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How one developer feels about changes required for Add-ons

Discussion of general topics about Mozilla Thunderbird
Code Name

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Post Posted December 27th, 2019, 10:17 am

I think it's important for 'the powers that be' to understand how [at least] one experienced developer feels about the change that Thunderbird made that requires add-ons to be made compatible with TB68+.


See the reason why it took so long is because - beside me not really having time, that Mozilla on the one hand wants to FORCE developers to adapt for their next architecture, but then at the same time not having their shit remotely even realized!

I absolutely wasted days on that shit, just to find out that that stuff doesn't even exist! First and naturally I thought it was on my end, my fault, missing something , but no ...

Also there is no freaking API documentation whatsoever ...

I don't know what's going on on Mozilla's side but it's absolutely shoddy what they are doing there ...

Cannot resp - don't want to express my disgust with everything there, otherwise my mail would just end up in their spam folder, hahaha.

Something's fishy with Mozilla...

It apparently is so bad that they had to re-implement resp. construct some massive compatibility layer. Effing morons! They could as well just have the old stuff kept in place and just finished the actual implementation of the new architecture and THEN open up for migration.

Absolute shit show... Like absolutely noob tier dimwitts and chaos and scubbs. No idea what has happened to them, but it's pathetic to be diplomatic about it.

(Sorry, i'm *slightly* pissed right now, haha ...).


I presume the developer really meant 'Thunderbird' when he says 'Mozilla'.


Anyway, I'm sure this type of displeasure from developers has been heard many times now, in many forms, and expressed in many different tones. But, it does make people wonder why Thunderbird decided to handle it the way they did instead of how many of these experts think it should have been handled. I know that developers like 'Aris' went bonkers about how Thunderbird handled things and he decided to pull his extremely popular add-on 'CustomizeMyBird' from ATN and published a rather harsh rebuke about how he felt about what the Thunderbird people did. And, I'm sure there are many others that have just thrown up their hands in disgust and said the hell with it... Not a good backstory to be sending to important participants!
Last edited by Code Name on December 27th, 2019, 11:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
Politicians and Diapers must be changed often for the exact same reason...

kerft
 
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Post Posted December 27th, 2019, 11:28 am

TLDR of the below - For Firefox, Legacy/XUL/XBL had to go, because Rust/Servo/Multiprocess was essential. Once Firefox chose, Thunderbird had to follow because the cost/harm of using a different base from Firefox is too high. But don't blame Thunderbird because it was Mozilla who made the choice.

A rebuttal:
Theming / UI changes were removed, and legacy extensions, for good and essential reasons. Partly explained here: https://mozilla.github.io/firefox-brows ... h-xbl.html
But also XBL non-standard coding had to be removed (this is nearly complete) from Firefox and Thunderbird to allow them to remove ancient code and rewrite the programs in new, more secure, better performing programming languages, like Rust, that support current multi-core CPUs. This has been an amazing success - Firefox and Thunderbird have both been migrated toward Rust and away from XBL, with almost no change visible to the user, no loss of functionality except for extensions. Performance is much better, and a very important feature is maturing in Thunderbird - support for Maildir - so that your email will not get corrupted and need compacting all the time.

The plan for extensions in Thunderbird in the future is not currently "here is the API, go write your extension." It is true that the API for many possibly useful features is not written yet. If someone wants to write an extension, they will have to work with the Thunderbird developers to create the API for those features. It will be a a communication and back and forth process, starting with a demonstration extension using "experimental / deprecated code", working toward additions to the API. This does mean there will be a gap where the old extensions are dead and the new ones are yet to be born. The email client is meant to be useful without extensions, most users use it without extensions, and as the majority their needs comes first.

Now, we must also keep in mind that Thunderbird and Mozilla/Firefox are independent from each other. It is Mozilla and Firefox who decided XBL / XUL must die. Thunderbird did not make that decision and should not be blamed. As Thunderbird has always used the Gecko base (also the base of Firefox) to develop on, they had 4 choices after Firefox made its choice - 1. Use current Gecko, which will be patched for security by a large group with massive resources and market share 2. Use old Gecko, and attempt to keep it secure and compatible with at least the minimum required web standards such as Oauth 3. Use Goanna 4. Rewrite the whole email client with an entirely different or new framework

4: would be a big effort, and as a "from scratch" product, it might be great, but current Thunderbird users might not like it. Less than 1% of email users use Thunderbird. https://emailclientmarketshare.com/ It is likely that if a new product were created, it would be more successful as an Android-only email client than a desktop one.
3: Goanna is considered to be a framework developed by one man. It has a "bus factor" of 1 - meaning one person losing interest or being hit by a bus would be the end of the framework.
2: Keeping an old framework secure is near impossible, especially when it is written in the wrong programming languages (ones that are not engineered to be free of buffer overflows automatically, etc)

Thunderbird chose 1, to use current Gecko, but as you can see from the other options, they didn't really have a choice. Once that choice was made, the other issues, with legacy extensions dying were unavoidable.

