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

Ryan Dube 14-07-2011

For 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 10 Must-Have Thunderbird Addons (+ 25 More) Thunderbird lives on. This desktop email client thrives because of its many customization options. These must-have Thunderbird addons will help you make the most of it. Read More , as well as Damien’s older list of 10 must-haves 10 Great Thunderbird Addons You Must Have Read More 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


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!)

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 Better Than Batch: A Windows Scripting Host Tutorial Read More , then the uses for this kind of thing is really only limited by your imagination. This could be a very powerful email automation tool.


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.

5 Thunderbird Add-Ons That Will Make it Better Than Gmail extend7b

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!

Related topics: Desktop Email Client, Email Tips, Gmail, Mozilla Thunderbird.

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  1. boomhauer
    December 5, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    I'd love to have the gmail search ability in tbird.... tbird search is not that great. any ideas?

  2. Mike
    January 6, 2015 at 11:16 am

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

  3. Jay
    September 14, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    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.

    • Tina
      September 14, 2011 at 7:43 pm

      Thanks for the update, Jay.

    • Aibek
      September 15, 2011 at 11:21 am

      I use ThunderBird as well and keep email from different providers in its own directories.


  4. Anonymous
    July 15, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    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
      July 18, 2011 at 5:08 pm

      Lightning for Thunderbird 5 was released on June 28th:

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

  5. p riehl
    July 15, 2011 at 11:40 am

    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
      July 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

      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
        July 18, 2011 at 9:42 am

        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
          July 18, 2011 at 11:53 am


          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
          July 19, 2011 at 8:37 am

          thank you!

        • Tina
          July 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm
        • Aibek
          July 19, 2011 at 8:39 am

          yep, it seems like I did forget about these articles

        • ProfessorBackwards
          August 11, 2011 at 3:42 am

          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.

  6. Tammo
    July 15, 2011 at 10:39 am

    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:

    • Anonymous
      July 19, 2011 at 3:04 am

      Cool - thanks for mentioning it Tammo.

  7. John Smith
    July 15, 2011 at 1:31 am

    All those add-ons already exist in GMail or can be added via much better browser add-ons and no need to manage a local software that can be lost and all your data with it unless you invest time and resources in a backup plan and still cannot use it everywhere.

    I think such articles need to check reality before making such wild claims.

    • Anonymous
      July 19, 2011 at 3:03 am

      Thanks John - I think it also depends on whether you prefer storing your emails and associated files/attachments in the "cloud", or whether you prefer keeping those local. Some people prefer local - and who are we to judge? :-)

    • Agnieszka Wiklendt
      July 20, 2011 at 10:12 pm

      I agree with rdube02. I keep all my messages online, but have thunderbird on my computer to access them.

      this serves many purposes, the most important being that i can check all 5 of my email accounts from one location. i can even move messages between those accounts very easily (drag-n-drop) and i only all my addresses available to me too.That's just to name a few benefits of a local client. i still use gmail online and on my phone when i'm on the go, and because i leave my messages on the server, i have full access to all of them. Thunderbird just makes a very nice access to them all.

  8. Colin
    July 15, 2011 at 12:48 am

    Too bad a couple of them are no compatible with T-Bird ver 5 :-(

  9. Ryan Zimmerman
    July 14, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    Thanks Ryan for the great addons. I noticed one thing, I saw that you made every attempt at blocking out all email addresses except for one: In the title of the Mailbox Alert Settings Screen.

    • Anonymous
      July 14, 2011 at 11:44 pm

      Ryan - great catch! Thank you.

  10. MerryMarjie
    July 14, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Thanks, Ryan. Thunderbrowse was exactly what I needed for opening links without opening the browser.  It seemed like every time I closed my default browser, I'd find an interesting link in Thunderbird and would have to open the whole thing again.  Also, this way I can check out links, leave them open in the mail, and not clutter the browser with tabs I mean to read later.  It's the ideal solution for me!

    • Anonymous
      July 14, 2011 at 11:45 pm

      MerryMarjie, terrific - that's great to hear. I know it saved me a lot of headache too, so I'm glad you found it helpful.

    • Glnave
      July 15, 2011 at 2:41 am

      Thunderbrowse is not compatible with Thunderbird 5.0

      • Sass
        July 28, 2011 at 4:55 am

        Is now :) Big favourite add-ons like these will always be updated, so never fret!