Outdated extensions are depressing sometimes

November 29, 2007 by
Filed under: Thunderbird, Work 

There’s a Thunderbird extension that I use that still hasn’t been updated since Thunderbird 1.5, that I have a hard time living without.  It’d be awesome if it got updated to work with Thunderbird 2.

It’s Sync On Arrival.  This one makes Thunderbird download all of the new messages in an IMAP folder as soon as it sees notification from the server that new messages have arrived.  There’s two main benefits this gives me. 1) Thunderbird feels a lot faster, because 90% of the time when I go to look at a message, it will have already downloaded it and can show me the cached version, instead of my having to wait for it to download the message from the server when I open it.  2) It’s essentially “always offline-ready”.  Since the messages are always being downloaded when they come in, I can put the laptop to sleep, wake it up somewhere else where I don’t have a network connection, and already have the messages there to look at, without having to have told Thunderbird that I wanted to switch to offline mode before putting the laptop to sleep.  Switching to offline mode then becomes just toggling the state and being done with it instead of having to wait for Thunderbird to download everything before traveling, or even better: having to look at an email at a random time when you weren’t expecting to be offline, and having it already be there instead of being out of luck.

Now the situation isn’t quite as dire as it sounds…  the extension still works with Thunderbird 2, it just doesn’t know that it does.  But having to use the Nightly Tester Tools to override the maxVersion on it every time there’s a Thunderbird update gets annoying.  There’s been plenty of comments in the discussion board for it on the addons site saying it works in 2.0 (and a few that say it doesn’t work, but I haven’t experienced any of the problems they’re reporting).  I’ve also emailed the author about it, and never got a response.  If I knew more about writing extensions and had time to play with it I’d love to fix it, but unfortunately I don’t.  It’d be really awesome if someone did though.

Alternatively, if anyone knows of another extension that does a similar job that also works on Thunderbird 2, let me know in the comments here.

I remember the original ExtendFirefox contest had a category for updates to existing extensions that hadn’t been updated for Firefox 2 yet.  Maybe Thunderbird needs to do something like that to encourage people to update their extensions.


10 Responses to “Outdated extensions are depressing sometimes”

  1. mkanat on November 29th, 2007 1:17 am

    This makes me think about how we’re going to do Bugzilla extensions. I think we won’t prevent people from installing extensions that have too low of a maxVersion, we’ll just warn them before they install it.


  2. Eric Shepherd on November 29th, 2007 2:05 am

    All you need to do is change the maxVersion field in the extension’s install.rdf file to reflect compatibility with, say, Firefox 4.0. Then you’re good to go. :)

  3. justdave on November 29th, 2007 4:58 am

    Yeah, making a Thunderbird extension compatible with Firefox would work real well ;)

    But I know what you mean. :) But the average Joe isn’t going to figure out how to do that, so I guess it’s more just getting attention to the issue.

    Abandoned extensions suck when they’re good :)

  4. Ian M on November 29th, 2007 5:08 am

    Gerv brought the same issue up recently.

    Personally, my opinion is that the Mozilla guys should adopt the most widely used extensions that get abandoned.

    Also, I don’t use Thunderbird but this “Sync On Arrival” extension sounds like something that should be built into the core release anyway.

  5. Jay Levitt on November 29th, 2007 7:30 am

    Ian: It technically *is* built into core, but it’s never actually worked properly. Sync On Arrival brute-forces it somehow so that TB actually does what you’ve otherwise configured it to do – get your mail.

  6. Dao on November 29th, 2007 8:20 am

    Thunderbird 2 supports the extensions.checkCompatibility pref. You can set it to false.

  7. Cameron on November 29th, 2007 9:07 am

    And this is why people should open source their code.

  8. funtom on November 29th, 2007 10:58 am

    Well, an idea on how to help ceasing the pain at least, has come to my mind many times. I mean the help of AMO service. I suppose, an extension stops working sinc either the app’s version falls out of the minVersion/maxVersion range, or some API call’s changed.
    I’m not familiar with procedures, especially those behind the scene, that take place on an extension submit. But what I can clearly see, is the way AMO takes part in mainteining the extension, or in helping their respective authors at least.
    AMO, in conjunction with MoCo devs should know of those API calls that have been deprecated. Some of them might be merely replaced with the new one, then the maxVersion param bumped a notch and voila a new version comes out. All automagically, no bothering extension authors needed.
    Is that too difficult to implement it?

  9. tim on October 9th, 2008 12:30 am

    How funny!
    I just found you on a google search i did about bumping the extension version, which I wanted to do to fix the VERY SAME EXTENSION!
    Yes, Imap really sux without that feature.
    Apparently they are working to make that all better.
    In the meantime, this might help?


  10. justdave on October 9th, 2008 3:21 am

    I recommend against doing anything in that addonsmirror link, btw. Use Nightly Tester Tools to do it. Modifying the files is asking for trouble.

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