Blog Post

Linux and GMail Part III – Thunderbird

OK, as you can probably tell now, I have been wasting a lot of time playing with GUI email clients. Why you ask? Simple, I am nuts, like that wasn’t obvious! Like I did in Part I and Part II, I am going to do the same this go round, but with Mozilla Thunderbird instead.

First off, I am using version 3.1.9~hg20110206r5951 from the Ubuntu Mozilla Team Daily Builds PPA. Forgot I added that PPA to check out Firefox, so because of that, I have the version of Thunderbird that I do.

First things first, I like Thunderbird. I will even go as far as saying it is by far the best GUI-based email client available for Linux, and Windows for that matter. It integrates as better as the others, if not better actually, when it comes to tying it in to GMail. My complaints at this time are small, damn small. They are:

  • Unsubscribing from an IMAP folder does not hide that folder, you can still see it in the list, annoying
  • I don’t use local folders, so I had to download Mail Tweak just to hide it. Mail Tweak has about 50 or so other tweaks built into it, but I am only using one of the tweaks
  • You have to try a few shitty extensions until you find the right one

I have 2 GMail accounts set up, and there are different folder views you can use. I was using the Unified Folders view, which is a really great idea, one I haven’t seen on any other client out there. So I have 2 accounts, and they both have an Inbox, this will show only 1 inbox with both of them combined, and when you expand that inbox, you can then access each inbox individually. This saves space when you have a ton of folders in view. Another thing I like is the support of IMAP IDLE which allows damn near real-time communications between GMail and Thunderbird. You can kind of think of it as the PUSH Technology deployed in mobile devices these days. It is funny. An email will show up both on my Android and Thunderbird before it does in the GMail web client. When I get a new email in my inbox, a message pops up, and at the same time my phone makes a noise, and about 15 to 30 seconds later, the message shows up in my GMail web client. Also, it uses its own message indicator and not the Ubuntu or Kubuntu indicator. I kind of prefer the Thunderbird one because it is more out of the way for me. To be honest, I absolutely hate the indicators in Ubuntu and Kubuntu, but that is my personal preference, I just have a different work flow than those who like them.


It doesn’t look to bad in KDE. Of course it doesn’t fit in look wise, but that is easily overlooked when it comes to functionality, speed, and usability. I have installed the Zindus extension which syncs my calendar and contacts with Google’s calendar and contacts. It does this better than any other extension out there, so don’t waste your time trying this or that, just get Zindus, enter your username and password, and in seconds you are up and running. Thanks to Timothy Richardson for leaving a comment telling me about Zindus. As it stands, I don’t think I am missing anything from any of the other clients that I wish was here. Well maybe a social tab with sex built in like Zimbra Desktop had, out of the box I might add.

So, are you a Thunderbird user? Am I missing anything? Any extension that is a must have? Any tips or tricks I need to know? Speak up in the comments and let me know.

NOTE: Inbox zero!!!

This entry was posted in Application, Linux. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.
  • hrhnick
    • You have got to be kidding me. That is super hottness right there. Thanks for the tip on that one, totally awesome!

  • test guest

    Lightning w/ Google Calendar provider for Calendar
    Evolution Mirror to get calendar events to show up in GNOME date/cal view
    Thunderbird Indicator to get libnotify style bubbles

    • I don’t use GNOME, so the date/cal view won’t help, but that would be nice to have in KDE, so I will look into that. I already use Lightning, but the Google Calendar Provider gave me some issues but Zindus didn’t. Zindus does Google Calendar and Contacts darn near perfectly. It would be perfect if the calendar cache would actually work.

      • Anonymous

        Google Calendar Provider works so-so (read: often doesn’t). In my expierience syncing with CalDAV works much better (even though Google claims it’s experimental feature; or at least claimed some time ago, when I was doing setup).

  • So, I enabled the Junk filters, and wouldn’t you know it, it starting marking good mail as junk. I saw your comments here right, but they weren’t in my inbox. I knew my host had email issues, but when reading about them they didn’t pertain to me. Luckily I didn’t clear my spam folder on gmail before going through. Probably un-spammed 25 messages, 5 of which were super important. I won’t be enabling that again anytime soon.

  • Really can only agree with your summary of thunderbird, although im one of the group who likes the Ubuntu/Kubuntu indicators so i use the thunderbird indicator (dunno if it works on kubuntu since i havent tried it yet, but on ubuntu it sure does work very well). what i would suggest is enigmal for your gpg encryption and zindus (or google contacts extension alternatively) for synchronising your contacts as well into the thunderbird mail client from google’s contacts. Another one i must say i like is also the compact header view, since i just dont need the detailed info view all the time of the sender, etc… Oh and if you dont like lightning for some reason try google calendar tab.

    • The indicator doesn’t seem to work on Kubuntu, though when I push the ‘test’ button in the add-on preferences, the notifications work. Love Zindus, have Enigmail all setup and rocking.

      • as i saw you liked the gmail conversation list that hrhnick offered i guess u might also want to check out the rest of their Mozilla Labs Messaging Add-ons.

        What i really wanna try, when i find the time, is Mute thread, and also Contacts (though this one is also for Firefox).

  • Matthias Sitte

    Google made some recommendations for using the IMAP in your favourite email program: Among some tweaks it suggests *not* to turn on Thunderbird’s Junk control because it can interfere with Google Mail.

    • Yeah, I learned the hard way on that one 🙂

  • Ronnie

    mailing list manager (if you subscribed to many mailinglists)
    QuoteCollapse (if you have real conversation mails)
    CompactHeader (nice for small screens)

  • Thanks for this, some interesting pointers!

    Some other extensions I recommend:
    – “It doesn’t look to bad”: try the Silvermel scheme. Very professional and functional.
    – Nostalgy plugin: Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t live without it. You can move/copy messages to folders by hitting keys and typing in parts of the destination folder name. No more dragging and dropping!

    • Good recommendations! Silvermel does look good and Nostalgy is like having my Mutt almost 🙂

  • Hi Richard,
    Thanks for good article mate.

  • Anonymous

    If you use Thunderbird + Zindus and Android device, there’s a little issue (at least there was in my case). There’s a group in contacts called “Starred in Anrdoid”. The group contains contacts, which were marked as favourite in the phone.
    When you do a factory reset of the phone, sometimes there’s second group with the same name created. That stops Zindus from doing it’s job. If you remove one of the groups, it’ll stop reporting the issue and work fine again.
    NB. I don’t know, if the issue is device specific (HTC Wildfire aka Buzz) or Android specific, but maybe for someone it’ll be useful.

  • Anonymous

    And about useful add-ons: Thunderbird Conversation (
    Old version (1.x) isn’t as shiny, as new one, but new one works only with TB 3.3 (currently in alpha state). Has its drawbacks, but it’s very useful to me.

  • I like the official Mozilla Lightning extension ( for the calendaring, it really works well with (multiple) Google and other calendars. I had not heard of Zindus, so I will have a look at that as well.

    Another must have (for me) extension is Nostalgy ( It makes filing messages to the right folders very easy (as in single keystrokes). I prefer this over fully automated filtering where mail ends up in folders that I never look at. At least now I see everything that potentially requires my attention come by. (I do automatically filter some high traffic mailing lists.)

  • Subscribe to

     Subscribe in a reader

    Or, subscribe via email:
    Enter your email address:

  • Archives

%d bloggers like this: