I’ve been experimenting with how we can use tabs inside Thunderbird.

Thunderbird Tabbing

The previous tabbing post already discussed how tabs help people to keep their current context and multi-task more flexibly.  I’ve created a number of designs that look into using tabs in Thunderbird so email users can have the same kind of power over their context.

In Tabs By Default

To keep your current context of email reading, searches will open up in a new tab by default.  Such that anytime you’re in the All Mail tab and start a search the results will open in a new tab.  Opening up the Calendar, Tasks, and Contacts will also open up by default in a new tab as well.  Tabs will need to be fast to open.

Tab Shortcuts

Much like you could want quick bookmarks to open up the web pages that you access frequently Thunderbird needs a way for users to open up different types of tabs that are unique and used frequently.


Tab shortcuts allow us to offer a default set of tab locations that users may want to open.  We can also offer this location up to extensions to enable them to add in their own shortcuts for items like CRMs, Thunderbrowse, and other elements that would want to be opened up in tabs.

With shortcuts we should also focus on some ideas for preventing people from opening up too many tabs of the same interface.  Perhaps something that (on mouse over) shows you the other tabs of that type already opened.

New Tabs / Summary Views

Sometimes you just want a new tab to start fresh, there are lots of reasons to start a new tab. For this we have a new tab button that allows Thunderbird users to open a new, empty tab.

New Tab Button

Upon opening a new tab Thunderbird could just show a blank page and focus the search bar.  However it would probably make more sense to use the opportunity to open up a summary view page while the search bar is focused.

This summary page could use the widget system that Spicebird uses or just give a static summary of your mail, events, and tasks.  Adding in items for recent searches could be good as well.  Pulling information from places like whoisi about my contacts could be another interesting element to this summary page.


There’s still lots of work to be done and issues to understand; this design work isn’t finalized.  For tracking the Thunderbird tab work that’s planned for Thunderbird 3, see bug 21899 where I’ll be posting more comments and designs.  Comments on this blog are always appreciated as well.


Tagging Mail with Events or Tasks

Email idea #43819

I would like to be able to tag messages or threads of messages with calendar events or tasks.

My tagging scheme breaks down into these types: (with examples)

  • Project: thunderbird, evince
  • Discussion: desktop-devel, firefox-journal-devel, moz-bugs
  • Temporal: meeting with david, thunderbird alpha1 deadline, and tabbed interface wiki page task

Project Tags

These are used to tag messages related to a project or group such that when I want to find that message again later I can look into that project category and find the message.  I most often manually apply these tags to messages received because they are important, but not part of my regular discussion framework.

 Discussion Tags

I use filters to create these tags which automatically sort and categorized messages from mailing lists and groups.  There is often a lot of discussion related to these groups and I can’t make progress in my day if all that discussion goes directly into my Inbox.  Therefore I usually have these items filtered out of my Inbox and tagged so I can read them at a point where I’d like to catch up with the discussion.

Temporal Tags

This one I do not have yet.  Very often a thread of mail messages are all related to a meeting I’m going to have, a task I’m going to finish, or a deadline that’s coming up.  I’d like to have that event or task shown as a tag in my mail view such that before the date arrives or the task is finished I can continually access all the messages related to it.  Once the date has passed or the task has been finished the tag can be archived out of my main view, mostly available to search queries.

This would probably also help me to defer messages for later.  If I want to schedule a time later in the day to reply to a bunch of similar messages that I don’t have time for now I could tag them all with “3pm – Sit down and Reply to Messages Event” such that the event would ring at 3pm and show all the messages I had tagged for responding to.

Does something like this already exist out there?

Are there other tag types people use often?