Migrating from Thunderbird to Mail.app

After several years of using Thunderbird as my email client, I thought I’d try moving to the native Mail.app on the Mac. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Thunderbird, but it’s 2009 and I’d like to change. If I were to point to one thing in Thunderbird that annoys me, it would be the slowness of full text searching when you have thousands of messages. In contrast, using Spotlight to search for mail in Mail.app is very fast.

I’ve also switched from using POP3 to IMAP. I run my own mail server, and in the past it was just easier to run a POP3 server … and it also kept the disk usage down on my server. However, I’ve always wanted to try IMAP, but was put off by the idea that IMAP clients needed to be connected to a server to be fully functional. Maybe I was wrong, but Mail.app doesn’t seem to have any issues with being disconnected.

It hasn’t been plain sailing so far. I had a fair bit of trouble setting up dovecot to work right. I also converted from old mbox mailboxes to Maildir ones to try and increase performance when the inbox becomes larger (I’m actually starting with an empty remote inbox … and just importing the old Inbox from thunderbord as a local folder).

For dovecot I needed to follow these notes about dovecot and Mail.app. And then I also discovered the problem of incompatible mbox files from Thunderbird (the symptom being that only part of a thunderbird folder would import). There is a python script for fixing thunderbird mbox files so they’ll import into Mail.app without issue (the clean_moz ref in that post). I also had some strange problems regarding the IMAP prefix. It seems a  lot of people get these messages. I just deleted everything and started again. It’s been fine since.

I’m now up to a week since I migrated. Everything seems to work OK. The main issues/points being;

  • If you have multiple identities and you create a New message, the Sender and Signature aren’t linked. I have to keep on updating these drop downs.
  • If I want to search all my mail I seem to have to use spotlight. The search box in Mail.app seems to only search the folder you’re looking at … unless I’m missing something. (Update: looks like I hadn’t waited long enough for the all the indexing to take place)
  • I have 50000+ messages in various folders and using Spotlight to search them all is fast.