Code Name

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Post Posted December 27th, 2019, 7:08 pm

kerft - Thanks for the information you provided. I shared it with the developer - had no idea... It definitely helped him to understand...

This is what he said:
Interesting. Didn't know they split.
Also all the other information is interesting and I didn't know.
So that explains things - they are in a bit of a mess due to the overwhelming degree of changes ... just as one reason ...
.
Politicians and Diapers must be changed often for the exact same reason...

JYLD
 
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Post Posted December 28th, 2019, 1:34 am

kerft wrote: The email client is meant to be useful without extensions, most users use it without extensions, and as the majority their needs comes first.


That kind of thinking for a product that is as you say only used by 1% of email users is also the kind of thinking that could easily result in the death of thunderbird. If Thunderbird is not customizable by extensions and at the same time just tries to emulate the same interface and features that everyone else produces, then at some point there is no reason to use Thunderbird over the most popular programs that the 99% of users use. Its the extensions and customization abilities that attract people to a product like thunderbird, rather than just use what everyone else uses.

I'm sticking with TB 60.9.1 and will do so until forced to update because of need for a new feature that overrides my need for the addons I use with TB 60.9.1.

Let me put it like this. You know why I don't use Chrome and have stuck with Firefox? Because I find Chrome to be just so damn ugly to look at with its no color black and white, less is more design interface. Firefox with a few extensions just looks a hell of a lot better than Chrome. Without the extensions and ability to customize Firefox's appearance with CSS, I would be tempted to use Chrome which does seem to have a bit better performance. Firefox's performance is good enough for me as long as it isn't as butt ugly as Chrome. Same applies for Thunderbird.

kerft
 
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Post Posted December 28th, 2019, 8:03 am

Some Thunderbird users love their extensions. Some extensions do exist in the new versions, and more will come. In the interim, some users may use the old versions, hopefully with care regarding security flaws. An email client's use often makes security less of a concern than in a browser anyway.
But getting Thunderbird to work - at all - with the new XBL-free Gecko - was/is a big job for a small team. We should thank them for the great work they have and are doing, and donate.
Your points, although true, don't change the fact that Thunderbird can't practically get off of the Gecko train. And when you are on that train, the legacy extensions die / need significant work to port.

Interestingly, a lot of this does not apply to CSS theming. CSS theming appears to be going strong and may be a compromise or way for everyone or more people to be happy.

To throw a bit of praise to Mozilla instead of all for Thunderbird, this is a nice link that explains more about how XBL was removed from Firefox, how much of an accomplishment it was, and really how miraculous it was that it was even possible without throwing out all UI code and rewriting from scratch. https://briangrinstead.com/blog/firefox-webcomponents/ Also, they created Rust and it cannot be overstated how good it is. It is so good that even Chrome should be rewritten in Rust, along with everything else that requires good performance and security. (There are of course, many good memory safe garbage collecting languages that are great when performance doesn't matter).

Last thought - there is something great about Thunderbird even if it had no extensions, had the same interface as the 99%. Thunderbird is free, and open source. Some of the other clients - Outlook, and Apple Mail are only available at great expense. It costs $250 to get Outlook, the real ad-free version, if you don't buy the yearly subscription. And doesn't work well on Linux / requires Windows. Google mail has free options, but you would have to trust google. The main reason to use Firefox and Thunderbird for most is that "it isn't google" and they don't trust google.

JYLD
 
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Post Posted December 28th, 2019, 12:55 pm

There are other free email clients like eM Client. It has an interface that is as good or better than the 99%. But it isn't fully customizable as TB 60.9.1, but may become more customizable than TB 68+. Again, I will state that if TB should evolve to having just the same features and UI as the 99% then what the 99% use and applications like eM Client may be what people choose to use instead of Thunderbird.

tomdkat
 
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Post Posted December 28th, 2019, 1:25 pm

JYLD wrote:There are other free email clients like eM Client. It has an interface that is as good or better than the 99%. But it isn't fully customizable as TB 60.9.1, but may become more customizable than TB 68+. Again, I will state that if TB should evolve to having just the same features and UI as the 99% then what the 99% use and applications like eM Client may be what people choose to use instead of Thunderbird.

