Thursday, June 18, 2009

Migrate to Free Open Source Software (FOSS): Part 4 - The Email Client

In Part 4, we're going to take a look at the installed application that most people are probably using on some level, the Email Client. In this series, I'll be listing what I would consider everyday-use, closed-source software for the home user, and what the open-source packages are that fulfill the same purpose. I will only list software here that I have first-hand experience with, because I don't plan on this being some pointless software review post. I hope that this information is actually useful to those of you who have heard of, or would like to consider open-source software.

I'm sure that everyone, or at least everyone that would be reading this blog, has a daily need for email use. You might use it for personal communication with friends and family. You might use if for business communication between clients and co-workers. Most likely, though, you use it for both, and maybe even some other reason thrown in on occasion too.

The most common email client is probably Microsoft Outlook because of it's embedded nature with the Windows operating system that is generally pre-installed on newly purchased PCs. However, there are a number of other options, and options for all operating systems. However, as I promised for this series, I'll only talk about software that I have first-hand experience with. So, we're going to focus on Mozilla's Thunderbird email client.

Thunderbird is cross-platform, meaning that it is available for Linux, Mac, or Windows, and has pretty much the same interface no matter which version you install. Thunderbird has an interface very similar to many other installable email clients and most notably that of MS Outlook.

Thunderbird can connect to your Email service using POP3 or IMAP, it can connect to New Groups, Calendar services, and it can import your contacts and such from various file types including the MS Outlook pst file. However, none of that is really news, because any email client that can't do those things, just isn't worth calling an email client anyway. What's great about Thunderbird, is that like it's cousin Firefox, it has loads and loads of available extenstions. There's an extension for just about anything you can think of for Thunderbird, from playing mp3 files to watching the weather, to playing games. It is by far overkill for what most anyone would ever need to have available in an email client, but because they are downloadable add-ons, the software isn't bloated by the extra features from day one like some other clients are, but if you want to add some feature that isn't there by default, you can.


Thunderbird also has less security vulnerabilities than the more popular, closed-source, MS Outlook, and provides an excellent, adaptive junk/spam mail filtering system. It even supports email signing and encryption with only a couple of add-on installations and 15 min worth of configuration.
My favorite thing about the Mozilla line of products, is that because they are Open-Source Software, and because they are cross-platform applications, you can install them on your current proprietary Operating System and put them through the ringer. Then, after you've grown to love them like I do, and see that they perform even more soundly than what you had been using for years, it'll be that much easier for you to make the jump to an Open-Source Operating System and leave all closed-source, proprietary software by the wayside.

Other Posts in this Series:
Migrating to Free Open Source Software: Part 1
Migrating to Free Open Source Software: Part 2 - The Operating System
Migrating to Free Open Source Software: Part 3 - The Web Browser
Migrating to Free Open Source Software: Part 5 - Cross-Platform Applications