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how to set up mozilla thunderbirdSurrounded by so many great web mail services, we tend to forget that the most comfortable way to manage email (offline) is by using an email desktop client. Desktop clients also come with many features that are not available from their web counterparts such as advanced filtering options How to Set Up Message Filters In Thunderbird How to Set Up Message Filters In Thunderbird Read More and the ability to expand the functionalities by adding extensions.

Recently, one of my friends who runs an education-related blog asked whether it’s possible to use his email client to auto-respond and schedule emails. He uses Mozilla Thunderbird – one of the most well known desktop email clients available today. It’s cross-platform, full featured, and free; and it would make a good candidate to show us how far a desktop client can go.

Note: The following examples were done using the Mac version of Thunderbird, but they are also applicable to the Windows version, albeit with a slightly different interface.

Setting Up An Auto-Response Filter

Why would anyone want to set up an auto response filter? With a little creativity, you could think of many uses for an auto-responder. Here are a few examples that crossed my mind:

  • To answer repeated questions from your customers, you could set several specific auto-responders for several different FAQ points
  • To notify your friends that you will be unreachable during your holiday break
  • To confirm that you’ve received your visitors’ messages and will reply to them as soon as possible.

The first step how to set up Mozilla Thunderbird with an auto-response filter is to create a message template.

  • To do so, go to the “File – New – Message” menu or use the shortcut key combination Ctrl + N (Windows) / Command + N (Mac).

how to set up mozilla thunderbird

  • Compose the message as if you are writing another ordinary email, set the topic and content according to what kind of response you want to send.

thunderbird filters

  • Then save the message as a template by going to the “File – Save As – Template” menu.

thunderbird filters

  • Repeat the process for other templates. Create as many templates as you need.

The second step is to set up the filtering system.

  • Go to the “Tools – Message Filters” menu.

thunderbird filters

  • A “Message Filters” window will open. Click the “New” button to create a new filter.

thunderbird auto reply

  • Then set some rules that will trigger the auto-responder. The first pane is the place to add some rules. You can add and delete as many rules as needed using the “+” and “” (plus and minus) button respectively. Set it to filter specific strings in the Subject and To fields.

thunderbird auto reply

  • The lower pane is the place to set what action(s) should be performed if the above rules are met. For an auto-response filter, the most obvious action would be to reply to the filtered message using the pre-configured template. Choose “Reply With Template” and pick the template that you want to use.
  • Don’t forget to set the “Apply filter when:” drop down list to tell Thunderbird when it should run the auto-responder.

thunderbird scheduled emails

  • Click the “OK” button after you finish setting up the filter.

If you want to create other kinds of filters, here is the list of all the available filter rules that you can use. For example, use the “Date – After” and “Date – before” to set up a vacation mail. Set the start date to be the first day of your vacation and the end date to be the day you are coming back to the office.

02e Condition.jpg

And also the available actions.

02f Perform This Action.jpg

Creating A Scheduled Email

Another unique feature that you can enable in Thunderbird is creating scheduled emails. It means that you can create emails that will be sent on a specific time in the future. This feature would be really useful to send reminders, either to yourself, your friends, or to groups of people.

To enable this feature, we will need help from an add-on called Send Later.

  • Download the “.xpi” file to your hard drive and use the add-ons manager to install it.

04j Download Send Later 3.jpg

  • To open the add-ons manager, go to the “Tools – Add-ons” menu.

thunderbird scheduled emails

  • In the add-ons window, choose “Extensions” and click “Install“.

04c Add-ons.jpg

  • Locate the add-on, select it and finally click “Open” to install it.

04k Send Later.jpg

  • You need to go back to the add-ons window which will ask you to restart Thunderbird to complete the installation.

04l Restart To Complete.jpg

  • After restarting Thunderbird, create a new message. This one will be the one that you will send using the scheduled email feature. Then go to the “File ” menu and you will see a new sub-menu there: “Send Later“.

05a File - Send Later.jpg

  • Click the “Send Later” menu and a small option window will slide out from the message. This window is the place where you can specify the exact time to send the message. Click the “Send Later at specified time” button to schedule the message to be sent at the time that you’ve set before. You can also use the quick buttons to send the message “15 mins later“, “30 mins later“, or “2 hours later“.

how to set up mozilla thunderbird

The two examples above show us that you can use a desktop email client beyond the realm of reading and replying to emails. If you know of other creative uses of Thunderbird, please share them using the comments section below.

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  1. Michael Maardt
    January 14, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    thank you, helpful even in 2017

  2. melisa
    June 16, 2016 at 4:48 am

    It works so well!
    And the explanation is very clear
    Thank you so much!!

  3. Tony D
    December 24, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Works great.
    After did all steps for setting up autoresponder, I close thunderbird and send a test message from yahoo to my thunderbird email, works like a charm. I receive auto-response message as expected.
    Thanks a lot, you're the man !!!! :)
    Great work.

    • Tony D
      December 24, 2015 at 11:17 am

      I use thunderbird client for a PC at work and have a linux mail system, so practically setting up auto-responder in thunderbird I use auto-respons function from the server, so no need to keep thunderbird/PC running - this is my case.
      If you don't have a dedicated email server then your PC and thunderbird client must be functional and UP.
      This may help other ppl to set up and use this auto-responder function of thunderbird.
      I personally don't like outlook ... is just a question of taste.

      Marry Christamas everybody !!!

  4. Rimstalker
    December 1, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    Doesn't work. No reply sent.

  5. fizzog
    January 20, 2011 at 12:17 am

    Lovely idea... But doesn't it mean leaving your computer on while you're away on vacation?

    • MartinL
      January 20, 2011 at 7:27 pm

      Yep, I don't think how this would be possible without the computer staying on with Thunderbird running. Not an option for many who need to make use of those features I suppose.

      • Tina
        January 20, 2011 at 8:42 pm

        It does. The point is that this feature is very useful if you need to set up auto replies for other purposes.

      • Anonymous
        January 20, 2011 at 11:44 pm

        And believe it or not, some people do keep their home computer on all the time. :)

  6. Tina
    January 19, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Great article, Jeffry! Love your screenshots and clear explanation.

    • Anonymous
      January 20, 2011 at 2:23 am

      Glad you like it.

  7. Albert
    January 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    great article..
    I wonder if WLM 2011 has the same feature.. any possibility to discuss it in the future??

    • Anonymous
      January 20, 2011 at 2:22 am

      A quick search told me that there's a small freeware that will enable auto reply feature in WLM. I don't know whether this one will work with WLM 2011, but it's worth trying.

  8. Albert
    January 19, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    great article..
    I wonder if WLM 2011 has the same feature.. any possibility to discuss it in the future??