Thunderbird powered by SoftMaker

Martin Brinkmann
May 23, 2016
Updated • May 25, 2016

Thunderbird, powered by SoftMaker, is a custom version of the popular email client featuring enhancements that come all in the form of extensions.

Thunderbird 45 and 45.1 were released recently by the team of volunteers that kept and keeps Thunderbird alive ever since Mozilla decided to get rid of the Thunderbird project.

This new version of the popular desktop email client was the first in a long time that featured a significant number of changes and fixes.

SoftMaker, a company best known for its SoftMaker Office suite, announced recently that it plans to include the Thunderbird email client into the 2016 version of the office suite.

In addition to that, it announced that it will provide the Thunderbird team with an experienced developer on a full-time basis to work on the email client and Lightning calendar.

Thunderbird powered by SoftMaker

Thunderbird powered by Softmaker is core Thunderbird but with optional add-ons that users can install to enhance the email program in several ways.

The following add-ons are provided currently:

  1. SoftMaker Theme: This is probably the least interesting of the add-ons. It changes the blakc and white icons on the toolbar with colored icons.
  2. SoftMaker Enhanced UI: Makes the Windows title bar and the menu bar visible, and moves the document tabs below the toolbar. Also, it adds new options to move emails and navigate email folders by adding new buttons and shortcuts to Thunderbird.
  3. Faster autocompletion of e-mail addresses: The fix improves auto-completion when large address books are used in Thunderbird. If you notice a delay of one or multiple seconds before recipient names are suggested to you after starting to type, you will benefit from this change.
  4. Software eM Client Importer: This add-on is only useful to users of Software Office and the eM Client it shipped with. It allows you to import email databases from those clients to Thunderbird.

You can download each of the add-ons for Thunderbird separately from the official SoftMaker website.

The approach leaves the core of Thunderbird untouched, and gives users options to install the add-ons they are interested in to improve the email client.

It offers benefits to the developer as well, as it is usually easier to make changes to an add-on than to Thunderbird's code directly.

Existing Thunderbird users may be interested in the add-ons that SoftMaker has created. It needs to be noted that the extensions are not offered on the official Mozilla Thunderbird add-ons repository.

They are provided as extension files that need to be installed manually in the client:

  1. Open the Thunderbird email client on your computer.
  2. Tap on the Alt-key if the menu bar is not displayed.
  3. Select Tools > Add-ons from the menu.
  4. Click on the gear icon in the upper right corner next to search, and select install add-on from file from the menu that opens.
  5. Select the extension file that you have downloaded to install it.
  6. A restart is always necessary after the installation of extensions.
Thunderbird powered by SoftMaker
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Thunderbird powered by SoftMaker
Thunderbird powered by SoftMaker is a custom version of the popular desktop email program that users can enhance with add-ons made specifically for it.
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  1. MerryMarjie said on May 25, 2016 at 12:33 am

    I used Thunderbird for years, just loved it, until one day I accidentally chose the wrong box to click and lost two years of e-mails and settings. (Apparently, back-ups don’t back-up everything.) Devastated, I slowly rebuilt the program, recovered what I could (which wasn’t much) and forged onward, only to have a computer glitch once again toss out everything. Oh, yes, I had it backed up, but I was no longer in love with a program that gave me such heartache, so reluctantly, I went back to web-based mail. I’m not in love with it but it’s very reliable, never lose anything, and I know it’s going to be there.

  2. K-Meleon said on May 24, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    Mozilla Project, with the official Mozilla dot ORG site, is the biggest delusion in recent years of IT. By masquerading behind a collective free initiative, they went down as a landslide.

