From KMail to Thunderbird: must-have add-ons

So you have a working Thunderbird installation which has your old e-mails. However the look is different, and you feel some information you used to have on your fingertips  is missing. Don’t worry, most of it could be changed by extending the Thunderbird functionality with add-ons. There are tons of them, and here I list only those which help to bring the gap between KMail and Thunderbird.

Add extra fields in the folders pane

KMail shows extra fields in the Folders pane, notably the total number of messages in each folder. Thunderbird only shows the number of new emails. However it is possible to add extra fields to the pane by installing the Extra Folder Columns add-on. Restart Thunderbird, and you’ll see three extra fields (Unread, Total and Size). Click on a small arrow right above the Folder Pane scrollbar and remove the fields you do not want to see.

Fix the Folders Order

Thunderbird uses the different sorting algorithm comparing to KMail which means your folders will be ordered in a quite unusual way. To restore the familiar order – or even change it to any possible way – install the Manually Sort Folders add-on. Restart Thunderbird, open Add-Ons Manager (Toold/Addons), go to Extensions, click on “Properties” for the Manually Sort Folders extension, go to “Sort folders” tab and for each account switch the sort function from “Using Thunderbird’s default” to “Use plain string compare”. Or you can reorder your folders right there.

Change the Account Order

If Thunderbird shows your accounts in a wrong order, the same Manually Sort Folders add-on described above will let you to change the account order using the “Sort accounts” tab.

Using Calendar

If you’re using your e-mail client for business and would like to have calendar integration install the Lightning add-on. Not only it provides the Outlook-like integrated calendar with events, but it also has Google Calendar synchronization if you install the Provider for Google Calendar, reminders and so on.

Queue the mail to send it later

KMail has a convenient “Queue” button which allows you to put the message to the output queue and send everything together. Thunderbird only has the “Send” button which tries to send the e-mail right away, keeping the message in your face until it is sent. If your message is large or the SMTP communication is slow, it may take a while, and extra windows will occupy the desktop space. More, if send fails, each of those windows will give you a nice popup about it.

The solution is to install the Send Later 3 add-on. Install it, and you’ll get the same functionality as you had in KMail. Even better, you can now send the specific email at any time in future – assuming, of course, that Thunderbird is running at that time.

Edit the Sieve scripts

If you used Sieve mail filtering language in KMail, all your server-side filters are still active and didn’t change, even though Thunderbird does not have the built-in ability to edit Sieve scripts. However this functionality is provided by the Sieve add-on. Unlike other plugins this plugin does not have Preferences dialog, but is configured via Tools/Sieve Message Filters menu option.

Remove the duplicate messages

Sometime you’re getting duplicate messages. Maybe it was corrupted import. Or the mail server time stamp confusion. KMail has a nice feature allowing you to remove the duplicates. If you install the Remove Duplicate Messages add-on, Thunderbird will have this functionality as well. It works only in a specific folder (use the right-click menu on a folder), but it does the job.

Using Templates

Thunderbird does not support templates. However the SmartTemplate4 add-on takes care of it as well. Templates are configured in the Account Settings menu, there is a new button now in Composition and Addressing. The set of macros available is quite extensive (press Help button at the bottom of the editor dialog to see it), although not compatible with KMail.

OpenPGP support

For those who needs support for OpenPGP message digest verification and encryption the Enigmail add-on provides this functionality. You must also have GnuPG installed for it to work. Most settings are stored under the “Expert” settings. Note that regular certificates are supported natively by Thunderbird.


In the next posts I’ll talk about creating a KMail-like system tray icon and keyboard mapping.

This entry was posted in Email.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *