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Is Thunderbird dead and other FAQ

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 Foundation stated that Mozilla 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 Mozilla stopped development. SeaMonkey was formed 8 years ago after Mozilla 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 is still a Mozilla project even though new development and bug fixing is now done by the community. Mozilla continues to provide the infrastructure (both the Mozilla add-ons web site and the servers used to build, test and distribute new versions), and add stability/security fixes. The main effect was that the pace of development slowed and there was a temporary loss of leadership. However, the project has successfully moved from a staff led to a community led project. At a October 2014 summit meeting of 22 active contributors they decided that for the next major release (Thunderbird 38 due in June 2015) that they will:

  • Add support for mbox based mail folders larger than 4GB. (Backend work done)
  • Finish support for using maildir files as an alternative to mbox files. Maildir files are similar to *.eml files, but have a UNIX heritage. (support was good enough by version 45 for the option to use it to be restored in the GUI.)
  • Add support for WebRTC to instant messaging. (Was dropped from the roadmap)
  • Merge the Lightning calendar add-on as a shipped (but disabled by default) add-on. (Done)
  • Merge the New Account Types binary addon into core, allowing new account types to be defined using addons in the future. (Done)
  • Support OAUTH authorization in GMail IMAP accounts. (Done)
Thunderbird 52.0 is the most recent major release. It was released April 6, 2017. It added support for mbox files larger than 4GB. See the release notes for information about other changes.

According to Thunderbird Usage Continues to Grow there are approximately 27 million active monthly users. There are no statistics available on what percentage of Thunderbird users are on each operating system, but if you assume it matches the statistics for the Lightning add-on, 85% are using Windows, 12% Linux, and 3% OS X.

Firefox and Thunderbird: A Fork in the Road describes the Mozilla Foundation's view of several recent steps towards the independence of Thunderbird. It was announced May 9th, 2017 that "The Mozilla Foundation has agreed to serve as the legal and fiscal home for the Thunderbird project, but Thunderbird will migrate off Mozilla Corporation infrastructure, separating the operational aspects of the project."

The major source of funding is donations from users. One potential source of additional funding is the p≡p Foundation which would like Thunderbird to include easy-to-use encryption.

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)
SSL security errors
Moving your profile
Move to a new PC
Using Gmail with Thunderbird.
Updating add-ons
How do you backup Thunderbird?

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 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.

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.

EarlyBird and Beta versions
Earlybird and 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.

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. Its 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.

Last update 5/9/2017

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