  3. ad said on May 24, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    For a few years now i’m using Fossamail, a fork of Thunderbird. All the regular features from Thunderbird are there, but feels definitely more stable and efficient: If you want to switch: an existing Thunderbird profile can be migrated (copied) into Fossamail profile location – if i remember well ;-)

    1. Declan said on May 24, 2016 at 3:39 pm

      I’m with you, ‘ad’. I tried Fossamail six months ago and now use it for almost most everything. It’s connect time to IMAP is faster than the others, and it’s basic POP setup is straight forward and intuitive. There’s not much need for searching for servers & port numbers unless there are alternatives you can use. It has a x64 version that is the speediest that I’ve experienced. I still keep Outlook Desktop as part of MS Office for key personal and business use, but everything else goes through Fossamail.

  4. Bill said on May 24, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    In the last month Thunderbird 45 and 45.1 will not download e mails unless it’s closed and reopened.Quite a few complaints regarding this.

  5. city_zen said on May 24, 2016 at 3:12 am

    Finally some good news from the Thunderbird front!!!!

    In the last few weeks I was seriously considering dropping it. But the only viable alternative was eM Client, and in the end it still fell short of the features Thunderbird has. However, I’ll keep an eye on eM Client, it shows promise.

    The latest Thunderbird update (v38 -> v45) broke several of my add-ons, some of which I consider essential to my usage of Thunderbird. So I’m still stuck with TB v 38.x and will remain so for the foreseeable future, it seems, since I seriously doubt those add-ons are going to be updated for Thunderbird v 45 and beyond. I’ll try to find replacements, but I don’t hold much hope.

    I’m also glad to hear that Softmaker is developing add-ons for Thunderbird. I only found one of them useful (Faster autocompletion of e-mail addresses), but it shows commitment from Softmaker towards Thunderbird’s development.
    But the best news is that Softmaker will assign a full-time developer for Thunderbird. This was so badly needed. There was (is?) an open position at Mozilla for a “Thunderbird Architect” ( that has remained unfilled for a long time. Hopefully Softmaker’s developer, together with the team of volunteers currently in charge of Thunderbird, can deliver a better future for TB.

    I was also curious about the reasons Softmaker had for dropping eM Client as the default email program of their office suite and choosing Thunderbird instead. This is what I found at Softmaker’s forum:

    “as far as I learned from the contributions of SoftMaker officials here and in the German forum, it was not the cost which made them replace eMClient, but the fact that it is developed and supported by another company which was not as responsive to bug reports and feature requests as expected. As you already remarked, SoftMaker has a high reputation and standard especially in customer relations and it seems they couldn’t get to terms with the emClient developers in this area. Once bitten, twice shy – I suppose they are not willing to repeat this experiment with another external company.
    So, by appointing one of their own developers exclusively for Thunderbird improvements, add-ons and bug fixes, they hope to have more control over their mail client”

    A final note, Martin, about the installation procedure of Thunderbird’s add-ons. I always find it easier to just drag and drop the download link of the add-on from the browser (Firefox in my case) to Thunderbird’s add-on manager tab. Thunderbird recognizes it as a valid add-on and offers to install it, no need to download and save it as an intermediate step.

  6. case said on May 23, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    This isn’t confusing at all.
    I think I’m gonna stick with downloading it from Mozilla and do without SoftMaker’s 4 silly add-ons.

  7. Appster said on May 23, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    Happy Postbox user for years and never looked back.

    1. John T. Haller said on May 24, 2016 at 6:36 pm

      I’d be careful with Postbox. It’s based on a very old version of Thunderbird, so you can forget about Lightning and most other add-ons. It’s status security-wise is a bit iffy as well. Only the PostBox folks seem to be using this old version and they haven’t updated it since November. Thunderbird proper gets security updates every 6 weeks minimum with more frequent updates when showstoppers are found.

      1. John T. Haller said on May 25, 2016 at 3:33 pm

        Dave – All of the security issues within Thunderbird occur in things like image processing and HTML handling. Even font handling on occasion. A well-crafted email without a single line of JavaScript can be used to remote execute code on a vulnerable email client. This is the same reason why even if you have JavaScript entirely disabled in your web browser, you always have to keep it up to date. It can be attacked via image, HTML, CSS, fonts, video, etc.

