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Postbox-Parity

Discussion of general topics about Mozilla Thunderbird
dbcooper.dk
 
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Post Posted March 19th, 2012, 6:52 pm

Hi there, I post quite a bit in Firefox Builds, and after using email clients again recently I'd like to share some thoughts on Thunderbird and the app based on it, Postbox.

Postbox Inc have developed a very nice and slick interface on top of a Thunderbird base. IMHO Thunderbird should be offering just as good an user experience.

http://www.postbox-inc.com/

I've been gathering some bugs and ideas for how TB could offer UX parity, and perhaps exceed it.

In particular, Postbox has three vertical panes by default, with "Conversations" layout of messages as standard. The nicest feature though is the 2 line message summary in the message pane - very clean and informative. The conversations view is also very nice and clean. Their defaults for gmail are also a bit slicker (especially their "Copies & Folders" defaults).

Postbox-Parity - I may file a meta-bug on bugzilla with this as the white board term.

Bugs/Features that would give parity:

x Two line message summaries, much easier to read/parse - Postbox inbox is much easier/quicker to parse visually.
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=213945
Bug 213945 - Mail/message listing/thread pane needs more organization in 3 vertical pane view (like Outlook, Lotus Notes et al.)

Depends on: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=441414
Bug 441414 - Treerows need a way to hold richer content

Bounty for this bug: http://www.fossfactory.org/project/p294

x Integrate and polish "Conversation-View" extension.
https://github.com/protz/GMail-Conversation-View

Enabling view newest at top or bottom of conversation would be great.

Some polish issues here:
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=241197
Bug 241197 - Add View>Thread>As Conversation, flat ala groups.google.com/gmail.com

Other UI/UX issues here:
https://github.com/protz/GMail-Conversa ... pen&page=1

x Australis UI redesign.
Mockups are nice and clean
http://breakingtheegg.tumblr.com/post/1 ... -the-three
http://breakingtheegg.tumblr.com/post/1 ... shorlander

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=734736
Bug 734736 - Port Bug 734374 to Thunderbird [Australis theme]

x Send files using links to cloud storage - Postbox integrates Dropbox.
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=698925
Bug 698925 - (BigFiles) add support for sending attachments via the cloud

x Gmail account setup defaults:
Under "Copies & Folder", Sent folder defaults should not select the "Place a copy in" option - this will place an extra sent copy on gmail labeled with "Sent/IMAP".


Bugs that would help exceed UX parity:

x Compose new message in new tab
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=449299
Bug 449299 - (tabbed_composition) Allow opening compose window in new tab (write messages in tabs; writing, composing mail)

x Enable BigFiles service to use most major cloud storage services
e.g. Dropbox, Box, SkyDrive (esp. synced folders), Amazon AWS etc.

x Sync with webmail contacts
e.g. Zindus extension for syncing contacts with gmail.
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/thunde ... on/zindus/

x Proposed "new email address" feature/dialogue box
http://blog.mozilla.com/thunderbird/2012/02/28/how-about-a-new-email-address/

Could this be montized by offering preference to an email service provider such as gmail?

x Built in pdf support from PDF.js
Bug 714712 - add built-in PDF support to Firefox with PDF.js
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=714712

dbcooper.dk
 
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Post Posted March 20th, 2012, 12:56 am


tanstaafl
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Post Posted March 20th, 2012, 2:44 pm

In case there is any confusion, we are not run by or formally associated with Mozilla despite the similarity in names. We are an independent user community. The developers don't read this forum. Posting on a developers blog when they announce plans for a new feature is probably the best way to provide feedback. You could also vote for a bug to be fixed using the "Vote for this bug" link in the bug report. However, don't add any comments to the bug report asking that it be fixed, that gets a harsh reaction from the developers (its against the Bugzilla Etiquette and has sometimes even caused a bug report to be closed).

https://wiki.mozilla.org/Features/Thunderbird documents the project plans for many new features being added, especially ones that will first show up as experimental add-ons. You might also want to keep an eye on the Thunderbird Builds forum, frequently when a new feature arrives (in a daily, earlybird or beta build) its mentioned (in the daily build thread) or discussed there.

