Thunderbird Contributors: QA and Development

Anne-Marie Bourcier

When the Thunderbird team recently started talking about how to increase the size of the Thunderbird contributor community, we thought that one interesting thing we could do was to describe the daily life of members of the Thunderbird team. In this post, we introduce readers to Thunderbird’s quality assurance and development activities, and link to profiles of Ludo, our QA Lead and David, Thunderbird Architect. In these profiles we describe the activities and experiences of each area and how contributors could help.

Can you help with beta testing?
Thunderbird QA is run by one Mozilla employee. (Click on this link to learn more about Ludovic.) Two days before the release, he tests the proposed final build of Thunderbird. He must validate three different versions of the software, testing on three kinds of mail servers and three operating systems (Windows, MacOS and Linux).

However, with a very small team and a very tight release schedule, it is a difficult challenge to make sure that we get enough testing activity in the late stage of each release. In the last while we have had a couple of releases that contained problems in a couple of specific and unusual configurations. We probably could have discovered and fixed those problems before release if we had more beta testers looking at the software before the final builds.

If you would like to help us with beta testing, just download the latest beta at and get started right away. When you launch the beta version of Thunderbird it explains how to log a bug. Don’t worry about the safety and stability of your email when testing a beta. Thunderbird is tested throughout the development cycle as features and bug fixes are integrated into the code base. All the Thunderbird team members run beta versions of Thunderbird.

Would you prefer to help with code?
During release week, Thunderbird engineers are already working on the next release, because at this point QA has already tested new features and bug fixes as they were completed. However sometimes there are surprises. (If there weren’t, we wouldn’t have to test.) When new bugs are encountered during release week, the programmers (see portrait of one of them here) kick into high gear as adrenalin levels increase, IRC channels warm up, and patches are quickly written, reviewed and integrated into the build.

While making bug fixes near the end of the release cycle is part of the game, this is not what the developers prefer to do. Most of them like to create new things – developing features, enhancing the product, fixing annoying bugs. Unfortunately, just like with QA, there are too few developers on the Thunderbird project to create all the features and enhancements we would all like to see in Thunderbird.

To address this problem, we have created a list of projects and features that we think are important but that we can’t implement because of our limited circumstances. This project is called “Up For Grabs” …

If you are interested in contributing to an open source project and know how to code, talk to the Thunderbird engineering team. Check out the Up For Grabs page to see the available projects.