Several computer science students at the University of Toronto and Seneca have made it their class project for this semester to port Ubiquity to Thunderbird and make it run there. Thanks to their efforts so far, we now have the basic functionality operational, as you can see in the screenshot below:

Don’t get too excited yet. This is still in the early prototype phase. Currently the hotkey works, the parser works, the previews mostly work, and a few commands work when executed, but most don’t. The students have to turn in their project at the end of the 2008 fall semester, so if all goes well perhaps we’ll have a usable Thunderbird extension sometime in December.

But it’s not to early to start thinking about the possibilities, such as:

  • Using existing ubiquity commands, like map and translate and whatever your favorite third-party commands are, while reading and writing emails in Thunderbird.
  • Cross-application functionality: email commands activated from Firefox could execute using Thunderbird, while web-searching and social-networking commands used from Thunderbird could execute using Firefox.
  • Sharing of data sources for argument suggestions: for example, the “email” command could use your Thunderbird contact list to autocomplete the recipient’s address, no matter where the command is used from.
  • Brand-new Ubiquity commands for searching and sorting through your email, composing, redirecting, creating filters, and so on.
  • Allowing everybody in the world to create and share email commands, encouraging massive innovation to discover new ways of coping with the Never-Ending Email Flood.

I think ultimately we’re going to have a single cross-compatible XPI that can be installed both on Firefox and on Thunderbird, but for now we’ve made a temporary fork and are doing Ubiq-Tbird development in a separate repository at http://hg.toolness.com/ubiquity-thunderbird. If you want to get the source code and set it up to run in your copy of Thunderbird, a page of very rough documentation is here on the wiki.

Once Ubiquity is fully operational in Thunderbird, what would you like to be able to do with it? Do you have any ideas for commands that you’d especially like to have to help keep your inbox under control? Leave a comment and talk about what you’d like to see!