Interesting perspective. I'm a long-time Thunderbird user and its UI and customization ability rank lower on my "list" than higher. I think it's ability to be customized as fantastic, but there are many things it does very well using "built-in" functionality, such as:

  • Handle large volumes of email well (not perfectly, but well)
  • Manage a variety of different kinds of email accounts separated nicely (I have a mixture of POP3, IMAP, Google and non-Google accounts and never have any problems with any of them)
  • Excellent spam filtering (once the filter is trained)
  • Excellent message filtering (in my primary email account (a POP3 Comcast account), I have over 300 message filters to route incoming mail to a variety of folders and that's in addition to my having about 10-ish "active" email accounts defined)
  • "Endless" mail folders (I've got tons, to the point where they can be "un-wieldly" but I like being able to keep mail organized, the way I want and without any apparent restrictions)
  • Great mail provider database, such that I can create new email accounts and most of the time, Thunderbird can detect/obtain the correct mail server settings by itself (something Outlook really sucks at)

Through extensions, I get:

  • PGP encryption
  • Access to Google Calendar
  • Ability to sort the email accounts, so they appear in the order I prefer (which I use after I add new email accounts)

I tend not to install a "ton" of extensions, because Thunderbird already provides most of the functionality I need. Of course, I'm just one person but the point is, Thunderbird really does bring a *lot* to the table, and for free.

It's default UI isn't perfect (I prefer the "menu bar" to the "hamburger menu", for example) but I think its built-in functionality really outweighs how it looks. I've never heard of "eM Client" before. I'll be sure to check it out.

Peace...

JYLD
 
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Post Posted December 28th, 2019, 2:27 pm

tomdkat wrote:
  • Handle large volumes of email well (not perfectly, but well)

    I agree and this is important to me as well. I have saved mail files that are in the 3gb to 35gb range. I keep my current active mail files in the 1gb to 3gb range for performance reasons.

  • Manage a variety of different kinds of email accounts separated nicely (I have a mixture of POP3, IMAP, Google and non-Google accounts and never have any problems with any of them).

    A good feature but my impression what the 99% use and some others do this also. Some with more or less ease. But I don't see this as that big of a deal because setting up an email account is a one time deal not something one is doing every day.

  • Excellent spam filtering (once the filter is trained)

    I disagree a bit. The best spam filtering I've seen is what google mail does. That is the single reason I chose to run my domain email through google mail on the back end.
  • Excellent message filtering (in my primary email account (a POP3 Comcast account), I have over 300 message filters to route incoming mail to a variety of folders and that's in addition to my having about 10-ish "active" email accounts defined)

    I agree it has good filtering and search features when they work. I've noticed that the filtering can fail and causing the .msf files to be rebuilt is required on a regular basis. I've also noticed that compact folders doesn't work all that well with a google mail imap account and even repair folders doesn't work always with a google mail imap account. Manually deleting the *.msf files and then having thunderbird replace does seem to work pretty well to fix filtering and message search capabilities.
  • "Endless" mail folders (I've got tons, to the point where they can be "un-wieldly" but I like being able to keep mail organized, the way I want and without any apparent restrictions)

    Yes that is important for me as well. I have between 100 to 200 folders at any given time.
  • Great mail provider database, such that I can create new email accounts and most of the time, Thunderbird can detect/obtain the correct mail server settings by itself (something Outlook really sucks at)

    See my previous answer above. Once an email account is set up. Its done. Its not something most users do all that often.

Through extensions, I get:

  • PGP encryption
  • Access to Google Calendar
  • Ability to sort the email accounts, so they appear in the order I prefer (which I use after I add new email accounts)

I use google calendar sync and google contact sync, CMB, nested quote remover, import/export tools, Blue-FK theme and my own CSS that works to extend/enhance CMB and AddressBookTab all with TB 60.9.1 . I don't like to have extensions I don't really need installed for performance and clutter reasons. But I like very much that there are many extensions available. I've replaced Theme & Font Size Changer with my own CSS that does the same and more.

Peace...

Code Name

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Post Posted December 28th, 2019, 2:48 pm

JYLD - Why so many folders? Can you share a little about why so many folders are needed (or wanted)?
Politicians and Diapers must be changed often for the exact same reason...

