Project Email Part 4

My email client of choice is called ThunderBird and the good news is, like FireFoxย  it’s also available for Mac and Linux users. (There’s even a portable version for Macs too.)

Why do I think portable programs are the way to go?

Once upon a time, all Windows programs were portable. You didn’t install them as such, in effect you just copied them where you wanted them to run and away you went.

Then Microsoft introduced the concept of the registry which is a database of all program settings and in effect tied the program to the machine you’d installed it onto. If you wanted to run the program on another machine then you had to install it on there too.

Right from day one I didn’t think that was a good thing for us users.

The worst thing about it is the Windows registry is incomprehensible.

The old method utilised a simple text based .ini file with text entries for all the settings and I reckon it was a “jolly good idea”. You could read through these entries for the program in your favourite text editor and work out what was going on. You could also apply some useful undocumented tweaks by changing “false” values to “true” and seeing what happened.

Yeah I’m a bit of a geek, always have been.ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

Portable programs by their nature can’t use the registry to store their settings, so they typically use the good old .ini files again. This means if you use a flash drive to store and run your portable programs, then those programs can write back any settings changes you make to the .ini files.

I hope that makes sense.

So. The PortableApps program is very cool and has a *huge* amount of free programs you can install including ThunderBird, FireFox, Chrome, Opera, NotePad++, Skype and OpenOffice and Libre Office.

It even has its own built in installer and program directory. Check for new apps, tick the boxes for the ones you want to install and off it goes and does it for you.

Yeah I’m impressed with it and I think you will be too.

Okay so back to email and ThunderBird.

I used to be an Outlook Express user until Microsoft killed it. Then I had to go looking for a replacement email client as I really didn’t want to use the web for ALL my email accounts as it would have taken forever to log in and check them one at a time. The assumption nowadays by companies like Microsoft and Google is we only have one email account, and that’s never been the case for me. It might be okay for the average home user, but I need lots of accounts thank you.

Luckily, with ThunderBird you can add a LOT of email accounts and I have at least 30 in my personal installation.

And they’re really made it VERY easy to add a new email account to it, including Google and probably Yahoo although I haven’t checked.

All you need to do is enter your email address and password and Thunderbird automatically tests the server to see what protocols it supports and goes for the most secure one it can find.

IF you’re thinking of leaving a comment on this post with your thoughts, then all I’ll say is that’s a good idea and it’s DEFINITELY in your interest to do so as I’d like to later reward all contributors for their input and views.ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

-Frank Haywood <== Click this for a list of all Project Email posts.

Posted by Frank Haywood


I’ve started using SeaMonkey instead of Thunderbird for almost 2 years now. It’s actually very similar because it’s derived from the Mozilla code, just took a change in development philosophy some years ago. I like it better for most uses. Plus, there’s also a PortableApps version.

Hamant Keval

hi Frank – This series is working out to be an eye opener
Ever since I have used Windows PC’s I’ve used Outlook but not express – only microsoft Outlook.
Although I still use a PC for some programs I have migrated over to a MAc and I see that Thunderbird has a Mac version .
I do have and use Microsoft Outlook for MAc but it’s incredibly buggy. Unfortunately Microsofts all office versions are sub par products for the Mac. Like yourself I have umpteen email accounts and Microsoft does the most of the time but I am as I write this downloading the Thunderbird for Mac.

I now use most of the Mac programs to do my work – instead of Powerpoint – I use Keynote – and instead of Word for Mac – I am migrating to iPage – so much superior in performance

Thanks again Frank – No doubt this could be a paid tutorial for a great product for people wanting a better way to manage email


Vince Andrews

Hi, Frank

I knew that this part series would be good, (having followed and purchased many items in the past,) but i have to say that this is one of the best on email that i have ever read. Like yourself my old favorite was Outlook Express (still wish it was re-introduced back into windows 7). I never thought of using thunderbird as a portable before, but after reading this latest writings of yours, i truly think that it is the right way to go. I do use Thundrbird on my pc and now i will start using it as portable, all down to your advice.

Many thanks for such an interesting series.

Great stuff Frank, anytime one can avoid the registry it’s a plus.
I use Thunderbird and love it!

Hi Frank,

I always learn something of value from the Project Email series. Thank you!!
Even some of the apps and software that I have some understanding – you take the mystery out, and that enables me to begin my experimentation.

Keep up the great shares!

Your wealth of information is fantastic. Thank you for passing it on. I am loving your posts. Thanks again.

Hamant Keval

Hi Frank
Yes it’s me again to harrass you.

I am not quite sure of the Portable apps on a Mac –
This far as I understand it – is that Portable apps will run on Windows machines and that If I wanted to use Portable apps I would have to run Windows inside my Mac through something like Parallels , or Crossover or Wine

I have all of those and they still are a pain in butt to use
Looks like it’s something I can safely only use on my Windows Machines
Correct me if I am wrong


Frank Haywood

Hi Hamant,

Yes I think you’re probably right. I’ve used the free VMWare Player on my PC to test things out on a VM machine in a safe environemnt and had some fun with it. (I believe there’s also a VMWare image of OSX knocking around somewhere but I’ve not seen it.) For a while I was using a VMWare image to run a second PC on this machine so that staff could connect to it via remote desktop and run an article submission tool.

VMWare Player has always seemed fairly stable to me, so it might be worth giving it a go? I haven’t checked but I think there’s a Mac version too.


Hi Frank,

Thanks for the video.

You don’t come right out & say this but by not junking up the registry files with various installs isn’t there less of a chance that your system will crash? Even have a fatal crash?
The Blue Screen of Death type crash.

Also . . . when trying new software that might have scum-ware or worse attached you would avoid installing it, I think?

Thank Again,

Frank Haywood

Hi Dave,

Yep, that’s a really good point about the registry and I hadn’t thought of that, so thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

There’s a couple of things you can do to alleviate the problem of scumware that adds browser bars and other unwanted stuff to your PC and I’ve mentioned on in a reply to a comment earlier.

#1 – This is the way I do it. Install VMWare Player (free) and then install an old version of Windows you have lying around. XP is good for this as it’s very small. Once installed and while it’s still all nice and clean, exit VMWare Player and copy the VM image files somewhere safe as your “pristine” copy of your Windows test installation. From then on you can use multiple copies of the pristine Windows to test out new software until you’re happy with the way it works.

#2 – I’ve not tried this one. There’s a tool called Sandboxie that will run new software in a “sandbox”, firewalling it off from the rest of your system. If the software misbehaves in some way, Sandboxie is supposed to catch it and you can then get it to uninstall the rogue software.

Food for thought? ๐Ÿ˜‰


Wow, I completely forgot about PortableApps. Thanks for the reminder!

Like you Frank, I also have many different email accounts. I have several Gmail accounts specifically for receiving newsletters on different topics. I also have email accounts on the different websites that I own (eg

I like the concept of remotely managing all of these different email accounts from one location. I’ve been sort of doing that by having all of my email forwarded to my main Gmail account, and then having filters automatically sort them into appropriate folders (ie labels) once they get there.

For receiving, that works quite fine. But sending is another story. Even though Gmail allows you to set the Sender to a different email account (once you have verified that it is yours), it always says it’s from my main account, “on behalf of” the account you want it sent from. Not very professional looking, as you pointed out in an earlier posting.

Because of this, I’ve been using Gmail as a notifier for new email from my websites. But of course, having to then login to my various websites to actually deal with the email there is quite a pain.

Looks like using Thunderbird will handle these issues quite nicely!