Thunderbird Tips

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If you work on multiple computers at various times (e.g., a Mac laptop, a Linux laptop, and CCRMA workstations) and you don't like to use webmail, you can use an e-mail client such as Thunderbird, Seamonkey (which is basically Thunderbird on steroids), or Evolution to configure your e-mail accounts with IMAP. This way you can seamless move from one computer to the other and always have your e-mails up-to-date on all clients.

Basically the idea is:

1) Install Thunderbird on all machines you want to use (you could keep using Mail on OS X, of course; but I like to have Thunderbird everywhere so I can have the same user interface no matter on which computer I'm at);

2) Configure your e-mail accounts in Thunderbird as IMAP instead of POP.

In addition, many other tweaks are possible: install Lightning to use instead of iCal, install SyncKolab to sync your calendar entries, adjust Thunderbird settings the way you like.

Install Thunderbird

First, install Thunderbird. At first launch, it can import all your mail from the OS X Mail program.

IMAP configuration

Then, on to IMAP configuration:

What is IMAP? Here's a useful guide from Stanford IT services:

Is IMAP right for you? Take a look at this:

How to configure Thunderbird and IMAP for your account:

Message Rules and Filters

If you like to use rules or message filters, I suggest you create them directly on your webmail interface, so they will automatically propagate to all your computers on Thunderbird. For example, if you create rules to sort all "Family" messages (either on Stanford's Zimbra interface (create new custom folders and filters; or using "labels" on Gmail). If you create rules on one instance of Thunderbird on a particular machine, these rules remain local and you would have to redo the work on every machine you use Thunderbird. So, creating rules and filters on your webmail server is the way to go.

After you get your e-mail working with Thunderbird and IMAP, everything should be always in sync between all computers.

Tip: if you create custom folders via Stanford's Zimbra webmail, you have to "Subscribe" to these folders in Thunderbird on each machine. You only have to do this once for each folder, so they will appear on your left-side folder list.


Below are has some optional add-ons and extra tweaks I found useful.

- Install Lightning Calendar for Thunderbird (iCal alternative):

- Install SyncKolab to sync all your calendar events on all machines with Thunderbird:

- Want bigger fonts in the message list pane? Check these instructions:

SyncKolab occasionally has some glitches, but overall it works fine. I created folders on my Stanford account (via Zimbra webmail) specifically for the calendar sync (one folder for each calendar). I haven't tested SyncKolab with address book and tasks.

Page created by BTR on 2011-02-22