JYLD
 
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Post Posted December 28th, 2019, 6:29 pm

The number of folders equals the number of clients plus 15.

Code Name

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Post Posted December 28th, 2019, 6:33 pm

JYLD wrote:The number of folders equals the number of clients plus 15.


Makes perfect sense! :)
Politicians and Diapers must be changed often for the exact same reason...

tomdkat
 
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Post Posted January 5th, 2020, 1:44 pm

JYLD wrote:
Tomdkat wrote:[*]Manage a variety of different kinds of email accounts separated nicely (I have a mixture of POP3, IMAP, Google and non-Google accounts and never have any problems with any of them).


A good feature but my impression what the 99% use and some others do this also. Some with more or less ease. But I don't see this as that big of a deal because setting up an email account is a one time deal not something one is doing every day.


I don't add new accounts very frequently, but when I do it can be a frustrating experience if I have to "hunt down" the mail server settings, yadda-yadda. However, it's not the creation of the new accounts that I really think is the feature. It's the ability to keep each account "discretely" separate from each other BUT still have the ability to easily move mail between accounts (using filters). Granted, this isn't the biggest or most important feature but one I think is important. I find it particularly useful for the non-technical people I know who occasionally add new email accounts to their Thunderbird installations. They "just" add the account and BAM, done. I just haven't had this kind of mostly "quirk-free" experience with the handful of other email applications I've used (those mostly being Outlook and Apple Mail).

JYLD wrote:
Tomdkat wrote:[*]Excellent spam filtering (once the filter is trained)

I disagree a bit. The best spam filtering I've seen is what google mail does. That is the single reason I chose to run my domain email through google mail on the back end.


I do agree Gmail's spam filtering is excellent, but that doesn't mean Thunderbird's isn't either. :) One of the "benefits" or "features" of Gmail's spam filtering is the end user doesn't have to do much "training" of the spam filter, as is required in Thunderbird. I logged-in to one of my Gmail accounts and checked my spam folder and found a TON of false positives. I certainly can admit training Thunderbird's spam filter can be a bit of a chore, but once it's trained it's *very* effectively (albeit not perfect).

JYLD wrote:
Tomdkat wrote:[*]Excellent message filtering (in my primary email account (a POP3 Comcast account), I have over 300 message filters to route incoming mail to a variety of folders and that's in addition to my having about 10-ish "active" email accounts defined)

I agree it has good filtering and search features when they work. I've noticed that the filtering can fail and causing the .msf files to be rebuilt is required on a regular basis. I've also noticed that compact folders doesn't work all that well with a google mail imap account and even repair folders doesn't work always with a google mail imap account. Manually deleting the *.msf files and then having thunderbird replace does seem to work pretty well to fix filtering and message search capabilities.


Your experience has been different than mine. Given all of the filters I have defined across all the active accounts in Thunderbird, I haven't experienced any issues with the messages being routed all over the place having any impact on searching. Now, I must also state I tend to use the "Quick Filter" function more than a global search, so maybe I'm just not encountering search issues. I will write one thing I don't like about the default global search is the results can be hard to navigate. I'll get hits in messages that really don't make sense. The "Quick Filter" seems to work well for me.

JYLD wrote:
Tomdkat wrote:[*]"Endless" mail folders (I've got tons, to the point where they can be "un-wieldly" but I like being able to keep mail organized, the way I want and without any apparent restrictions)


Yes that is important for me as well. I have between 100 to 200 folders at any given time.


Is that in just one email account or across all of your accounts, combined? That's a *lot* of folders. :)

JYLD wrote:
Tomdkat wrote:[*]Great mail provider database, such that I can create new email accounts and most of the time, Thunderbird can detect/obtain the correct mail server settings by itself (something Outlook really sucks at)


See my previous answer above. Once an email account is set up. Its done. Its not something most users do all that often.

This is true, but the frequency with which this happens doesn't change the experience. About two weeks ago or so, I added an email account in Outlook and Outlook botched the server settings entirely. Then, it was a complete PITA to get the server settings sorted out. When I previously added that same account to Thunderbird, the process was almost effortless and not frustrating at all. So, yes, I shouldn't have to do through that agony with Outlook again (on that machine) but that doesn't change the fact the experience sucked.

In any event, Happy New Year!!!!!

Peace....

JYLD
 
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Post Posted January 5th, 2020, 3:54 pm

Just one email account.

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