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Mozilla Thunderbird

Mozilla Thunderbird is an excellent open-source email client that can be downloaded for free from its website:

https://www.thunderbird.net/

The information on this page was written for Mozilla Thunderbird 60.2.1. Most of this will probably continue to apply for later versions, but your results may vary.

Connection Information

Before using Thunderbird or almost any email client, you will need to know your connection information for your incoming and outgoing servers:

Incoming Server
DetailExample
ProtocolIMAP
Hostnamemail.example.tld
Port143
SecuritySTARTTLS (or TLS)
AuthenticationSASL (or Normal Password)
Usernamealice
Password****************
Outgoing Server
DetailExample
ProtocolSMTP
Hostnamesmtp.example.tld
Port587
SecuritySTARTTLS (or TLS)
AuthenticationSASL (or Normal Password)
Usernamealice
Password****************

CAcert.org Certificates

Currently, Thunderbird doesn't come with CAcert.org's root and intermediate certificates installed by default. You should download these to your computer before configuring Thunderbird:

  1. Open Mozilla Firefox.
  2. Delete everything in the Location Bar, and then enter "www.cacert.org".
  3. On the right side of the CAcert.org homepage, click "Root Certificate".
  4. Under "Class 1 PKI Key", right-click "Root Certificate (PEM Format)" and select "Save Link As".
  5. Save the "root.crt" file to your Desktop.
  6. Under "Class 3 PKI Key", right-click "Intermediate Certificate (PEM Format)" and select "Save Link As".
  7. Save the "class3.crt" file to your Desktop.
  8. Close Mozilla Firefox.

The procedure for importing these certificate files into Thunderbird is included in the "Thunderbird Preferences" section below. After configuring your Thunderbird Preferences, assuming you no longer need these "root.crt" and "class3.crt" files, you can delete them from your Desktop.

Thunderbird Preferences

Some of the default settings in Thunderbird can be very annoying. After installing Thunderbird, you should follow these steps:

  1. Open Mozilla Thunderbird.
  2. If the "Set Up an Existing Email Account" window appears, click the "Cancel" button to close it.
  3. If you're not using Apple macOS, press Alt+V to open the "View" menu, and then select "Toolbars" -> "Menu Bar" to enable the menu bar.
  4. At the bottom of the Thunderbird window, if you see a message displaying "Thunderbird now contains calendaring functionality by integrating the Lightning extension.", click the "Keep" button.
  5. At the bottom of the Thunderbird window, if you see a message asking "Would you like to help improve Mozilla Thunderbird by automatically reporting memory usage, performance, and responsiveness to Mozilla?", click the "No" button.
  6. Open the "Thunderbird Preferences" window. Where you find this depends on your operating system:
    Operating SystemLocation
    Apple macOS"Thunderbird" menu -> "Preferences"
    FreeBSD"Edit" menu -> "Preferences"
    Microsoft Windows"Tools" menu -> "Options"
    OpenBSD"Edit" menu -> "Preferences"
    Xubuntu"Edit" menu -> "Preferences"
  7. Uncheck the checkbox beside "When Thunderbird launches, show the Start Page in the message area".
  8. Change "Default Search Engine" from "Bing" to "Yahoo" or something other than Bing.
  9. Go to "Display" tab -> "Advanced".
  10. Put a check in the radio checkbox beside "A new message window".
  11. Go to "Composition" tab -> "Spelling".
  12. Put a check in the checkbox beside "Check spelling before sending".
  13. Change "Language" from "English (United States)" to "English (Canada)".
  14. Go to "Security" tab -> "Junk".
  15. Put a check in the checkbox beside "When I mark messages as junk".
  16. Go to "Security" tab -> "Anti-Virus".
  17. Put a check in the checkbox beside "Allow antivirus clients to quarantine individual incoming messages".
  18. Go to "Attachments" tab -> "Outgoing".
  19. Uncheck the checkbox beside "Offer to share for files larger than".
  20. If the "Calendar" tab exists, go to "Calendar" tab -> "General".
  21. If the "Calendar" tab exists, set "Date Text Format" to "Short: YYYY-MM-DD".
  22. Go to "Advanced" tab -> "General".
  23. Change "Message Store Type for new accounts" from "File per folder (mbox)" to "File per message (maildir)".
  24. Click the "Config Editor" button.
  25. On the "This might void your warranty!" screen, click the "I accept the risk!" button.
  26. In the "Search" box, type "nglayout.enable_drag_images".
  27. Double-click the "nglayout.enable_drag_images" line until its Value changes to "false".
  28. In the "Search" box, delete everything, and then type "mail.chat.enabled".
  29. Double-click the "mail.chat.enabled" line until its Value changes to "false".
  30. Close the "about:config" window.
  31. Go to "Advanced" tab -> "Data Choices".
  32. Uncheck the checkbox beside "Enable Crash Reporter".
  33. Go to "Advanced" tab -> "Certificates".
  34. Click the "Manage Certificates" button.
  35. Under the "Authorities" tab, click the "Import" button.
  36. Open the "root.crt" file that you saved to your Desktop.
  37. Put a check into the checkboxes beside "Trust this CA to identify websites" and "Trust this CA to identity email users", and then click "OK".
  38. Under the "Authorities" tab, click the "Import" button.
  39. Open the "class3.crt" file that you saved to your Desktop.
  40. Put a check into the checkboxes beside "Trust this CA to identify websites" and "Trust this CA to identity email users", and then click "OK".
  41. Click "OK" to close the "Certificate Manager" window.
  42. Click "OK" or "Close" to save the changes and close the "Thunderbird Preferences" window.
  43. Close Mozilla Thunderbird.
  44. Open Mozilla Thunderbird.