"Two line message summaries, much easier to read/parse - Postbox inbox is much easier/quicker to parse visually.."

If you look in https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=213945 there is a a very old comment from Scott Mcgregor (used to be TB lead, now one of the founders of Postbox) that the Mozilla toolkit didn't support doing two line message summaries. Later on there are comments about ongoing work to implement it for 3.0, which stopped because they were waiting on a enhancement to the Treerow API (part of Gecko). See https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=441414 . There are later posts that state they're looking at using the HTML DOM as a more flexible and efficient means of displaying in the 3-pane.

Postbox is based on Thunderbird 3.1, which has a much older version of Gecko. They also only have to deal with one version of Gecko. Its not clear if that made it easier for them to fix the problems supporting wrapped text that supposedly was the main thing holding up the TreeRow enhancement patch.

"Compose new message in new tab"
There was an experimental add-on to do that but they aborted it due to too many problems integrating the CKEditor editing control. My impression from posts on the tb-planning mailing list is that want to fork the existing code base and try again using a different control, such as one from http://aloha-editor.org/ . The author suggested getting somebody to do that from Summer of Code .

Its not clear to me whether or not this depends upon the replacement of the existing MIME library (Modern MIME Parser project).

"Enable BigFiles service to use most major cloud storage services"
Its in earlybird (13) and daily (14) builds of Thunderbird. It has broken a number of features such as forwarding inline. Supposedly it will support YouSendIt, Box.net, DropBox, Ubuntu One, Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Docs, MS SkyDrive , MS Sharepoint, FTP, and network drives though right now its just YouSendIt and DropBox.

"Proposed "new email address" feature/dialogue box"
Its in the beta. Its already monetized, but with Tucows/Hover. Its currently available via a separate menu command (with a option at the bottom to cancel and use an existing account). Its not clear how they will integrate it, its possible you will only be able to access the existing new account wizard through it. Every time I try to open http://weblog.latte.ca/blake/tech/thund ... pdate.html (what I think are UI mockups for it) the connection is reset.

I don't think its features are very pro-consumer as it does not give you any information other than the cost until you've chosen an email address. Please add some comments to the blog post, the current user interface is terrible.

When I tried using it (in the beta) I only got the email address and price in the search results. Pressing the $20 button I got a screen with sixteen fields (credit card info, password etc.) to fill out and a continue button at the bottom. I still don't know what I would get (mailbox size, POP or IMAP) and there is no back button to go back to the search results to consider a different email address.

dbcooper.dk
 
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Post Posted March 20th, 2012, 5:56 pm

Thanks for the awesome feedback! :)

The bug is being updated, and some of the bugs you mentioned have been added as dependencies.

BTW, I tried commenting on the "get a new email address" blog post, but couldn't post a comment due to a broken capcha box ... :?

rsx11m
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Post Posted March 20th, 2012, 6:55 pm

tanstaafl wrote:Postbox is based on Thunderbird 3.1, which has a much older version of Gecko.

I think to remember that it actually branched off an early 3.0 alpha version already while it was still on the Gecko 1.9.0 branch. They may have followed Thunderbird development since (given the minor detail that Scott and Seth were Thunderbird developers before they left Mozilla and went commercial with Postbox) and are quite likely current with the Gecko versions I'd assume (at least for security reasons). { Edit: config/milestone.txt in the MPL-covered and thus publicly accessible part of the source indicates Gecko 7.0.1 for the most recent Postbox 3.0.3 version, March 4th. }

Two line message summaries, much easier to read/parse.

I see that request rather frequently but wonder why it's considered "better" than the traditional view. To use a comparable example, I still prefer the 1-line per website entry in SeaMonkey's location bar over its 2-line counterpart in Firefox, it uses up less vertical space, and with today's common wide-screen monitors the row length is no longer really a problem with respect to monitor width. If it's a configuration option and someone completes that implementation - sure, why not.

