Mozilla hopes to finish Thunderbird 3.1 in April

The updated e-mail software, code-named Lanikai, should arrive in April and could get an ability to show useful information about folders and other e-mail activity.

Mozilla Messaging hopes to release Thunderbird 3.1 in early April, a date that reflects a new frequent-release strategy adopted from the better-known Firefox effort at Mozilla.

Dan Mosedale, a programmer for the open-source e-mail software, published the date in a Thunderbird schedule draft he announced Thursday.

"If we're lucky, we relabel 3.1RC1 [release candidate 1] as final and ship it on Tuesday, April 6. Otherwise, there's an RC2," Mosedale said in the planning document.

The new version is due to get an updated Web browser engine. Using the same Gecko project that Firefox is built atop means Thunderbird messages can integrate with Web activity such as Google Calendar.

Another possibility for 3.1 is a revamp of the Thunderbird start page, Mozilla Messaging CEO David Ascher said Friday. That redesign, which Ascher described in May, could show more useful information than the present splash screen--for example, information about what activity people has been up to help pick up where they left off.

"The 'start page,' which makes a lot of sense in Firefox, never made a huge amount of sense to me in Thunderbird. In particular, it's shown only when a folder is selected, and no message is selected. That's hardly a logical time to show the (colorful, pretty, but fairly useless) page we show now. Instead, why not show information about the selected folder and help people who clearly intended to select a folder, so most likely wanted to do something related to that folder," Ascher said in the blog post.

The faster Thunderbird release cycle is just one attribute the Thunderbird team is trying to adopt from Mozilla's higher-profile Firefox effort. Also on the longer-term plan is financial self-sustenance. Those are big challenges, though. An easier adoption will be fun names.

Starting now, Thunderbird versions will be named after beaches, Ascher said in a blog post this week.

"Firefox releases have cool code names while in gestation," Acher said. "Firefox picks national parks as code names, as metaphors for the values that go into making a Firefox release. The idea made a lot of sense to us, so we decided to follow suit for Thunderbird. Rather than parks, we picked beaches."

First up: Hawaii. Thunderbird 3.1 gets the name Lanikai, Ascher said, adding that he misspelled it "Lanakai" in the blog post.