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Is Thunderbird dead and other FAQ (updated Feb. 8,2019)

User Help for Mozilla Thunderbird
tanstaafl
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Post Posted January 12th, 2006, 4:22 am

"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated". Mark Twain, New York Journal of 2 June 1897
The chair of the Mozilla Corporation stated that the Mozilla Corporation will stop developing Thunderbird in a July 2012 post that has been widely mis-interpreted as meaning Thunderbird is dead. Part of the bad PR was caused by people not being aware that the community had already been doing a significant amount of the development, and that the community did not agree with his conclusion that "it is already pretty much what its users want and mostly needs some on-going maintenance". Many people are also unaware that another project survived after the Mozilla Corporation stopped development. SeaMonkey was created 14 years ago after the Mozilla Corporation stopped releasing new versions of the former Mozilla Application Suite. It is now a thriving community-driven product.

The Thunderbird project is not dead, it has become a community lead project. It continues to uses the Mozilla Foundation (a 501(c)(3) non-profit) as its legal and fiscal home but is now a independent project. It still has some dependencies upon Mozilla Corporation infrastructure (such as the build system) but has minimized that, and provides it's own add-on web site. While the project primarily relies upon unpaid volunteers, the Thunderbird Council (the governing body for the project) has hired eight full time employees and is looking to hire up to six more in 2019. All of them are engineers except for the community manager. [Maildev] thunderbird near term focus describes what they will be focusing on this year. There is also a collaboration with Ura Design to create a UX team and style guide, and with the p≡p Foundation to add p≡p (pretty Easy privacy) support to the Enigmail add-on (OpenPGP based email security).

According to Thunderbird Usage Continues to Grow there are approximately 27 million active monthly users. The major source of funding is donations from users.

Thunderbird uses a Mozilla toolkit library (a set of APIs built on top of Gecko) whose features have been driven by Firefox's needs. One long term problem for the project is how to deal with Firefox moving to the WebExtensions API and deprecating support for XUL/XPCOM. The current plan is to retain support for legacy add-ons if the author makes some modifications described in the Add-ons Guide for Thunderbird 57 and beyond (including version 60) while moving to the WebExtensions API. Those changes have been made by volunteers to a few of the most popular add-ons that weren't being maintained anymore. Thunderbird/Add-ons Guide 63 describes the additional changes that will occur in version 63 and later.

There has been no consensus or official decision after several years of discussion about whether to replace the current Thunderbird with a next generation Thunderbird that used web technologies (while still remaining a desktop email client). The default plan appears to be to stick with the current code base, converting many modules from C++ to Javascript, and to refactor the code as needed to pay off technical debt. This will make it easier to make major changes such as a complete redesign of the address book, replace the built-in HTML editor, remove libmime, and to minimize the dependencies upon Mozilla's software.

How to ask for help.
Please don't send a private message to a moderator to ask for technical help. Either create a new thread and ask a question, use the search field (to the right) to search for threads about similar topics, or look in the knowledge base (to the right). If you find a old thread about a similar problem and want to ask for help, please create a new thread instead if its over a year old.

If you create a thread please
  • Mention the version number in Help -> About Mozilla Thunderbird, what operating system you're using, and the exact text of any error message.
  • Use a descriptive title such as "contact sidebar vanished", don't just say you need help. If you're running OS X or Linux mention the operating system in the title to help other users with that background notice your thread.
  • Don't post your email address.
  • If you need to provide a picture see Post a screen shot on the forum
Don't be surprised if somebody that helps you posts a link to an article in the knowledge base. Most questions aren't new.

Some good articles for new users:
Getting started with Thunderbird.
Common misconceptions about Thunderbird
How to keep Thunderbird working (aka How not to shoot yourself in the foot)
How do you backup Thunderbird?
64 bit builds
SSL security errors
Moving your profile
Move to a new PC
Other sources of information
Using Gmail with Thunderbird.
Updating add-ons

Add-on doesn't support your version of Thunderbird
Many add-ons are automatically disabled by Thunderbird 5.0 or later because they have a maximum version field that indicates they only support up to Thunderbird 3.3. However, many add-ons will work if you bump the maximum version they support, despite tools -> add-ons complaining that is it incompatible. The easiest way to do that is to install the Disable Add-on Compatibility Checks (Version 4-56) add-on. That will automatically disable version checking so that you can try the add-on. Ignore the warning message that the add-on is not compatible. If you run into a problem just uninstall the add-on. If you can't do that, use "help -> restart with add-ons disabled" to disable all add-ons and then uninstall the one that doesn't work.

