Thunderbird Conversations

Thunderbird Conversations is a Thunderbird Add-on that allows you to get a conversation view in Thunderbird, in the style of popular web-based email services, such as Gmail.

Installing Thunderbird Conversations

Thunderbird Conversations is available for download from the official Mozilla Add-ons site. Once the file is downloaded, install the add-on. For more information, see the section Using the Add-ons Manager

You'll need to restart Thunderbird for the changes to take effect. After restarting Thunderbird, you will be presented with a setup assistant. Click Apply changes, and after a short pause, you should be able to use Thunderbird Conversations.

Day-to-day usage of Thunderbird Conversations

Thunderbird Conversations gives you a threaded view of email conversations. This means that one conversation is now contained on one line only.

The small arrow indicates that this line represents a conversation that contains more than one message. Click on this line, and you will be presented with the conversation view in place of the old message display.


Instead of displaying a single message, Thunderbird Conversations now displays all messages that belong to the conversation. It may be that Thunderbird Conversations finds messages related to the current conversation in other folders. In this case, it will notify you about it. You click the blue label to jump to that folder.

Navigating inside the conversation

You can scroll inside the conversation, and click on message snippets to expand the messages. If you wish, you can click on the small triangle that's next to the selected message in the message list. It will expand the thread, and if you click on an individual message, it will focus the corresponding message in the conversation view.

Contacts in the conversation

If you leave your mouse on some participant's name, it will display a small popup that allows you to perform various actions related to that contact.

The send email button will open a new composition window. The recent conversations button will open a new tab that displays recent conversations involving that person. The + (plus) button enables you to perform more actions, such as adding/editing that contact in the address book, creating a filter, or displaying messages from that person using a monospace font. The small icon allows you to copy that person's email address to the clipboard.

Quick reply in the conversation

If you scroll at the bottom of the conversation area, you will see a text field. Clicking on it opens the quick reply.

Type your reply, click the send button, and Thunderbird Conversations will send the email. You can customize the list of recipients by using the edit links, or add more fields by clicking add bcc or add cc. The draft will automatically be saved if you change conversations. You can manually save or discard a draft by using the save or discard buttons. The continue using editor button will take the text you've written so far, and move it to a regular composition window, where you will be able to add attachments.


If the message has attachments, they will be displayed at the bottom of the message.

Clicking gallery view will open all image attachments in a new tab for you to see them. Clicking on a thumbnail will open the attachment in a new tab, so that you can read a text attachment, or view an image full-size for instance. Clicking open will try to open the attachment using your favorite program, and download / download all will prompt you for a folder to save the attachment(s) to.

Performing actions on the conversation

Inside a conversation, you can perform either individual actions on a single message or global actions on the whole conversation.

Acting upon a single message


The more menu at the top right corner of a message will allow you to perform operations on an individual message. The regular archive and delete operations are available. If you find out there's an operation that you can't perform with Thunderbird Conversations, just hit view using the classic reader. It will open the message in a new tab, using the classic interface, that might just have the option you're looking for.

At the bottom of the message, the reply / reply all / forward buttons allow you to reply to the message using the regular compose window. They do not use the quick reply feature discussed before.

Acting upon the whole conversation

At the top right of the conversation area, is a set of buttons that perform conversation-related actions. Just hold your mouse over a button for a few seconds and a tooltip appears with an explanation of what the button does.

  • The open tab in a new conversation button allows you to view this conversation in a new tab and keep it open for later.
  • The read/unread button becomes blue if there are unread messages in the conversation. Clicking it toggles the read/unread status of the whole conversation.
  • The expand/collapse button allows you to expand all messages in the conversation, and then collapse them all.
  • The print button allows you to print a conversation.
  • The archive button archives all messages in the conversation.
  • The delete button deletes all messages in the conversation.
For the last two items, keep in mind that this is not the same as deleting or archiving the conversation from the message list. Because Thunderbird Conversations might find related messages in other folders, these will also be archived or deleted too.

Advanced usage

Advanced customization

Clicking the + button in a contacts tooltip will display the advanced options for that contact. From there, you can create a filter, or chose to display the messages from this sender in a monospaced font.

You can change the monospace settings in the addon's options.

Contacts for Thunderbird

Thunderbird Conversations can work with the Contacts for Thunderbird add-on if it's installed. Here are a few examples:

  • Instead of querying Gloda, the autocomplete results for the quick reply feature will query Contacts instead.
  • The contact tooltips will fetch thumbnails from Contacts instead of Gravatar. If you've linked that person to their Facebook or Twitter profile, their avatar will be displayed in the contact tooltip.
  • The contact tooltip will offer links for the various social networks that this person is associated with in Contacts. Clicking the small icons will open new tabs in Thunderbird, pointing to their Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Flickr profiles.

    In the image above, the avatar is fetched from Twitter and clicking the blue t will open a new Thunderbird tab pointing to David Ascher's timeline.


Thunderbird Conversations plays nicely with Bugzilla emails. It automatically displays the value of the X-Bugzilla-Who header -- the person who performed the action -- instead of the From: field (usually bugzilla-daemon@...).

Other extensions

Thunderbird Conversations is compatible with Lightning (it will display a notification bar if the message contains an event invitation), Enigmail (encrypted messages will be decrypted in the conversation view), BidiUI (if BidiUI is present, it will also operate on messages in the conversation view).

Keyboard shortcuts

Thunderbird Conversations has numerous keyboard shortcuts. Most are consistent with Thunderbird's.

  • If the message list has focus, pressing the Tab key will jump from the message list to the first message in the conversation. The first message will have a grey outline that indicates it currently has focus.
  • Pressing f will take you to the next message in the conversation. Pressing b will take you to the previous message in the conversation.
  • When a message is focused, press the o (or Enter) key to open or close a message.
  • To move focus back to the message list, press u.
  • When a message is in focus, pressing Ctrl/Cmd-R, Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-R, Ctrl/Cmd-L will perform the following actions: Reply, Reply All, and Forward.
  • Pressing 1 to 9 when a message is focused will toggle the relevant tags on the message. Pressing 0 will remove all tags from this message.
  • Pressing A Archives messages.

    Warning: If the conversation has focus, pressing A archives the messages in the conversation, including those which are in other folders!

  • Pressing the del key deletes all messages in the conversation.

    Warning: if the conversation has focus, this will delete all of the messages in the conversation, including those which are in other folders!

  • Pressing Ctrl/Cmd-Enter when the quick reply is focused will send the message
  • Pressing Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-Enter when the quick reply is focused will send & archive the message


Here's a list of common problems with Thunderbird Conversations:

  • If unrelated messages are threaded together, it often is because someone in the discussion hit Reply All instead of Edit as new. Both create an email with the same set of recipients, but the former keeps the message in the thread, while the latter creates a new thread.
  • If related messages are not threaded together, it often is because someone used a poorly designed program to reply. Mobile phones often omit important information when replying, thus breaking threading.
A lengthy discussion about threading can be found at