5 Thunderbird Add-Ons That Will Make it Better Than Gmail

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thunderbird better than gmailFor many years, I switched between a whole range of email clients. First I went with Outlook Express. Then I bought a new computer and decided to test the waters with Thunderbird. Once Gmail became popular, I became an avid Gmail user for years. More recently, I’ve started experimenting with Thunderbird again. I keep gravitating back to Thunderbird, because of all email clients it really appears to be the most powerful and robust, with the ability to easily handle and organize as many email accounts as you want.

The one thing that always bothered me about Thunderbird though, compared to using Gmail, is the fact that Gmail simply does a better job at organizing email threads. Only recently did I learn that there are actually a number of very cool Thunderbird add-ons that make Thunderbird rival even Gmail in terms of simplicity and organization.

You’ve seen a number of Thunderbird add-ons featured here at MUO, including Aibek’s older list of must-haves, as well as Damien’s older list of 10 must-haves as well. In this article, I’d like to freshen up those lists with 5 of the best Thunderbird add-ons that I feel transforms the email client into a better email management tool than Gmail.

5 Thunderbird Add-Ons That Enhance Your Email Experience

Thunderbrowse

Most decent email clients these days have the ability to quickly display webpages of URLs that are embedded in E-mail. The last thing you really want is for an entirely new application – your default Internet browser – to open just so that you can view the page.

Enter ThunderBrowse. In my opinion, this significantly enhances Thunderbird. Now you no longer need to depend upon your browser to the URL that your friend forwarded. Just install ThunderBrowse and you’ll have an embedded browser right inside Thunderbird.

thunderbird better than gmail

There are lots of options you can set to customize how the window behaves, but the most important is to set whether you want the page to open in a new tab, in a new window, or in an external browser (which would kind of defeat the purpose of the add-on!)

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better than gmail

When you click the URL, the webpage will appear in the lower pane where you would typically see the email preview. As you can see, the browser window opens in a new tab. You can still see the mail preview by clicking on the “Mail” tab.

Remove Duplicate Messages

Another problem I find that I have whenever I use Thunderbird is the fact that since I have multiple accounts all coming into this one email client, sometimes there are duplicate messages. This can happen for a number of reasons, but in my case I just have messages from an online service getting downloaded to two accounts, so in Thunderbird I receive duplicate emails.

You can deal with these quickly and easily with an addon called Remove Duplicate Messages.

better than gmail

You can configure the addon to compare just the subject and the author, or if you want you could have it compare the entire message, however this will slow down the addon quite a bit. Set it up to delete the first duplicate that it finds. Now, all you have to do is right click on the account that you want to clean up, and click on “Remove Duplicate Messages…”  Problem solved!

better than gmail

Mailbox Alert

Another very cool add-on is one called Mailbox Alert. Just like with your cellphone, where you can assign a different ringtone to different callers, with Mailbox Alert, you can actually set up a different Alert and Notification setup depending on which account receives the incoming message. After you install the addon, just right click on the account folder and select “Mailbox Alert“.

thunderbird gmail setup

The functionality of this add-on is really impressive. Not only can you have it show a customized message and sound for each account, but you can even have the add-on launch a command whenever an email arrives.

thunderbird gmail setup

If you are into Windows Scripting, then the uses for this kind of thing is really only limited by your imagination. This could be a very powerful email automation tool.

ThreadVis

This next add-on is my absolute favorite of all. It solves the biggest problem I had with Thunderbird compared to Gmail. Gmail has always been excellent about organizing emails into conversation threads. Thunderbird – not so much.

With the ThreadVis add-on, you get one of the coolest thread visualizers ever. Now, you’ll see email conversations organized into topic threads, just like on Gmail, but best of all there’s actually a topic timeline displayed in an interesting color-coded visual display, with each sender identified in the timeline by color.

thunderbird gmail setup

Click on one of the points in the thread timeline, and that email message pops-up. Basically – you can work through an entire email conversation from the convenience of one single email window.

Display Mail User Agent

It’s always nice to have some extra information about the person sending you an email. If you’re curious what email client the person used to send you that email, install the Display Mail User Agent add-on, and you will know. It displays an icon for the email client on the right side of the email header.

thunderbird better than gmail

Just hover your mouse over the icon to see what client the sender uses. No surprise on this one, James uses Apple Mail, version 2.1084!

As you can see, with just a few extra add-ons and tweaks, you can beef up Thunderbird to rival even Gmail. Try a few (or all) of these add-ons out, and let us know what you think!

Are you a Thunderbird fan? Have these add-ons convinced you to try it out? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below!

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Comments (27)
  • Mike

    Does anyone know of a way to delete a message from the notifier pop up?

  • Jay

    If anyone’s still reading this thread, you don’t have to choose local vs network storage in order to use Thunderbird. It’s a great consolidating tool for a mixture of gmail, yahoo, your own domain(s), etc, all of which can be left where they are, even though you’re reading them in TBird.

  • Anonymous

    does  Lightening work with TB5? I like to have my google cal integrated. Also, like to be able to minimize to tray if that plugin works for 5 too.

    • Tina

      Lightning for Thunderbird 5 was released on June 28th: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/lightning/

      It should work, but judging by the comments, there are still some issues.

  • p riehl

    I was very enthusiastic about this, after moving all my email to Gmail last week, and still trying to figure it out. As with a previous article about best Windows freeware which included a paid program, it surprises me that you should post an article without catching the obvious incompatibility with the current version of the featured program – perhaps this article was written months ago, and grabbed for filler material?

    The question of local versus cloud email is of course the major issue you’re ignoring entirely, and that would be an interesting discussion. Part of my motivation for taking it online is my distaste for backing up garbage, and unless you remember to compact folders in Thunderbird the bulk of what you’re backing up can be garbage.

    Which brings up another discussion, that the vast majority of email IS garbage, which begs the question of what’s the best way to reduce or eliminate one’s dependence on it?

    • Tina

      MakeUseOf articles are scheduled two weeks in advance. Personally, I wasn’t alerted to the new version of Thunderbird (by Thunderbird itself) until yesterday. So I’m guessing the official stable release of Thunderbird 5 happened just before or after the article was scheduled.

      I agree regarding your second point. Thunderbird takes up gigabytes of hard drive space and emails are NEVER deleted unless you compact folders, which few people ever do.

    • Aibek

      Hey Tina,

      I had no idea about the important of compacting folders. So just to confirm, in order to delete the emails in Thunderbird I need first to compact them? i though emptying the Trash folder would delete the emails.

    • p riehl

      Aibek,

      After you empty trash, the file still occupies as much space as it did before. So first empty, then compact. However, for more fun…

      …if you’re using Windows, TreeSize Free is a fabulous tool for finding space hogs – that’s how I remembered the compacting. Try this: empty trash, use TSF do a scan of your Thunderbird directory, then compact and refresh TSF – you’ll be amazed how much smaller the files have gotten.

    • Aibek

      thank you!

    • Aibek

      yep, it seems like I did forget about these articles

    • ProfessorBackwards

      Compacting and deleting are two different things.   If you delete a message (in most software, as well as in Windows), all it does is erase the markers that told the software where to find it.  The space it occupied on the disk is marked as empty, like having an empty apartment next door. In most software, the message/file itself may well still there, but marked as being gone.  (That the file is still there is why “undelete” programs can get files back.  They just rewrite the markers to tell the software where to find the file.)

      Compacting the messages, moves things around so the “empty” spots are filled, like squeezing the air out of a Nerf ball.  The message file now takes less space on the hard drive and now unused space can be used for other files.
        

  • Tammo

    When you are used to GMail, you may miss the little personal level indicator arrows next to the subject, indicating whether the mail was sent just to you, to a group or a list. If this is the case, you will love my add-on:
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/personal-level-indicators/

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.