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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 created 12 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 has become a community lead project. It continues to uses Mozilla as its legal and fiscal home but is now a independent project. It has successfully moved to it's own infrastructure, including it's own add-on web site and build system. While the project primarily relies upon unpaid volunteers the Thunderbird Council (the governing body for the project) has hired a community manager, a infrastructure engineer, a build & release engineer, a continuous integration engineer, a front end engineer for XUL replacement, a engineer to support the add-ons strategy, one focused on technical debt in the back end, a manager and is hiring several other engineers.

According to Thunderbird Usage Continues to Grow there are approximately 27 million active monthly users. 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.

Thunderbird uses a Mozilla toolkit library (Gecko etc.) 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 62 describes the additional changes that will occur in version 62 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, 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)
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 (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/

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.

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.

Last update December 15, 2018

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