Firefox and Thunderbird used to both use https://addons.mozilla.org/ . Thunderbird now uses https://addons.thunderbird.net/

Thunderbird version 60
Many add-ons broke due to changes in the Mozilla Toolkit used with version 60. Edits have been made to some of the more popular add-ons by developers to get them to work. In some cases the add-on developers made the changes necessary to get their add-on to work, but most of Thunderbrid's add-ons are no longer actively maintained. The extensions.strictCompatibility setting defaults to true in version 60.*, preventing Thunderbird from letting you install an add-on that doesn't explicitly claim to support version 60. If you use the config editor at Tools -> Options -> Advanced -> General to toggle that setting to false you can install the add-on. However, that doesn't mean that it will work, just that you can now try to use an old add-on that might work because it doesn't use any API's that have been changed/removed.

Thunderbird 60 / Add-on Compatibility has links to unofficial fixed versions of add-ons or documentation on what to edit to fix some broken add-ons.

It is going to get worse in later major versions before it gets better. Legacy add-ons won't be supported forever, and might not make it to Thunderbird 68. The current WebExtensions support in Thunderbird 60.4.0 is really for "Embedded WebEXtensions". The embedded WebExtension's files are packaged inside the legacy add-on. According to the version 65 beta release notes Thunderbird 60.5 will be released at the end of January 2019 and it will support WebExtensions. Unfortunately most of the current WebExtension APIs are mainly for commonly used elements like windows and tabs and it is going to take a while until mail-specific APIs are available. In the interim some experimental WebExtension APIs will be available in some add-ons starting with Thunderbird 63. The goal is for those APIs to get reviewed by developers, modified as needed, and then eventually included as part of Thunderbird. In the interim its going to be chaotic.

[meta] Add support for WebExtensions bug report
Thunderbird WebExtensions - legacy API

Downgrade
See Go back to an old version of Thunderbird if you want to go back to an earlier version . Uninstalling Thunderbird does not delete your profile, which has your mail, settings, address books, add-ons etc. If you're worried backup your profile first using one of the suggestions in Profile backup or Third party profile backup software and services

Windows 10
Formal support for Windows 10 was added in version 38.2.0

Unsupported Operating System
Thunderbird 52 is the last release to support Windows XP (requires SP3), Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows 2008 and Windows Vista. If you want to run Thunderbird with XP SP3 or Vista install version 38.5.0 and then upgrade it, in order to get a more recent version of Thunderbird. This kludgy process is due to digital signing.

See Unsupported Operating Systems if Thunderbird no longer supports your Operating System. There are several workarounds available such as a third party build of Thunderbird called TenFourBird if you are using a PowerPC Mac running Tiger or Leopard.

Lightning (calendar) problems
Check if there is a release candidate at the Mozilla Calendar Project Blog. The Lightning add-on web page has a "development channel" at the bottom. Click on that if you're interested in finding out how to get experimental versions of Lightning. Its typically the only version that will work with beta versions of Thunderbird.

Beta versions
Beta versions of Thunderbird are available here.

A side effect of installing a beta is that it puts you on the beta channel, so that whenever you check for upgrades it will look for both new releases and betas. The channel information is stored in the programs directory, so if you uninstall you start fresh. Uninstalling doesn't delete your profile, which contains your mail, address books, settings, add-ons etc.

Bug reports
Bug reports are at https://bugzilla.mozilla.org . Thunderbird related bug reports are typically filed either under Thunderbird (client software) or Mail/News Core (component). The bug reports are NOT a way to get help on a problem. Its recommended that you create a thread at one of the support channels and have somebody else try to confirm its a new bug before reporting it.

Bugzilla has four major problems:
* A large number of duplicate bug reports.
* Many of the bug reports are useless because the problem is not reproducible by whoever is looking into the problem.
* User unfriendly search capability makes it hard to find if a bug has already been reported.
* Many bug reports get ignored for years.

The developers don't appreciate "me too" comments or lobbying attempts in bug reports. Bugzilla Etiquette describes the guidelines for using the bug reporting system.

Tech Support Scam
Mozilla does not offer telephone support or paid technical support for Thunderbird, and does not recommend any companies that do that. However, there have been cases were somebody used a legitimate technical support company that did not make any false claims, but the user thought they were dealing with Mozilla because they incorrectly connected the dots . You can report a web site that you believe is using Mozilla's trademarks to mislead people into thinking the site is an official Mozilla site or sponsored by Mozilla to Mozilla's legal dept. at https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/about/legal/fraud-report/ .

Its against the rules for anybody in these forums to remotely access your PC. It is too prone to abuse, and we want to help people in a way that information is shared with other users. Most problems are not new.

Donations
Donations can be made at https://donate.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/ . Note the "While Thunderbird is now an independent project separate from Mozilla, Mozilla has agreed to collect donations on our behalf." You don't have to use the methods (credit/debit card or PayPal) available on that web page, it also has a link to a FAQ that explains how/where to donate by check, wire transfer etc.

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