Tag Archives: thunderbird

A glimpse of a new address book for Thunderbird

I’ve been working on a new address book for Thunderbird.

And I’m making progress.

I’ve reached a point where I feel like the back-end can do something useful, and I want to start worrying about how the front-end works and feels and functions.

Now I’ve got a web-based super-early prototype for you to try.

A screenshot of the mockup in my Firefox browser.

Some caveats:

  1. Bear in mind this thing is super early, and super incomplete.
  2. The primary goal of this version of the prototype is to determine if the general layout makes sense
  3. Adding contacts, and adding new fields to existing contacts does not work
  4. Expect hacky hacky crap code if you look inside the mockup. Here there be monsters.
  5. The menu button in the right-top corner does not work
  6. I’ve only tested / developed in Firefox. Other browsers are not supported, and I don’t plan to sweat about it too much.

Wow, so it sounds like this thing doesn’t do a whole lot. So what does it do?

  1. It loads a list of 500 fake contacts for you to browse through.
  2. It allows you to see the email addresses for each contact that has an email address
  3. Simple searching works
  4. Different contact categories can be viewed
  5. Gives you a sense of how the layout would be. Hide Firefox’s navigation bar for bonus points!

There’s also a big fat FEEDBACK button at the top of the mock. Please give me feedback. Or click here to go to the form directly. Am I heading in the right direction?

Here’s the link to the mock-up. Give it a whirl!

And here’s the Github repository if you want to cry while reading my crappy mockup code.

Expect more of these.

Rambling about a new Address Book for Thunderbird

Hey all.

I’ve been pretty bad about talking about the address book. Sorry about that. I’ve been pretty busy helping to get Instant Messaging shipped for TB 15.

But with IM polished off, I’ve (once again) started refocusing my attention to the address book.

So where am I?

The Ensemble Project

In short, I’m writing an add-on to experiment with approaches to a new address book. I’m calling it “Thunderbird Ensemble”, because every project needs a cool code name.

The add-on is in its very very early stages. Nothing is usable. Nothing is stable or guaranteed. There’s no UI yet, but there are some tests.

You can track my progress here.

Here are some highlights, implementation details and unstructured thoughts about the add-on, and where I’m going with it:

SQLite Storage Back-end

I’ve chosen to use SQLite (via mozStorage) for the contact database. I was originally toying with using indexedDB, but it’s lack of support for substring searches (which is necessary for things like auto-complete) wasn’t very appealing. I briefly toyed with throwing my own indexing layer on TOP of indexedDB, and then I realized that I was probably reinventing the wheel.

So SQLite it is!

Diffs, Diffs Everywhere

Contact records are a representation of the fields and meta data about a contact. My add-on will be able to calculate diffs between records, and those diffs can be applied on top of records to make changes.

So, for example, suppose I decide to make some changes to a contact – I add some email addresses, remove a phone number, and change a birthday. I’m effectively creating a diff.

Now we apply the diff on top of the original contact, and send the resulting contact record to the datastore for storage.

If the storage happens to be on the network, and the original record we applied the diff on to was out of date, we should get a fresh copy of the contact record, apply the diff, and try again.

Conflict Resolution

With diffs comes conflicts resolution – but conflict resolution is never a pleasant experience, and I’d like the user to not have to deal with that if possible.

My solution is to just be optimistic – if a diff is asking to remove something that isn’t there, great! Mission accomplished! If the diff is adding something that already exists, no problem! We skip!

And for things that get changed, like birthdays, we simply say that the last writer wins.

Maybe that’s naive, but that’s the approach that I’m taking.

What do I have?

I can create contact records, diff them, apply diffs, and “merge” two records together. And I have tests for all of that work.

I’ve got the start of the SQLite backend working (basically, we can set up the database…but that’s it.)

I’m currently working on importing old Thunderbird contacts into Ensemble’s notion of contact records.

After that, I’ll work on getting them written to the database.

Comments? Questions? Complaints? Ask them here. It’s still really early on in the process, but if you find bugs in my code, please file issues on GitHub.

No, that’s not “it” for Thunderbird…

(Disclaimer: I’m an employee for Mozilla Corp, who works full-time on Thunderbird development. These opinions are my own.)

Today, through various channels, it was announced that continued innovation on Thunderbird is not a top priority for Mozilla.

Now before you all go running around with your heads chopped off saying things like, “Welp, that’s it for Thunderbird!”, or “We’d better fork that mutha!”, stop for a second, and read this.

Thunderbird is not dead.

Not by a long shot.

Please don’t overreact.

We’re simply not going to pour resources into trying to “innovate” on Thunderbird. Users will still be getting an email client that answers to nobody but them. Users will still benefit from stability, performance and security updates from Mozilla. And their mail will continue to land in their inbox, just as it always has.

So please, relax. It’s all good. Let’s not make a mountain out of a mole hill.

I’d also like to ask those people talking about forking Thunderbird… why? Why would you do that, instead of contributing to the core project? You’d be cutting yourself off from us, the people with experience developing Thunderbird, who can help you with your projects. Work with us. We’d love to have you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to continue testing some kick-ass contributor code. This new Australis default theme is going to blow your mind…

Gecko Profiler now works in Thunderbird Daily

One of the first steps to making software snappier is knowing where the bottlenecks are. For Thunderbird, finding those bottlenecks has been hard – we haven’t had any tools to make drilling down to the slow bits easy.

Until now.

The platform folks have developed a really awesome profiler tool, and it’s been working really nicely in Firefox for some time now.

This past week, I spent a few hours making it work in Thunderbird.

If you’ve got a recent Daily of Thunderbird around, you can try it out right now.

How to bask in the glory of this awesome tool

  1. Make sure your Daily is recent. Anything built from today onwards should work.
  2. Install this add-on. It’s restartless!
  3. Check out your status bar. There should be two little panels there – “Disabled”, and “Dump Profile”
  4. Click on “Disabled” to switch the profiler into “Enabled” mode. Once you do that, it starts recording.
  5. Do some stuff, like check your mail…or do a search.
  6. Click on “Dump Profile”.
  7. A content tab will open that will show you profiling data gathered up to that point.
  8. Click on “Enabled” to disable the profiler – this will clear out the recording, to let you do a new one.

The web app that lets you browse the profile data is pretty sophisticated – you can read the skinny about it here.

Cooking with gas

On Windows or OSX, do an optimized, non-debug build of comm-central with the –enable-profiling flag set. Now you get super rich profiling data. Now you’re cookin’ with gas.

So hopefully this will be useful in making Thunderbird better, faster and stronger.

Big thanks to Benoit Gerard for his help and guidance porting the add-on, and the platform team for creating such a badass tool.

Scratchpad ported to Thunderbird. Kinda.

Firefox has a sweet suite of developer tools. If you haven’t used them, you’re seriously missing out.

Thunderbird, on the other hand, has very little in the way of developer tools. We used to have ChromeBug, but then that project went by the wayside when the Firebug developers decided to focus more on, well, Firebug.

And ever since, debugging and fiddling around in Thunderbird has been a pain.

So a few folks on the TB team decided to take a crack at porting one of Firefox’s tools to Thunderbird. We chose Scratchpad (or rather, its earlier incarnation, “Workspace”), because being able to execute snippets of script on the fly is super-useful for trying stuff out.

So without further ado, here it is – Workspace for Thunderbird.

Install that, and a new Workspace menuitem appears under Tools. This will open up Workspace. Make sure to switch your Context to Chrome for superpowers.