Enable BigFiles service to use most major cloud storage services

So, Postbox introduced storing attachments in the cloud and hence Thunderbird followed that example? Maybe not exactly, but it almost sounds like that. Same with Instant Messaging, essentially the integration of Instantbird? Interesting concepts but I don't think I'll have any use for those and just disable them, yet have to carry the code around. I don't quite believe in the concept "x does offer it, so we must have it too" though it's certainly worth to look around what features others implemented or how they solved certain problems. In the end though the application has to fit its user community and not just compete for the sake of competition...

tanstaafl
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Post Posted March 20th, 2012, 11:52 pm

rsx11m wrote:
tanstaafl wrote:Postbox is based on Thunderbird 3.1, which has a much older version of Gecko.

I think to remember that it actually branched off an early 3.0 alpha version already while it was still on the Gecko 1.9.0 branch. They may have followed Thunderbird development since (given the minor detail that Scott and Seth were Thunderbird developers before they left Mozilla and went commercial with Postbox) and are quite likely current with the Gecko versions I'd assume (at least for security reasons).

The latest version is Postbox 3.0.3 (released 03/04/2012). The last security updates were based on Firefox version 3.6.13 (Gecko 1.9.2) in Postbox 2.1.2 (released 01/18/2011) if their release notes are accurate. They may have decided that as long as security fixes were being released for the Firefox 3.* branch that they had better uses for their time.

I haven't searched the Mozilla code they use, which they make available at http://www.postbox-inc.com/coveredcode (due to the Mozilla Public License version 1.1).

tanstaafl
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Post Posted March 20th, 2012, 11:56 pm

dbcooper.dk wrote:BTW, I tried commenting on the "get a new email address" blog post, but couldn't post a comment due to a broken capcha box ... :?

Thanks for trying. Check that cookies are enabled for that web site. I didn't see the captcha until I did that.

rsx11m
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Post Posted March 21st, 2012, 6:13 am

tanstaafl wrote:I haven't searched the Mozilla code they use, which they make available at http://www.postbox-inc.com/coveredcode (due to the Mozilla Public License version 1.1).

That's the source I've determined Gecko 7.0.1 for Postbox 3.0.3 from. They may have left the 1.9.2 branch with 3.0 (which would make sense, given a major version change). If they were at 1.9.2.13 (released 12/09/2010) with their patches by 01/18/2011, they were more than a month behind at that time already (and several months by now, unless they apply MFSA security patches on the fly).

tanstaafl
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Post Posted March 23rd, 2012, 12:32 pm

Blake Winton posted the following on the tb-planning mailing list.

Code: Select all
Now that all the big features are landed, and we have some time to
breathe again, I've been thinking a little bit about what we want to do
on Thunderbird's front-end over the next couple of releases.

Here's the list, in the order I think they should be (highest priority
to lowest priority):

  * Papercuts!  (Fix the easy little things that are making Thunderbird
    worse to use.)
      o Things like the tab you go to after closing the current tab (bug
        508776).
      o Maybe some UX Priorities <https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/buglist.cgi?quicksearch=product%3Athunderbird+whiteboard%3A[UXPrio]>.
  * Clean up the landed features.
      o Have an easier way to add and remove OpenSearch providers.
  * Compose in a tab.
      o Also address book in a tab.
  * Attachment tab.
  * Social Search.
      o Extend OpenSearch to social networks.
      o Also
        http://mozillalabs.com/blog/2012/03/experimenting-with-social-features-in-firefox/
  * Thunderbird Button.
      o I think that we might want to skip a UI-refresh and go straight to the Australis
       Menu Button instead, but there's still work to be done here figuring out what
      functions to make available on the toolbar, and on this button.
  * Address Book.
      o re-design as a web-app, possibly targeting Mobile first...
      o This seems important and useful, but it's also a very large
        task, and I think I'ld like the front-end team to work on some
        smaller stuff for a little while.
  * Perspectives!
      o Could include a Facebook-ish Timeline view.
      o This is even more important for the future, but it's also a very
        large task which I think will take a long time to pay off, so it
        falls in the same bucket as the Address Book for me.

I would like people to respond with suggestions on things I've missed,
as well as what they would change about the order, and reasons why.

I plan on presenting the list, and the feedback, at the Product Council
meeting next Thursday.

Thanks,
Blake.

dbcooper.dk
 
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Post Posted March 23rd, 2012, 1:19 pm

Sounds good. Thanks for reposting here.

If you could suggest the parity-Postbox bug on the mailing list then that'd be great. :)

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