      2. Dave said on May 25, 2016 at 2:40 pm

        Postbox doesn’t run scripts, so what security concerns are there?

  8. Haakon said on May 23, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    No portable version which can be run within a drive-mounted encrypted container (VeraCrypt, etc.). Kudos to Haller’s continued PortableApps support. For some unfathomable reason, Mozilla has ignored years of countless user requests to build in (repeat: build in, as in “build in”) encrypt/password-protection for the profiles folder(s).

    1. John T. Haller said on May 24, 2016 at 6:40 pm

      You’re welcome for the continued releases of Thunderbird Portable. You could, in theory, drop the SoftMaker version right in, but I’d recommend skipping it. 4 simple add-ons isn’t worth a separate install that you’ll have to wait for another publisher to update security bits after Mozilla does (if, indeed, SoftMaker is doing its own build rather than just adding 4 extensions/themes).

      As for encryption built-in, it’s a taller order than you think. You’d need to build an abstraction layer in Thunderbird before hitting the mailstores. And its utility would be relatively niche. Anyone concerned with security and doing a local install is already securing their whole machine with whole-disk encryption. Anyone concerned with security in a portable scenario is already using a hardware encrypted flash drive like the Carbide.

      The one scenario where it would make some sense is to protect your Thunderbird mailstore from other running processes on your system. But if you’re in a scenario where you can’t trust the other running processes, there are likely larger issues for you to address first.

      1. Haakon said on May 27, 2016 at 11:36 pm

        Hello John. Thanks for the input. I’ve been using PortableApps stuff (and donating here and there) for a decade and definitely skipping SoftMaker.

        Yes, built-in encryption is a tall order but one that isn’t unreasonable in this day and age and in the context of this discussion, wishful thinking-out-loud. “Anyone concerned with security” is no longer a niche and software developers should be sensitive to a majority user base that hasn’t a clue how to be concerned with security. That said, TB is free, a volunteer effort and I’m certainly sensitive to the taller order that is encryption.

        However, it can’t be so easily dismissed that if a typical TB user’s device gets stolen/hijacked, it’s just a matter of browsing/searching the Mail folder to mine for data as it’s all in plain text. Like this representative piece I just copied from an acknowledgment of an order from a major online retailer, the entirety containing a mother-lode of exploitable data (formatting tags removed):
        Hello Haakon,
        Thank you for shopping at blah blah etc.

        Plain text mailstore was the focus of my comment which I failed to specify nor did I mean to single out Mozilla in the lack of encryption discussion. Protecting it from running processes is, of course, a larger issue to address but certainly not “the one scenario.”

        Lastly, to paraphrase: They can have my Thunderbird Portable when they pry it from my cold, dead laptop. Keep up the great work, John!

  9. Khidreal said on May 23, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Now, and just checking, if Mozilla is not supporting the program anymore, this means that from now on every new version of Thunderbird will come from softmaker right?
    or does I just misunderstood all the text?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 23, 2016 at 5:38 pm

      No, SoftMaker is just supporting development, it is not producing Thunderbird.

      1. Khidreal said on May 23, 2016 at 5:44 pm

        oh ok, so it’s still maintained by the volunteers than right? what a relief, truly… I was imagine me in 5 years still using thunderbird v45.1 xd. it will be a shame if thunderbird dies…

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on May 23, 2016 at 6:28 pm

        Yes that is right.

  10. CHEF-KOCH said on May 23, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    Not bad, in 2016 I still use Thunderbird daily for everything, chat and emails and sometimes to quickly surf a bit the web. I hope Mozilla will never kill it it’s the best alternative. :)

    1. Khidreal said on May 23, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      afaik, Mozilla is not supporting Thunderbird anymore: “Mozilla decided to get rid of the Thunderbird project” – paragraph 2.
      now softmaker is the company keeping this project alive. Like you, I still use Thunderbird for my 3 email accounts xd. tried some other programs, even apps form the windows store, but nothing like the good old desktop applications and nothing so good as thunderbird :P

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