It’s Friday: Goofy but fascinating Thunderbird Add-ons day

Two different and equally goofy but interesting add-ons are in my personal news today:

Kent James released ToneQuilla, which I like to call “BiffTones!”, which allows you to set custom notification tones based on Thunderbird rules. Emails from the spouse make one sound, emails from the grandmother make another, etc. Neat!

Andrew Sutherland, on somewhat of a dare that I put in front of him (nothing like waving a red flag of visualization at a canvas bull like him) responded to the pretty but mostly useless Wordle meme which has been going around Mozilla circles, and built a wordle-like visualization of the database-driven queries that I blogged about a couple of days ago. If one can build an add-on to that in a day (well, a night without internet access), what couldn’t one do?

Both of these add-ons have somewhat of a goofy aspect to them, and both could evolve into something really useful. Notification overload is a huge problem in communication clients – it’s useful to know when something important happens, but useless to know when “a message was received” — tools like ToneQuilla can help. Simiarly, visualizations can provide insight into ones’ messaging history. See Themail for interesting research on the topic.


  1. I remember reading about a network health monitor application a while back that used a variety of audio and visual queues to indicate what was happening on a network without any text. Different types of animal noises like bird chirps or frog croaks indicated certain packets of traffic, and things like lightning strikes or clouds drifting by indicated other types of events like packet loss or large volumes of data being transferred.

    ToneQuilla reminds me of that concept. I could see how being able to hear what message is coming in would be useful if I don’t have to switch over to view the e-mail every time. Although, I guess if I reinstall Growl and get it working with Shredder, that would mostly serve the same purpose…


  2. “I could see how being able to hear what message is coming in would be useful if I don’t have to switch over to view the e-mail every time”

    That’s exactly why I’m installing it as I write this. Well, I’m waiting for Thunderbird to restart but you know what I mean. 🙂
    I don’t use a visual notification alert for Thunderbird, I find it to be distracting and I always have my PC’s audio on so I know when mail arrives.

    Alright it’s installed, I tested it, and it’s very cool.
    Being notified of new important or expected emails will be great and not having to stop what I’m doing because 8 posts have been made to a group or 10 Google Alerts have come in within the last 3 minutes will be even better.

    I see this becoming a very popular and widely used add-on if promoted properly.
    It needs a button to access filters and create new ones quickly but that’s easy enough.
    I got a Filters toolbar button for Thunderbird from the Custom Toolbar Buttons Maker (for Thunderbird) page on a friend’s site that does the trick. I had to bump up the max version number but that was no big deal and he’s currently updating all of his add-ons anyway.

    The developer of ToneQuilla does provide some sound samples but I had to go fish out my own which was tedious so that too could/should be addressed but I’m already enjoying it and I plan on supporting the developer by posting reviews and promoting ToneQuilla wherever I can as a gesture of thanks for his time and effort.

    I encourage others who try ToneQuilla to post a review/rating for it on AMO.
    Doing so will help to get it out of the Sandbox and lose the “experimental” label that it has so that it will be made available to the public and to people who do not choose to select “show experimental add-ons”.

    Thanks for posting this David.
    I had initially passed over this add-on but I’m not quite sure why.


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