Thunderbird Alternative Opera Mail
Having used Thunderbird for several years I was quite disappointed by Mozilla's announcement to move development priorities to other projects. While that does not mean that Thunderbird will be discontinued anytime soon, it means that the email client will only receive stability and security updates from Mozilla, and -maybe- improvements or additional features from members of the community.
It is still a perfectly fine email client for many users, and that is not really going to change in the near future. Having said that, Mozilla's priority switch gives me an opportunity to look at other desktop email clients to see if they are good Thunderbird alternatives.
Today I'd like to start with Opera Mail. I have actually used Opera Mail before I started Thunderbird. The focus will be on key elements that are important to Thunderbird users:
- Is it possible to import emails, accounts, contacts and the like
- Are there core differences between the clients
Importing Thunderbird accounts and data
This is without doubt one of the most important factors. Who would want to switch to a desktop email client that can't import old emails, the accounts or addresses?
Thankfully, Opera Mail supports importing that data from Thunderbird. The process itself on the other hand is not really that straightforward, as you can only import one account at a time. If you have configured ten or so email accounts in Thunderbird, you'd have to process them all one by one. An option to import everything at once is missing.
To start, click on the Opera button at the top and select Mail and Chat accounts from the context menu. Here you click on Add > Import email > Import from Thunderbird.
On the following screen, you need to click on browse and select the Thunderbird prefs.js file that is found in the Thunderbird profile folder. This is usually located in C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\random.default.
Importing may take a few minutes depending on the number of emails that are stored in each mail folder. It took about three or four minutes to import about 20,000 emails from one account.
Opera will import all messages from the selected mail folder but not the underlying folder structure which can be an issue for Thunderbird users who have organized their emails into folders.
Contacts were not imported by default, and Opera itself only seems to support importing Opera Address Book files. To import your Thunderbird contacts into Opera you need to first export the address book in Thunderbird, then convert it into Opera's format, before you can import it into the mail client.
In Thunderbird, click on Tools > Address Book. In the address book listing, select Tools > Export, and select comma separated in the save dialog. You can use this web service to convert the comma separated listing into a format that is supported by Opera. Once done, select Opera > Settings > Import and Export > Import Opera Contacts, and select the address book file from your local directory.
There are a few things that you need to make sure of before you start importing messages:
- Make sure all messages are downloaded to Thunderbird completely. If you are using a setting where only the header is downloaded, only that header information will be imported into Opera.
- If you do not want deleted messages to be imported into Opera, compact the mail folders before you start the import. This is done with a click on File > Compact Folders.
Once you have imported your first account you will notice several differences right away. Opera displays a unified mailbox at the very top where messages from all accounts are listed in.Â The email sidebar furthermore lists mailing lists that you are subscribed to or are receiving messages from, labels, attachments sorted by type, and after that inbox and sent folders for all accounts individually.
Especially the attachments listing and the unified inbox need to be mentioned here as it may speed up access to attachments that you receive.
One interesting feature is the ability to filter the display by mail account. For that you right-click on a blank spot in Opera Mail, e.g. in the sidebar, and select the mail account that you want to display messages from.
Just like Thunderbird does, Opera Mail blocks remote images from being displayed right away, with options to whitelist accounts so that images are displayed all the time.
I have experienced a few issues in Opera Mail that I have listed below:
- I had about 60k emails in the unified folder listed, and it took some time to sort the mails in the folder. Switching to it sometimes too took a second or two before the contents were displayed.
- I could not figure out how to import my folder structure into Opera Mail. If there is a way, I did not find it.
- Both trash and spam were not shown in the unified folders nor in the individual mail account folders. While I have not verified it, it almost seemed as if trash and spam contents were displayed in the unified folder just like regular mails were.
- Contacts were not imported automatically, requires conversion to work at all
- There is obviously no option to import Thunderbird extensions into Opera
The two biggest issues for me are that the import is not importing everything at once, including all address books and mail accounts, and that you may run into performance issues if your mailbox exceeds a certain number of mails.
You can overcome the performance issue if you backup and delete mails that you no longer need to have access to at all the time using a program like Mailstore Home, but that is not an optimal solution. Having said that, Opera Mail offers several interesting options and features to its users, like the previously mentioned attachment filters or the ability to filter by individual mail accounts.Advertisement