Betterbird: FAQ

What is Betterbird?

Betterbird is a soft fork of Mozilla Thunderbird. Soft fork means that it is closely following the Thunderbird Extended Support Releases (ESR) therefore avoiding the mistakes of other forks which quickly lost track of upstream Thunderbird, thus opening users up to security vulnerabilities.

Why Betterbird?

Betterbird aims at providing a better user experience by fixing annoying bugs in Thunderbird and implementing new features. We will submit all changes to upstream to eventually benefit Thunderbird. So far, Thunderbird has accepted these changes recently (full list) with more pending acceptance. As a first highlight, we re-established the header button customisation, as you can check here. Another productivity enhancer: A decent systray tooltip showing new messages and their folders:

Our latest improvement was the implementation of the much-requested multi-line view, as you can check here.

Is Betterbird for me?

If you like Thunderbird but are discouraged by too many bugs, then give Betterbird a try. It is 100% compatible with Thunderbird's ESR version. You can install the same dot release of Thunderbird in parallel and switch between Betterbird and Thunderbird on the same profile without problems and without needing the -allow-downgrade command line switch.

Which platforms do you support?

The project started off as a pure Windows project, according to the motto "Biggest bang for the buck", there are just too many Windows users. However, we're now also shipping Linux binaries (and there are packages for Arch Linux) and in April of 2022 we've added a Mac build. Building many different versions is very expensive and we'll likely introduce a fee for the Mac build. Linux distributions that build Thunderbird can of course switch to Betterbird. We're happy to help! There is also a "one click" build using Ansible available at this GitHub repository which we use ourselves and also partly on Mac.

In which languages will Betterbird ship?

For now, Betterbird ships in English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese, other languages on request. Note that the Spanish localisation is derived from Thunderbird's Argentinian (es-AR) locale since the localisation for Spanish from Spain (es-ES) is not sufficiently complete. We're aiming at covering the most used locales, that is German (23%), English (US+UK) (20%), Japanese (14%), French (9%), Polish (7%), Italian (7%), Spanish (6%). If your language isn't covered yet, please get in touch.

There is a very active German forum where you can join the discussion. Thunderbird language packs do not work since Betterbird has additional strings.

Will my add-ons work?

Yes, what runs in Thunderbird will run in Betterbird, you can install add-ons directly in-product from addons.thunderbird.net.

Where is the source code kept?

The Thunderbird source code is kept in Mozilla repositories and we administer a public Github repository of the changes we apply to make it better.

What about version numbers?

To keep versioning easy, we will follow Thunderbird versioning. You can switch between Thunderbird and Betterbird of the same version on your profile without any problem.

Who is behind Betterbird?

Betterbird is headed by Thunderbird's former maintainer who has been joined by a group of people who share the view that users deserve a better experience and who do not agree with the approach of the Thunderbird management.

How can I help?

Donate, donate, donate. If you know your way around the Thunderbird codebase and would like to donate your time, we'd like to hear from you.