18 October 2007

Musings on Thunderbird's future

Over the summer, it was announced that the Mozilla Thunderbird project would be spun off into a new, separate organizational structure. Then, earlier this month, the lead Thunderbird developer, Scott McGregor, suddenly announced his departure from the Mozilla Corporation. This unexpected announcement was then followed two days later with news from David Bienvenu, another prominent Thunderbird developer, that he too was leaving.

In their respective blog postings where they briefly announced their resignations, both have stated that they will continue working on the Thunderbird project. Nonetheless I'm skeptical of their ability to retain their focus on the continued development of the Thunderbird email client, especially since they're moving on to other endeavours. With them pursuing their new venture (according to David Ascher's open letter to the Thunderbird community), how could they possibly maintain the same level of effort on Thunderbird like they used to? Unless their new "venture" somehow involves Thunderbird, but very little has been revealed as to what they'll be pursing next.

I've read a lot about these recent events with great interest, and it's interesting to read the speculative reasons for the departures and the negative "doom and gloom"-type predictions; case in point: right now Mozilla Links has a reader survey up, asking if the two key departures signify "the end of Thunderbird." While I can't help but wonder if there is a deeper, undisclosed reason for these two developers leaving, perhaps these departures -- as well as the spin-off from the Mozilla Corp -- is an opportunity for the Thunderbird project to reinvigorate itself with fresh ideas and evolve further from what it is right now.

How? Being the open source project that it is, there are people all over the world either volunteering their time, efforts and talents into the ongoing development and testing of Thunderbird, or are paid to do so by other companies (Red Hat, Google, IBM, et. al.) that hire them to do their work. As long as there is interest and motivation in improving Thunderbird, as well as the number of end users justifying the effort at doing so, there will be people who will be passionate and dedicated enough to step forward and make it so. And with the new, separate organization focusing entirely on the email client, the unavoidable distractions that come with supporting other, non-mail projects should be eliminated.

I admit that Clippings wasn't originally intended to be compatible with Thunderbird; I had designed and coded it with Firefox in mind. As a Thunderbird user, it never struck me as the slick, polished application that Firefox is; even with version 2, I still regard Thunderbird as nothing more than the mail and news component split off from the original Mozilla 1.x suite. But compare that with Firefox... much effort has been put into making it the most user-friendly open source application thus far (although I have heard a lot of good things about Ubuntu...), and Firefox 3 promises to be another great leap forward into making Web browsing even more easier, efficient and fun -- for both end users and developers.

Hopefully we will soon see the same with Thunderbird.

08 October 2007

Clippings 2.99.3 development snapshot released

This is the third development milestone leading up to Clippings 3.0, intended for early adopter users who crave the latest and greatest. Users not comfortable trying out pre-release software and tolerating its many bugs should stick with Clippings 2.6 for now.

» Download: Clippings 2.99.3 (128 KB; English (United States); compatible with Firefox 1.5-2.0.0.x and Thunderbird 1.5-2.0.0.x)

If you already have a previous release of Clippings installed, you must uninstall it first before installing this release. Because this is a development snapshot, no automatic upgrades to this release will be available to current Clippings users.

What's New in This Release
  • Default clippings. System administrators and redistributors who want to package the Clippings XPI with default clippings can do so by unzipping the XPI archive using a ZIP client such as WinZip, putting the data source file containing the default clippings in the "defaults" directory, and then re-zipping the archive. The data source file must be named "clippak.rdf", and must be a valid Clippings file. Hint: Create and organize the default clippings using Clippings Manager, and then export the data to a Clippings file.
  • The predefined clipping variable $[HOSTAPP] now includes the host application's version number.
  • On-the-fly updating of clipping edits/changes.
  • Automatic refreshing of Clippings Manager's display whenever its window is focused. This is especially important when common Clippings data is enabled, because this ensures that the most recent changes from the other host application is reflected in Clippings Manager.
  • Improvements to the new common data source feature, which was introduced in the last development snapshot.

Known Issues

For the most up-to-date list of bugs, please see http://clippings.mozdev.org/bugs.html.
  • Common clippings is still disabled by default; please read this blog post for instructions on how to enable it. This issue will be addressed in the next development snapshot release.
  • The Clippings menu in Firefox's textbox context menu may not appear if the default clipping file is corrupted or not recognized as a valid Clippings file (bug 17898)
  • Clippings Manager's status bar item count is sometimes incorrect; this can happen when either a new clipping/folder from another host app is created, or when a clipping file is imported from another host app. This bug occurs when common clippings is enabled (bug 17871)

Other Things You Should Know About

The function key for Clippings Manager's Redo command (a.k.a., "Reverse Last Undo," "Undo Last Command" or - my personal favourite - "Undo Undo") has changed. Prior to this release it was F4. Because that key is in conflict with the shortcut key for invoking the menu in the new Shortcut Key drop-down field, the function key for Undo Undo has been changed to F2.

Help and Support

Send your questions to the Clippings mailing list at clippings@mozdev.org. Enter a new bug here (Bugzilla account on Mozdev required - or you can just post your bug report to the mailing list). Remember to check the bug list first to see if an issue you want to report has already been filed.