New Thunderbird in Action

ThunderbirdThunderbird 2.0, the new major release of the free opensource email-client has now been out for a couple of weeks. Yesterday I finally decided to upgrade to this new version. Already after a few hours I can say that the new release definitely has some advantages over the old one and that Thunderbird has now become even better.

Let’s first talk about installation of the new version of Thunderbird. Actually the installation under Linux was extremely easy: I simply replaced the Thunderbird-folder (i.e. the folder in my home directory where I have installed Thunderbird – the mail data is stored in another folder, namely ~/.thunderbird) with the untared files of the new version of Thunderbird. I then started Thunderbird which automatically updated all installed extensions (now called add-ons) and the installation was done!

In my opinion, Thunderbird 2.0 has some strong advantages over its predecessors, and obviously even more advantages over the rivals. Some advantages are:

  • New, better interface.
  • The search tool which was already great before has become even better. It is now really fast to find a message by searching after a keyword. Additionally, Thunderbird now dynamically updates the search results, i.e. the result list is permanently updated while typing the key word.
  • The notification has been considerably improved: In older versions of Thunderbird there was a small window popping up in the bottom right corner saying that there was a new message. However, this notification did not work under Linux, so I just heard the sound and then had to switch to Thunderbird to see whether the newly arrived message was worth reading. Now this notification also works under Linux and displays useful information: sender, subject and the beginning of the message. Thus I can decide about the appropriate treatment of the new message without having to switch to Thunderbird.
  • The Spam filter is not really an improvement over older versions of Thunderbird as it was already integrated. However, this adaptive filter is an important reason for me why I use Thunderbird. Every day it filters out between 100 and 200 Spam messages. False negatives (i.e. it does not filter a Spam message) are rare, false positives (i.e. a message is filtered although it should not) hardly ever happen.
  • Dictionaries can be installed as add-ons. When editing messages, these are automatically corrected. The language can be chosen in a small dropdown-menu, without having to go to a preferences menu. Especially for people like me who often write emails in different languages, this feature is extremely useful.

Mail View Toolbar Button For me, the new release of Thunderbird has only a single, small disadvantage over its predecessor: the mail view toolbar button has disappeared and has to to be activated manually (go View->Toolbars->Customise and drag it to your preferred place). However it can not be placed where it used to be in older versions. I have now placed it in the top menu bar, just on the right of the Help-menu entry. I will first have to get used to that.
The main problem here is that this button does not really work as I expect it: when changing the selection this does not have an immediate effect on the list of messages displayed. When I change it from „Unread“ to „All“, there are still only the messages displayed that are unread. The only effect it seems to have is that the search also finds messages that are read. I will try to find out how I can change this strange behaviour…

These are only some of the good points of Thunderbird, the release notes give you more reasons to immediately uninstall Outlook to replace it with Thunderbird.

How to easily print code

For the first-year project in computer science at the University of Fribourg (where I am working as an underassistant) I had to correct exercises handed in by the students. 5 groups handed in their solutions, for each group I had to print out 7 files containing programming code (written in the Lisp-dialect Scheme). Opening all them in DrScheme takes a lot of time – too much as I decided.
I therefore searched the web for an easy solution and found it in the unix (terminal) tool enscript. For me it is the perfect solution for printing code. It includes syntax highlighting for numberless programming languages, including Scheme. For example the command

enscript -2 --highlight=scheme -r -d diufpr06 switch.scm

prints the file switch.scm on the printer diufpr06 (option -d), printing two sides per page (option -2) in landscape-format (option -r). The –highlight-option allows to indicate the programming language for which the syntax should be highlighted. The list of available languages can be displayed by typing enscript --help-highlight, it might be usefull to add | less to the command, otherwise the list is not really readable.
With the option -G (not used here) quite fancy headers are printed. All options can be displayed using man enscript. The installation of enscript is very easy under Ubuntu: just type sudo apt-get install enscript and within a few seconds everything is done. Under MacOS enscript is even installed by default.