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Introduction to Thunderbird


Introduction to the Thunderbird Client



Your will find the following default folders in Thunderbird:

  • Inbox — default location for new mail
  • Unsent — (a.k.a. "outbox" in other clients), storage location for mail queued to be sent but waiting for a connection
  • Drafts — storage location for saved-but-unsent mail
  • Sent — default location for copies of messages you send
  • Trash — location for deleted mail until you "empty" (a.k.a. permanently delete mail)



Thunderbird has two or three panes.  The Folders pane, a pane that lists all your messages in a selected folder, and the optional Message Pane (which allows you to preview the selected message from the list of messages).

You can customize how you view these panes under the view menu.

  • To change how the panes are arranges on in Thunderbird, click View→Layout, and select Classic, Wide or Vertical View.
  • To enable or disable the Massage Pane, click View→Layout, and select Message Pane.


    At the top of your Folders pane, you can click left and right arrow buttons to get views of just your Recent folders (a.k.a. recently viewed) or Unread folders (a.k.a. folders with unread messages in them).  Using these arrows may be a time-saver if you made a lot of folders and you need to find the right one quickly. Just remember to move your arrows back to the default All Folders view!


Toolbars & Buttons

Most of the functions you do with your mail can be found on the Mail Toolbar.  Click View→Toolbars and make sure Mail Toolbar is checked so that you know it is displaying.  This toolbar contains several useful buttons:

  • Get Mail — checks for new messages & alerts you in bottom-right corner
  • Write — opens a new window where you can write a message
  • Address Book — opens the Address Book window, where you can add new address books or individual address cards
  • Reply — opens new window, including the text from the mail highlighted in your inbox
  • Reply all — same as reply, but includes all recipients of the original message (i.e. everyone in To or CC fields)
  • Forward — same as reply, with the selected message either as an attachment, or inlined (included as text) in the new message.
  • Tag — applies a color code to selected message and/or removes existing color code
  • Delete — deletes the selected message
  • Junk — marks selected message as junk/spam
  • Print — prints selected message
  • Stop — stops current action (eg. stop printing or sending very long message)
  • Back — selects the previous message listed; if Message Pane is active, previous message will display
  • Forward — selects the next message listed; if Message Pane is active, next message will display
  • Search — filters message list by subject or sender search criteria entered

Customizing Toolbars

You can customize which buttons appear on your toolbars:

  1. Go to View→Toolbars→Customize.  The Customize Toolbar window will appear.
  2. Drag the buttons you want to the toolbar or rearrange the buttons the way you want them.  If you need to reset the toolbar to its original state, just click the Restore Default Set button.
  3. When you are finished, click OK.

Listing Messages by Folder

Sorting Messages

When you click on any given folder in the folders pane, the messages in that folder are listed in a second pane.  These messages are organized by date, but they have clickable column headers, so that you can organize them by just about any sorting criteria you like.

  • To sort the messages based on a column (eg. Subject), click the column header once.  You can click it a second time to sort in reverse (descending) order.
  • If you would like to add another column to your Message List, click the header button on the far-right and select an uncheck column from the list.
  • To change the order of your columns, click and drag a column with your mouse.  Then release it where you want it.
  • To restore your Thunderbird Message List to the default view, click the header button on the far-right and click Restore Natural Order.


Displaying Message Threads

Have you ever gotten a message that has been part of so many replies and forwards that it is hard to keep track of the whole history of the discussion?   Another way you can sort your messages is in a threaded view, where you can sort your messages by discussions.

  • If you would like to display message threads, click the header button on the far-left column.  Messages that are part of a discussion will be threaded together.  You can collapse them (-) or expand them (+) on your list.  The original message, as well as all others will be sorted by date.
  • If you would like to turn of threaded display, click on any other column header for sorting.


Grouping Message List

In addition to sorting, you can group messages that are sorted as well. 

  • If you would like to group messages, click View→Sort by→Grouped by Sort.  Section groupings will be created.  You can expand or collapse messages underneath each section.
  • If you would like to remove groupings, click on any other column header for sorting.