Thunderbird vs Outlook: Finding The Right Email Client

thunderbirdvsoutlookMicrosoft Outlook has dominated the world of e-mail clients for many years. Gmail and Yahoo Mail have emerged as popular competitors. The creators of the Firefox browser, Mozilla Corporation, also offer an attractive email client called Thunderbird. Let’s take a closer look at a Thunderbird vs Outlook comparison.

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Low Cost

If you are looking for a low-cost desktop email client, Mozilla Thunderbird will be appealing because it is free. It does not have all of the features of Microsoft Outlook 2013. However, there are a number of add-ons available that make it very similar. If you don’t need the access to Microsoft Exchange mail servers that Outlook provides, Thunderbird should be on your consideration list.

Thunderbird allows you to create an email account through several services. In fact, there are places that will let you create an email address using your last name as the domain.

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Multiple Platforms

As a Microsoft product, Outlook 2013 can only run on Windows 7 and Windows 8. Thunderbird runs on several platforms: Windows 7, Windows 8, Vista, Windows XP, Mac OS X and Linux. There are ways to interface Thunderbird with Microsoft Exchange with a special hookup through POP3 and IMAP servers.

If you have the knowledge to find the POP3, IMAP or SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) server addresses, you can use Thunderbird as your email client for, Hotmail or even Gmail. A side benefit of this setup is that you can avoid the advertising that surrounds other email clients. In addition, you avoid any fees such as those charged by Yahoo Mail in order to get access to servers.

Server Address

Both Outlook and Thunderbird have the ability to determine the necessary server addresses for different mail providers. Another option is to use the New Account Wizard to build a new account by hand. If you decide to move to Thunderbird after using Outlook, contacts can be imported relatively painlessly. Simply open the Address Book, click on Tools and then select Import. You have the option of bringing over your Outlook account settings and mail folders at the same time.

Both Thunderbird and Outlook conveniently add contact suggestions when you begin to compose an email. Outlook has more robust call tracking, as well as the ability to pull in photos from social networks such as LinkedIn. With Thunderbird, you can add several phone numbers and emails for each contact.

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Full-Featured Calendar

Outlook has a full calendar function. It is completely integrated with email and contacts. You have the ability to create appointments by clicking anywhere in the month, week or day section. Each item can be set to replay at set intervals, perfect for reminders of such items as birthdays and anniversaries.

Another nifty function of the Outlook calendar is the ability to view different calendars side-by-side or on an overlay. For example, you may have one calendar for work and another one for family. By positioning them side-by-side, or on top of each other, you can quickly see your entire schedule. Thunderbird does not come with a calendar, but a plugin called Lightning can be added for that purpose.

In Outlook, you can create several different emails at the same time. Thunderbird gives you the same option, and saves each draft every few minutes. This can be a lifesaver, and you can adjust the saving frequency. Outlook has the advantage over Thunderbird in communicating with mobile devices. You can sync your calendar, contacts and notes with your iPhone or Android handset.

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Open Source

Since Thunderbird is open source, it can be improved and modified by thousands of programmers, developers and security techs. This is key because the Mozilla Corporation announced in 2012 that they were stopping development of Thunderbird, and only releasing updates for maintenance and security. Additional functionality and new features will be the sole responsibility of the open source community.

In the final analysis, Microsoft Outlook is the market leader. It has strong roots in the PC and corporate computing worlds, and offers the most logical link to Microsoft Exchange servers. Meanwhile, Thunderbird has enjoyed the freedom of being developed outside the confines of a for-profit company. It is fast, reliable and stable.

Outlook has more features out-of-the-box including a robust calendar and task list. On the other hand, Thunderbird can be enhanced to a large degree with available add-ons. If you need to be fully compatible with a corporate working environment, Outlook might be your best choice. If you are free to choose any email client, take a look at Thunderbird before making a final decision.

Do you prefer Thunderbird or Outlook? Let us know in the comments section below!


  1. I hav Thunderbird and my emails (read and unread) disappear —Does anyone know how to fix this problem.

  2. Wesley Hulsbos says:

    no one knows
    it's a secret

  3. Wesley Hulsbos lol

  4. TB does for me even in windows 8.1

  5. Alex Theodossi says:

    Are you using any other devices to collect your email on?

    If so it could be that the other device is using POP to retrieve the emails and once it has retrieved them it removes them from the server and stores them on the device.

    I would recommend switching all POP settings to IMAP providing your email host supports that.

  6. I don't know exactly what you want to say with "disappear" . But I have Thunderbird installed on my PC. Sometimes, when the inbox becomes so much full, this e-mail client has problem to manage it. The problem is about index, but, if it happens, you can't find your e-mails. Then, you have to repair the folder (there is an option to do it). And after that, when the messages appear again, you have to create another folders and move messages to them. An idea is to create one folder to each month or to each year, if you don't receive a lot of emails… Hope you can access your emails again…

  7. Dan Shishkin says:

    This is from mozilla troubleshooting, deleting "smart mailboxes" worked for me.

    Try running in safe mode using "Help -> restart with add-ons disabled" to rule out it being a problem due to an add-on.

    Use "Help -> Troubleshooting Information -> Open Containing Folder" to display the contents of the profile using windows explorer (or whatever file manager you are using). Then exit Thunderbird and delete the "smart mailboxes" directory within the Mail directory. Start Thunderbird.

    If deleting "smart mailboxes" doesn't help exit Thunderbird and delete both "smart mailboxes" and the virtualfolders.dat file. That file is used for Saved Search (aka virtual folders) settings. A side effect is that if you had any saved searches they will be deleted and you will have to recreate them. The reason for deleting the file is Unified Folders is a "advanced folder view" that uses saved searches. Restart Thunderbird.

    If none of this works try installing another version of Thunderbird in a different directory and see if it has the same problem. It will reuse your existing profile. Go back to an old version of Thunderbird has instructions on how to find older versions of Thunderbird. You could also download a beta or earlybird version from this web site, though thats a calculated risk as they are not production versions. You may want to backup your profile first using something like Mozbackup

  8. Thunderbird & WebMail are the right way !!!

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