Why Thunderbird Conversations Add-on Took So Long to Get Here
Article by George Norman
On 21 Dec 2010
Know how Gmail groups emails together, creating a single conversation thread? So if you have an email exchange with your friend Bob about what the two of you are going to do this Christmas, all replies will be grouped wit the original message. This is much more convenient than having multiple emails scattered around your inbox.

Okay, so you know how that works. I only brought it up to get to this: Jonathan Protzenko announced the release of a very early version of an add-on called Thunderbird Conversations that brings Gmail-like conversations to Thunderbird (only Thunderbird 3.3 Alpha for now). A completely rewritten version of the Gmail Conversations View add-on (which works with Thunderbird 3.1), Thunderbird Conversations has the following to offer.


- All related messages will be fetched by conversations view.
- Inline reply so you can easily and quickly reply to an email thread.
- Contacts autocomplete.
- Contact tooltips for users who have 'Contacts for Thunderbird' installed. These users will be able to see their contacts avatars and links to their various social network profiles.
- A quote detection code that collapses most types of quotations.
- Integration with 3rd party extensions.

If you’re on Thunderbird 3.3 Alpha, you can try out a preview version of Thunderbird conversations by getting the Thunderbird Conversations 2.0 Alpha 1 add-on from AMO here. Please note this is a very early version.

If you’re wondering why the Thunderbird Conversiations add-on took so long to get here, here are the reasons Jonathan Protzenko presented:
  • stacking messages together is relatively doable, but making sure all the little details such as tags, stars, marking as read, replying, showing remote content, keyboard shortcuts work is much harder;
  • some parts of Thunderbird were designed assuming the only place where we display messages is the standard message reader − ugly hooks were required, and some patches to open up stuff had to be pushed to Thunderbird;
  • it’s amazing how many features Thunderbird has, and how many situations can set you wrong − a good part of my work consisted in refining the code over and over to make sure it works fine in all edge cases.

In related news, if you muted a thread in Gmail and you’re still getting messages because your address appears in the 'To' and 'CC' field, you need to know that Software Engineer Bruce DiBello came up with Smart Mute, a Gmail Labs experiment that ensures messages from muted conversations will not end up in your inbox.

Tags: Mozilla, Thunderbird, Thunderbird Conversations, Add-on, Conversations view, Gmail
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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