Account Settings

To configure your email account in Thunderbird, follow these steps:

  1. Open the "Account Settings" window. Where you find this depends on your operating system:
    Operating SystemLocation
    Apple macOS"Thunderbird" menu -> "Account Settings"
    FreeBSD"Edit" menu -> "Account Settings"
    Microsoft Windows"Tools" menu -> "Account Settings"
    OpenBSD"Edit" menu -> "Account Settings"
    Xubuntu"Edit" menu -> "Account Settings"
  2. Go to "Account Actions" -> "Add Mail Account".
  3. Enter your name into the "Your name" box.
  4. Enter your email address into the "Email address" box.
  5. Enter your incoming server password into the "Password" box.
  6. Click the "Continue" button.
  7. Wait for Thunderbird to guess -- possibly incorrectly -- the settings for your incoming server and outgoing server.
  8. Click the "Manual config" button.
  9. Change the guessed settings to match the actual settings for your incoming and outgoing servers.
  10. Click the "Advanced config" button.
  11. On the left side of the "Account Settings" window, select your email address.
  12. If your email address is being used for an organization, you should type the organization name into the "Organization" box ("Acme Widgets, Incorporated", for example).
  13. If you have an email signature file, put a check in the checkbox beside "Attach the signature from a file instead", and then "Choose" the file. If you don't have an email signature file but do have an email signature to use, type it into the "Signature text" box.
  14. Under your email address on the left side of the "Account Settings" window, select "Composition & Addressing".
  15. To send messages in plain text, uncheck the checkbox beside "Compose messages in HTML format".
  16. If you don't want to be reviled as a "top-poster" on mailing lists and by advanced users, change "start my reply above the quote" to "start my reply below quote".

    A: Because it complicates the process of reading message thread history.
    Q: Why is top-posting such a bad thing?
    A: Top-posting.
    Q: What is the most annoying thing in newsgroups and in email?

  17. Under your email address on the left side of the "Account Settings" window, select "Junk Settings".
  18. Put a check in the checkbox beside "Trust junk mail headers set by".
  19. Put a check in the checkbox beside "Move new junk messages to".
  20. Under your email address on the left side of the "Account Settings" window, select "Synchronization & Storage".
  21. Uncheck the checkbox beside "Keep messages in all folders for this account on this computer".
  22. Click the "OK" button to close the "Account Settings" window.
  23. If you're asked if you want to save changes to the Message Synchronization settings, click the "Save" button.
  24. Under your email address on the left side of the Thunderbird window, click "Inbox".
  25. To the right of the column headers "Date", "From", "Subject", et cetera, there is a little icon that will show "Select columns to display" if you hover your mouse cursor over it. Click this icon to set these columns to display:
    • Thread
    • Starred
    • Attachments
    • Read
    • Correspondents
    • Junk Status
    • Date
    • Size
  26. If you'd like a more practical order for your columns, consider rearranging them in this sequence:
    1. Thread
    2. Read
    3. Starred
    4. Date
    5. Correspondents
    6. Subject
    7. Size
    8. Attachments
    9. Junk Status
    To apply this arrangement to all your mail folders, click the "Select columns to display" icon, and then select "Apply columns to" -> "Folder and its children" -> (your email address) -> (your email address).
  27. Try writing a test message to your own email address to verify that Thunderbird has been correctly configured to send and receive messages.

Email Security

You can secure the integrity and privacy of your email correspondence by using Thunderbird's built-in S/MIME support.

TNEF Support

Some people use a closed-source email client called Microsoft Outlook. Microsoft Outlook doesn't adhere to open standards, and it's notorious for causing problems for both its users and their correspondents.

One of the many annoying things that Microsoft Outlook does is use something proprietary called TNEF to attach files instead of the standard MIME format. If somebody sends you a file named "winmail.dat" or "win.dat", then you've probably received a TNEF file that contains however many files the sender tried to send you.

If somebody sends you a TNEF file, then you should strongly advise them to upgrade to a standards compliant email client like Mozilla Thunderbird, and then ask them to send their message again using something other than Microsoft Outlook. If you absolutely must access whatever is inside that TNEF file, then you can add TNEF support to Mozilla Thunderbird by following these steps:

  1. Open Mozilla Thunderbird.
  2. Go to "Tools" menu -> "Add-ons".
  3. Go to the "Extensions" tab.
  4. In the "Search on addons.thunderbird.net" box, enter "LookOut".
  5. Beside "LookOut (fix version)", click the "Add to Thunderbird" button.
  6. On the "Software Installation" confirmation screen, click the "Install Now" button.
  7. Close the "Add-ons for Thunderbird" tab.
  8. Close Mozilla Thunderbird.