Transition Plans: Ubuntu 24.04 Switching to Thunderbird Snap from DEB

If you’re an Ubuntu user who relies on the Thunderbird email client, it’s crucial to stay updated on some significant changes that are on their way.

The first key change is that the Thunderbird snap package from Canonical is now being constructed utilizing the source code as opposed to repacking upstream binaries.

While this difference might appear to be subtle, it opens a whole new realm of possibilities.

One of the major advantages of this modification is that it makes it possible for the Thunderbird snap to be created for architectures other than AMD64. This implies that the Thunderbird snap could ideally be installed on Ubuntu running on a device like Raspberry Pi – which is pretty interesting.

Secondly, by building the Thunderbird snap from source code Canonical says it’s able to make it “more compliant with the Ubuntu standards” — which, again, is neat; we all like software that integrates nicely with our desktops.

But what’s all this renewed packaging effort for, you (probably didn’t) ask?

Thunderbird Snap for Ubuntu 24.04

Yes, as you read in the headline: Ubuntu devs plan to switch to offering the Thunderbird snap in Ubuntu 24.04 LTS rather than a DEB-based version as it does in current releases.

The Thunderbird snap makes it easier for Ubuntu to bring new releases to older versions of Ubuntu

It says the Thunderbird snap is “making it easier to roll new versions on older supported series and reducing the maintenance efforts” — the former being a pretty solid reason: remember the wait for Thunderbird 115 in Ubuntu 22.04 LTS?

Not that everyone who installs Ubuntu 24.04 will get the Thunderbird (be it a Snap or a DEB) preinstalled, of course.

As of 23.10, Ubuntu defaults to a minimal install — which does not include Thunderbird. Users have to select ‘full installation’ to install Ubuntu with Thunderbird and other software, like LibreOffice, Shotwell, etc.

For individuals who choose the ‘full install’ option in 24.04, they will have the capacity to remove the Thunderbird snap and substitute it with a different package, such as a binary, DEB from a PPA, the official Thunderbird Flatpak on Flathub, and so forth, if desired.

In addition, with Ubuntu’s snap-based immutable service predicted to launch in April, it appears wise to have a commonly used productivity application like Thunderbird in prime condition and ready to deploy.

Does this suggest that the Thunderbird DEB in the Noble archives will become a transition package, similar to Firefox’s? It’s possible. This would definitely facilitate those who have Thunderbird installed from the Ubuntu repositories to upgrade to Ubuntu 24.04 without the DEB version being orphaned or deleted…

However, no official announcements or confirmations have been made yet — these are just personal thoughts.

Want to try the new Thunderbird Snap today?

Want to peer into the future?

You can install the Thunderbird snap from the beta channel on your current version of Ubuntu — assuming you want to try out the ‘new’ package (but don’t expect many superficial changes to be evident).

To do so run:

snap install --beta thunderbird

If you already have the Thunderbird snap from the stable channel installed you can use refresh rather than install in the command above. But be aware that the beta build upgrades your profile, so you won’t be able to “roll back” — best backup your profile first!

Let me know your thoughts below!