I'm a big fan of open source software, so it will come as no surprise to hear that I have been using Mozilla's Thunderbird as my main mail/calendar client for a number of months. What I particularly like about Thunderbird is the large number of third party add-ons which allow you to adapt the software to your own needs - in much the same vain as its big brother, Mozilla Firefox. One of the most persuasive plugin's being Lightning (a calendar plug-in, which really should come as standard) and Plaxo, which allows me to sync my contacts directly with my Windows mobile phone over the 3G network. All sounds brilliant doesn't it?
Well...it also has a number of extremely awkward short comings: Firstly, you can't sync your calendar with Google mail without it reverting all your repeating appointments into a one-off appointments (and yes, I have missed meetings because of this). Secondly, it cannot accept meeting updates like changes to times, dates or simply cancellations. Thirdly, you can't accept a change requests with first deleting the old meeting from your diary (a long-winded and painful task).
...and thats only the start of it. The software crashes or hangs erratically and doesn't seem to like me typing a message when there are attachments included in the mail. Handy.
So what keeps me using Thunderbird? There's something really positive about open source. When it works (ala Firefox), you really do see the product evolve from the communities wishes and advances from competitors. When it doesn't, the user base is neglected or they don't have enough resources to impliment the changes or fixes they need to.
The Thunderbird roadmap suggested that version 3 would be released Q1 2008. Sadly, that doesn't look realistic even though Mozilla has recently set-up a confusing initiative called Mozilla Messaging. I can't make head nor tail of this site - but from what I can fathom it essentially mean puting more resources into Thunderbird 3, with a revised released date of Late 2008. Thanks. Why not put the effort into the Thunderbird road map instead of some pointless Marketing website? I'd rather see bug fixes than PR. After all, what makes us advocate Thunderbird to others?
To Mozilla: Only the third party developers are keeping Thunderbird afloat right now. If you want to avoid hermeraging your passionate activist user base, you need to step up your bug fixes to keep us on-board. I for one, am seriously thinking about going elsewhere - despite the numerous problems it will cause me. Remember, you need to retain your open source activists to recommend your products to others. Without them, you'll end up with a Turkey.