As the blogosphere debates the death of the desktop email client, I am anxiously awaiting the stable release of Mozilla Thunderbird 3.0. Like devotees of Apple Mail.app or Microsoft Outlook, I have come to depend on the desktop app for speed, stability, and extensibility.
I am a longtime user of Thunderbird and I can’t wait until the 3.0 release. I am prejudiced to prefer desktop apps rather than webapps or AIR apps– especially for tasks that I spend so much time doing (like email). The reason?
A dedicated app can have keyboard shortcuts and buttons that are ALL designed to speed up your workflow. Using email in a browser means that your keystrokes are optimized for any kindof website, not just email.
If I press [Ctrl+R] in GMail/Firefox, the screen reloads! In a real mail app, [Ctrl+R] means “Reply” as it should IMHO. IN TBird, pressing [down arrow] goes to the next message instead of scrolling down the page. Having intuitive keystrokes lets me FLY through my email in a way I just can’t do in Firefox.
A desktop app can respond to your actions faster and more fluidly than a website can because it doesn’t have to query the server every time you do something.
The killer feature of Thunderbird that sets it apart from all others is the tagging feature. I can assign GTD-influenced Tags (like @Archive, @FollowUp, @ActionItem) simply by pressing number keys 1-9. With one hand on the down arrow and one on the numbers 1-4 keys, I can quickly sort all my mail so I know what to do with it next (in proper GTD form).
I grudgingly admit that Gmail is quickly adding features that make the web interface more awesome. That does not, however, mean that using a general purpose browser for a site-specific task is a good thing. I would love to see Google develop apps that combine the power of their online apps with a true desktop experience.
Imagine it: a Google Docs desktop app that works like a word processor but syncs to the cloud? That would be awesome! A Gmail app (or a plugin for Chrome?) that allows you to customize keyboard shortcuts when you’re on a specific website so your app is completely optimized for the task at hand.
Until that day, I’m going to be rockin’ the Desktop app. 🙂
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