Interface Overview

The main Thunderbird window has has four main parts:

  • Menu Bar
  • Toolbar
  • Folders pane
  • Message pane and Preview pane

Let's take a closer look at each of these parts of the window.

Menu Bar

Think of the Menu Bar as your entry point into Thunderbird's basic commands and functions. This is the basic Menu Bar:


You can find a detailed list of the items in each of the menus at the Mozilla Messaging support site:

Some add-ons (which are covered in the chapter Using Add-Ons) add extra menus to the Menu Bar. Like what? For example, the Lightning calendar add-on adds a menu named Events and Tasks to the Menu Bar.


The toolbar gives you quick access to some frequently-used Thunderbird commands and functions. When you install Thunderbird, the toolbar contains four items:


You can also add or remove buttons from the toolbar. Say that you regularly print your emails. You add a print button to the toolbar by right-clicking on the toolbar and then clicking Customize in the menu that pops up. The Customize Toolbar window appears.


You can add a new button to the toolbar by dragging an icon from the window on to the toolbar.

Search Bar

A search bar is available on the right side of the toolbar. You use it to find specific messages in any of your mailboxes or folders.


Type what you want to search for - for example, the name of someone who sent you an email or a couple of words in the subject line or body of the message - and then press Enter on your keyboard. Any messages that match the search you typed appear in a new tab.


You can filter the search results by clicking the text in the left panel or selecting time ranges from the timeline above the message list.

Folders Pane

The Folders pane is on the left side of the main Thunderbird window. 


The Folders pane lists all of the email accounts that you have set up in Thunderbird, and all of the mail folders that you have set up for each account. For example, the pane displays your inbox, the sent emails folder, and the junk mail folder. Click on a folder to display its contents in the preview pane.

You can click the arrows at the top of the Folders pane to get different views of your folders. For example, you can see the folders that you most recently viewed. This is helpful when you have a many folders or multiple email accounts.

Message Pane and Preview Pane

The Message pane lists your messages, with the newest appearing first in the list. The Preview pane, which is just below the Message pane, shows the body of a message that you clicked on in the Message pane.


While the messages in the Message pane are listed by their dates, you can sort them by clicking the Subject, From, or Date headers at the top of the Message pane.

The Message pane doesn't only list new messages. If you saved messages into another folder, then click on that folder and the messages will appear in the Message pane.

Account Settings

Use the Account Settings dialog to configure mail servers, account information, and account-specific settings. You open it by going to the Tools menu and clicking Account Settings. The left panel displays a list of the configured accounts. The right panel is used to configure account details.