The 7 Year (and counting) Bug

Mozilla is the organization that is responsible for the Firefox browser. It is also responsible for a product called Thunderbird, which is a very good email client which support both POP and IMAP.

One draw back of Thunderbird is that it does not support the opening of TNEF formatted mail. TNEF is the format generated by MS-Outlook when the user composes a message in Rich Text Format (RTF) — which is a common occurrence.

It seems that the Mozilla Thunderbird developers have know about this deficiency for quite a long time but have decided ignore the issue because TNEF, despite being a defacto standard due to the large number of outlook users, is a proprietary format.

This is clearly a situation where the Mozilla organization has chosen to curse the darkness rather than light a candle.

Fortunately, Aron Rubin has developed an add-on that will address this issue. It works well and it appears that Aron will continue to maintain it. So if you use Thunderbird and are tired of receiving windmail.dat files please give his add-on a try.

Hopefully, the capabilities of Aron’s plugin will become part of the core Thunderbird product, soon. But, since its been almost 7 years since this bug was reported, completely hassle free interchange of messages between Thunderbird and Outlook users may still be a way off.

2 thoughts on “The 7 Year (and counting) Bug

  1. Wiki says:“TNEF is a proprietary e-mail attachment format…”“TNEF attachments can contain security-sensitive information…”“Native-mode Microsoft Exchange Organizations will in some circumstances send entire messages as TNEF…this technique is not RFC compliant”Yup, sounds like something we should encourage everybody to use. Not.


  2. Thanks for your post.You are correct. And I would not encourage folks to adopt it.However, those items do not reduce the utility of being able to see/use the information contained in a TNEF message.If I may offer an analogy: The Federal Reserve system is used to clear checks and transactions between financial institutions on behalf of their clients. This system is both proprietary & closed yet I still like to get paid each Friday and I am able automate the payment of bills. Closed.. yes. Proprietary… yes, Useful with which to interact… yes? Ideal… maybe not.Mail systems should be more flexible. Especially, if there is utility to be gained from interacting with proprietary technologies. I would suggest that being able to seamlessly communicate with the large market share of users using MS-Outlook would increase the utility of Thunderbird to Thunderbird users.This reasoning may not be far off from the choice made by the OpenOffice project by adding some support for MS-Office formats. Is this ideal? Probably not. Does it address an end user need? Yes. Does it make OpenOffice more useful? Yes.This may be an issue that is less a matter of technical feasibility and more an issue of human interaction.


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