Claws Mail has default support for mail listings. Every mail listing has headers that tells you how to post, reply, subscribe, unsubscribe etc. These options are shown in the toolbar menu. For Thunderbird there’s a plug-in available that can do the same thing.
Unlike Thunderbird, Claws Mail doesn’t have native support for spam. They do have two plug-ins avalaible, one is a bogon filter, the other is a plugin that talks to Spamassassin. Personally I use Spamassissin which means you will have to install it on your machine, also Spamassissin is not the quickest software around but I can live with it.
Claws Mail’s default way to present the email is plain text. You need a plug-in to be able to read HTML formatted emails. The plug-in comes default with the installation, you just need to activate it. Like Thunderbird when you read a HTML email, images won’t load automatically but you can tell it to load them.
Another feature in Claws Mail is a button that will jump you to the next unread email, no matter if it’s in a different folder or a different mail box.
I don’t have numbers but Claws Mail response faster than Thunderbird. Besides the spam filtering using Spamassissin, Claws Mail is super fast.
Claws Mail uses less memory than Thunderbird. The use of plug-ins doesn’t have a big effect on the memory use in Claws Mail, I’m not sure what the impact of it is in Thunderbird.
In this area it’s Thunderbird that rules. There are hundreds of plug-ins available for #TB, unlike for #CM which only has a few. Personally I don’t need that many plug-ins and for the things I wanted to do in Claws Mail , and it wasn’t supported natively, there is a plug-in available. If you’re thinking about switching from Thunderbird to Claws Mail, you’ll have to check the reason why you use a plug-in in Thunderbird is supported natively in Claws Mail. If not, check if there is a plug-in available for #CM and if that’s not the case if you can live without the plug-in. I made the choice I could live without Enigmail and so far I haven’t missed it.
Well that’s about it, I hope it has been helpful. I’m not stating Claws Mail is better nor that Thunderbird is better. It all depends on what kind of user you are and you already know what my choice is.