May 29, 2017

Thunderbird and email

For me these days email is Thunderbird. There are things I hate about Thunderbird, but it is far better than any other mail client I have used. I use it on a Fedora linux system (currently Fedora 25).

I tried various web based email readers, but they are all miserable compared to Thunderbird. Their only virtue is that you can use them from any device with a browser. My usual "other device" is a cell phone or android tablet, and there are android specific mail apps that work nicely there.

Here are links to specific topics I have found to be important:

Copy all sent mail to my inbox

I like to be able to see both sides of a conversation when looking at past mail. By default, thunderbird puts all sent messages into "sent". You have two choices. Go to "Account Settings", "Copies and Folders". There is a radio button that by default copies into "Sent", you can change this to "Other" and select the inbox. Additionally there is a checkbox that says, "place replies in the folder of the message being replied to". This seems confusing and ambiguous (I guess it means my replies, but what about messages that I am originating?) I ignore this insane thing and select the inbox for a copy of sent mail.

IMAP setup to use gmail

Thunderbird holds your hand nicely through all of this, and may do much or all of this automatically.

Mail is received from imap.gmail.com via port 993. I use SSL/TLS on the connection and authenticate via a normal password.

Outgoing mail goes to port 587 on smtp.gmail.com. I use a normal password to authenticate, and connection security is via STARTTLS. Thunderbird particularly annoys me by binding the "Delete" key to the "delete this email action, this has burned me badly several times.

Thunderbird customization

There are plugins and a multitude of preferences you can fiddle with. I try to use Thunderbird in a vanilla form to minimize the amount of reconfiguration I have to do when I need to reinstall it. Some things I always do (because of habits I formed and changes made by the thunderbird developers):

Address book recovery

After a full reinstall, Thunderbird lost track of my address book. The right thing to do is to anticipate this, export and save the address book, then pull it back into the new thunderbird. However, we didn't do that, but it was not very hard to recover it from backup media.

The first thing to do is to find your "profile", which is in the ~/.thunderbird in your home directory (or the backup copy thereof). In my case, the items of interest are:

./3pva2om0.default:
-rw-rw-r--. 1 tom tom    6924 Feb 13 22:47 abook.mab
-rw-rw-r--. 1 tom tom   21300 Feb 14 11:10 history.mab
I copied both of these files to the same location in the new profile and that seemed to do the trick.
Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!