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Not So Well-Known Features of Mozilla Thunderbird Boosting Your Productivity

Not So Well-Known Features of Mozilla Thunderbird Boosting Your Productivity

Mozilla Thunderbird is undoubtedly one of the most popular email clients in the world. But surprisingly, many users never release its full potential, because they simply don’t know about many functions of this program. Sometimes, people even decide to migrate from Thunderbird to Outlook or other emails clients, because they think they cannot do something in a Thunderbird. While Thunderbird can really drive you crazy sometimes, and really lacks a lot of functions available in Outlook, you still may want to give it another chance. So, we have collected a number of features many Thunderbird users often overlook, but can drastically improve your everyday productivity.

TIP: If you are thinking about moving your Outlook emails and contacts to Thunderbird, this utility will help you to migrate.

Feature 1: Using Thunderbird as an instant messenger

Apparently, one of the most overlooked features of Thunderbird. Did you know that you can chat with your friends and colleagues using Thunderbird? The chat function allows you to use almost any instant messaging platform including Facebook chat, Google Talk, IRC channel and so on.

Here is how to use the chat feature in Thunderbird:

  1. Click the Chat button on the toolbar.
    Thunderbird Chat button
  2. In the Chat dialog, click the Get started button.
    Thunderbird Chat get started
  3. Select the chat account to setup and enter your authentication data of the selected account.
    Chat network

Now, you can chat directly in the Thunderbird window.

Feature 2: Using Thunderbird as an RSS reader

Yep. Like built-in chatting isn’t enough, you can also turn your Thunderbird to a functional RSS reader. Here is how.

First, open the File menu in the top bar of the Thunderbird window. If you don’t see the menu bar, press Alt on the keyboard. In the File menu, select “New -> Feed Account”.

Thunderbird Feed Account

A new feed account will be created. Select it, then click Manage feed subscriptions.

Manage feed subscription

Enter a valid feed URL or import the RSS feed using the corresponding button.

Subscribe Feed in Mozilla Thunderbird

That’s it! Now you can read news and updates from your favorite websites directly in Thunderbird.

Feature 3: Sending messages later

Sometimes, you may want to compose a message but aren’t ready to send it yet. Thunderbird allows you to mark emails for sending later.

Here is how to use this overlooked feature. When you write a message, in the email editor open the File menu and select Send Later.

Delay the message sending

All emails marked for later sending will be accumulated in the Local Folders. When you are ready to send the composed emails, open Local Folder’s Outbox, right-click it and select Send Unsent Messages.

Send unsent emails

Feature 4: Protect your Thunderbird with a Master Password

Did you know that you can setup a master password that will block access to all your mailboxes at once? A master password prevents unauthorized access to your vital correspondence in case someone has managed to get into your computer.

To set a master password, open “Tools -> Options -> Privacy & Security”. Enable the Use a master password option.

Setting master password

Enter a new master password and then one more time for confirmation. Now, your Thunderbird has become a bit more secure.

Feature 5: Forgot a password? You can reveal it.

What if you forgot a password to one of your accounts? Does this mean you cannot access to your mailboxes then? Not exactly. In fact, you can see your passwords as long as you have access to Thunderbird options.

In the “Tools -> Options -> Privacy & Security” click the “Saved passwords” button:

View saved passwords in Thunderbird

This will show you all saved passwords of your mailbox accounts when you click the Show Passwords button:

Saved logins

Feature 6: Configure auto-purge of older messages

In Thunderbird you can automatically delete old emails from folders and mailbox accounts. This allows to free up some space, increase performance, and make the work more stable sometimes, especially if your mailbox contains huge amounts of emails.

You can turn on automatic deletion of old message as follows:

  1. Open the mailbox and right-click a folder where you want to turn auto-deletion on.
  2. Select Properties in the right-click menu.
  3. Switch to the Retention Policy tab and configure automatic deletion of messages.
    Retention Policy settings

You can also automatically remove old messages for the entire account:

  1. Right-click the mailbox and select Settings.
  2. For a POP mail account, switch to the Disk Space category, for an IMAP account, go to the Synchronization & Storage category.
  3. Configure how old emails should be deleted.
    Account settings
IMPORTANT: emails are deleted permanently without the way to recover them. Please make sure to use this option wisely to avoid losing crucial messages.

Feature 7: Quickly finding specific messages

With loads of messages for long period of times it may be hard to quickly find a particular one you need right now. Or is it? In fact, Thunderbird provides an extremely convenient feature – the Quick Filter.

To enable Quick Filter, select a folder and press the Ctrl+Shift+K shortcut. Alternatively, you can use the “View -> Toolbars -> Quick Filter” menu to turn the Quick Filter panel on.

The Quick Filter allows you to instantly search through gigabytes of your emails. Just start typing, and refine the search using additional filters if necessary. For instance, you can limit the search to Sender, Recipient or Subject fields.

Quick Filters

Feature 8: Find the option you need in a blink

Lost in numerous capabilities and preferences of Thunderbird? Did you know you can quickly locate the option you need directly in the Settings window? Yes, you can!

Open the Options window and type the name of the option or parameter in the search box:

Find option

Feature 9: Sort messages to folders automatically

One of the most overlooked features of Thunderbird is its Filter system. Filters help you keep your correspondence in order, and automatically sort incoming emails to folders based on certain criteria. For instance, you can put new order notifications into the Orders folder, messages from your colleagues to the Work folder, and messages containing certain stop-words can automatically go to Spam.

  1. First, you need to create a folder. Right-click Local folders
  2. Select New folder and enter the name for a new folder
  3. Now, configure a filter to move emails to that folder. Select Local folders, then click Manage message filters.
    Message filters
  4. Click New. The “Filter Rules” window will open.
    Filter rules
  5. Specify the name for this filter and setup conditions for messages that should end up in the folder you have created on the step one.
    The filter system has a certain degree of flexibility allowing you match all of the specified conditions, any one of them etc. A filter can apply to Subject, From, Date, Priority and other fields.
  6. Finally, select what this filter should do. We need to move an email into the folder, so select the Move Message to action. There are other possible actions you could assign to the filter, such as: mark as read, forward, ignore thread, set priority or mark the message as junk mail.

With Thunderbird filters you can keep you mailbox well-ordered and accessible, reduce time you spend rearranging your emails manually and boost productivity.

Feature 10: How to request Return Receipt

Sending emails to nowhere is extremely irritating. Did your message not managed to pass the spam filters? Or does a recipient ignore you? Mozilla Thunderbird offers a way to make sure the email is delivered. You need to enable requesting Return Receipt. Here is how:

Request Return Receipt

In the message editor, click the Options menu, then select Return Receipt.

You can also enable the toolbar button to simplify Return Receipt requests

  1. In the message editor window, right-click the toolbar and select Customize.
  2. In the Customize Toolbar window, drag and drop the Receipt button to the toolbar.
    Toolbar Button setup

Now, you have a handy button on the toolbar to quickly turn on the Return Receipt requesting in one click.

Feature 11: Customize folder icon color

A tiny bit of customization never hurts. With Thunderbird, you can assign various colors to folders. This way, you can color-code them to identify folders with certain type of messages, for instance, or by priority.

Here is how to set a custom color to a folder in Thunderbird

  1. Right-click a folder you want to customize.
  2. Select Properties.
  3. In the Folder Properties window, set the Icon color.
    Customizing Thunderbird folder color

Easy, isn’t it?

Feature 12: Setup periodical email checks

This feature can really simplify your life a bit. Thunderbird can check for new messages now and then and immediately let you know. This way you’ll always know if there is something that is worth your attention without manually checking the mailbox.

To enable automatic checking for new email, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Tools menu. If you don’t see the menu, press the Alt button on the keyboard.
  2. Select Account Settings.
    Periodical email check setup - Account settings
  3. Go to the Server settings category of the selected mailbox account.
    Periodical email check setup - Server settings

Here, you can configure how often should Thunderbird check for new emails. That’s it! Now you will rarely use you Get messages button, believe me.


As you see, Mozilla Thunderbird still can surprise you. There are less-known features that can greatly improve your everyday productivity and probably even make you change your mind and never switch to another mail client. But if you really need to give up your Thunderbird in favor of Outlook, make sure to download our Thunderbird to Outlook migration software.

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Thank you for this article which helps users. One major flaw however … Feature #4 is incorrect, at least they way you have written it. Master password ONLY protects retrieval of stored passwords (your feature #5), and the downloading of NEW messages from password protected accounts whose passwords have been saved in Thunderbird.

Master password in no way protect messages which have already been downloaded from being viewed.


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Not So Well-Known Features of Mozilla Thunderbird Boosting Your Productivity

time to read: 6 min