It is unlikely the feature will be found in Mozilla's imminent release of Thunderbird 1.5 -- currently in testing -- but software developer Myk Melez has put test versions of Thunderbird online with the tabbed browsing feature included.
However, there are doubts over the suitability of these downloads for production use as they are based on bleeding-edge "unofficial" code.
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"If you haven't tried message tabs before, using them is simple," Melez wrote on his blog this week. "Just right-click a message header and select 'Open Message in New Tab' from the context menu."
He added it was easy to make the 'Enter' key open all messages in a new tab by setting an option in Thunderbird's preferences dialog box.
"Tabs work much like they do in Firefox: you can close them with Ctrl/Cmd-w, reorder them with drag-and-drop, etc," he added.
"Next time you want to save some messages to read a little later, or you want to work with several messages at once, but they aren't all consecutive in the same folder, try opening the messages in tabs. I reckon you'll find them easier to use than windows."
Tabbed browsing is a feature popularised by innovative browsers like Opera and later on Firefox. However, it is rare to find the feature in an e-mail client.
Microsoft announced back in May that tabbed browsing would be a feature of its upcoming Internet Explorer 7 browser, a move widely seen as playing catch-up to Firefox and Opera.
The newest version of Firefox -- version 1.5 -- released this month features the ability to reorder tabs within a window.
Melez appears to have been working on the feature for some time, according to an entry in Mozilla's bug database.