Comparing Outlook w/Thunderbird

What do I prefer Thunderbird or Outlook 2010? For an ex-Microsoftie, I’d say that Outlook is very very dear to my heart. Yet, how does it compare to Thunderbird?


I’ve thought of a few things to measure it by and if you’ve got some other criteria, I’d love to add them. Wikipedia’s comparison lists the following:

  • OS support
  • Protocol Support
  • Authentication Support
  • SSL & TLS Support
  • Other features
    • General Features
    • Message Features
    • DB, folders & customization
    • Templates, scripts, and programming languages

My criteria will be a bit different. I’m working on the Windows platform, so OS support while important to many isn’t a major concern for me (for now!). Protocol support – hey what email client does not support IMAP and POP? So, outta my list. Authentication support – yes yes, I won’t start without SSL, so again, given and won’t compare on that. What’s left then are the general features and more. So here’s my list:

  • Features
    • PIM stuff (personal info management – calendar, tasks, etc.)
    • Views
    • Sorting / Categorization (well, this is not so big for me now that I get under 20 mails a day)
    • Searching – a biggie always!
    • Scripting
  • Performance (speed)
  • Maturity
  • Backend Integration
    • Hotmail
    • Gmail

Maturity first – it’s easy. Outlook’s been around longer, has a bigger user base, most of whom are paying customers. So, considering the improvements, enhancements, support and all that Outlook does rock. Just because it’s better doesn’t mean Thunderbird’s bad. For a free product, Thunderbird does kick ass. I had a few issues with crashes, but the current build I’m using (7.0.1) appears very stable. No hiccoughs whatsoever.

Performance – Frankly, maybe it could be the fact that MS guys write outlook, but it does start up a lot faster. And when it does go up, I’ve rarely felt the need to slow down to accommodate Outlook. Mind you it does happen, but it happens a lot more with Thunderbird.

Features – PIM stuff. This is a bit of a toughie. Frankly with what the Android phone has to offer, I’d say neither Outlook nor Thunderbird (w/Lightning) can really match up. I mean Outlook lacks the option of having more than one mobile number that syncs well. And so does Thunderbird. It happens often enough that it’s a bother for me. Take my dad for example. He travels all over the world and has a cell phone for every major country he visits. And he uses them whenever he travels. I’d rather not create 20 accounts for him. And my wife – she’s got an Indian cell and a German cell. Ok, maybe it’s me being anal, but frankly I don’t like the idea of having more than one contact per person. Gmail rocks, but I’m not using Gears and it ain’t going to be my offline client. I love Offline clients. Calendaring – I think feature wise both Outlook and Thunderbird are well matched. Recurring events, and all that stuff works. Outlook hasn’t changed all that much in those areas, however the cool stuff like calendar overlay and all, Outlook has it. So for pro biz users, Outlook rocks. For the home users – can you beat a free product? Well, I guess I could compare it to Live Mail. Note to self – compare to Live Mail.

View/Sorting – can do with both, but Outlook’s a lot easier with this. It is a mature product.

Searching – I guess if I could find an extension that gets Windows Desktop Search integrated with Thunderbird, that would do it.

Scripting – well, I think I mean this differently from the Wikipedia article. They meant scripts in messages. I mean something along the lines of Macros. Outlook’s got them and with 2010 you have these awesome things you can do with them.  Thunderbird has similar stuff and it’s to be found in the Message Menu – create filter. So, check.


Frankly I’d choose Outlook 8 times out of 10, but for now I’m sticking with Thunderbird. For me, the extensions to Thunderbird are the clincher. Integration with most back-ends is easy with Thunderbird and with a rich set of extensions, it’s a matter of finding the right one. I can’t say the same for Outlook – frankly, I never needed to look but with Google integration being the way it is, it’s been a challenge.

I’ll put a post up about my favorite extensions to Thunderbird soon. As soon as I trim ‘em!

WordPress Tags: Gmail,Extensions,Comparison,Thunderbird,Outlook

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