The developers assert that there is a "good reason" for it, and
despite my scare-quotes, I believe their argument is valid. Dead
wrong, but valid. The logic seems to be that having the tabs on top
makes it easier for them to show different toolbars and different
buttons depending on the contents of the tab in question.
This has been the Achilles Heel of Thunderbird all along. I've been
using it for more than a decade. I love it. Love the extensibility,
the interface, the performance.
But the developers are locked into a mindset of "we know what's good
for you even if you peons who make this possible don't, and dammit
we'll protect you from yourselves."
The analysis should not be focused EXCLUSIVELY on what makes a better
or more logical user-interface. It also has to take into account the
user response and reception. Right now, from perusing the forums and
blogs, there are many who love the tabs on top, and many who hate it,
and nobody in the middle, as is always the case with a community that
makes a religion out of software ("God loves ribbons," "God hates
toolbars," "toolbars hate God," "Menus will soon die" and so forth).
With such sharply divided reception, the question developers should be
asking themselves is, "is our brilliant concept worth alienating loyal
users?" Personally, I already spend too much time manipulating
install.rdf files to make my addons compatible with every new
release. At the very least, provide a way for the user to forego the
Divine benefits of their Divine wisdom and set the tabs where they've
always expected them to be.
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