A while back I posted some concerns about the Thunderbird primary interface. My concerns were not really so much about features but about how those features were exposed in the user interface. I offered some suggestions, in bugs and in mock-ups, that I thought would help. None of those suggestions were radical re-designs. They were mostly about cleaning up and de-cluttering the current UI. Last weekend I took another shot at trying to mock up a cleaner version of the current UI:
The idea here is to combine several "toolbars" into one toolbar but to keep the actions relevant to the content section below the toolbar. There are three primary sections to the Firefox interface. The first is the server and folder panel. The second is the thread or header panel. The final is the message panel. The proposal I'm making here is for a unified toolbar that is still composed of three sub-toolbars which each carry features for their respective mail panels.
The goal with this mock-up is to demonstrate that a unified toolbar can work with these three main panels and that each of the sub-toolbars can re-size to fit the size of the main panel they're attached to. In the top image, you can see that with enough horizontal space we can include icons and labels for each of the items in the toolbar. In the lower image you can see that with limited horizontal space, we collapse the buttons to icons only with no labels to fit the size of the panels they're connected to.
What do you all think? Is this an improvement over the current state? Is it less good, better than, or just different from my previous mocks at this post?
update: Apparently there are a lot of folks who don't like the vertical column view that I prefer so I whipped up a couple of mocks that show the same basic idea but split into the other two Thunderbird views.
Obviously this doesn't feel quite as coherent since I broke the main toolbar into pieces, but it does show, I think, that the proposal could work in the alternate views as well. Thoughts?