Practical add-ons for Thunderbird

Show InOut

If you manage incoming and outgoing mail in the same folder, you will probably lose track of something eventually. Thunderbird does not use tags to tell you whether a message is incoming or outgoing. Besides this, the software only shows either the recipient or the sender of the email, depending on whether you sent or received the message, but it does not do so dynamically (Figure 8).

Figure 8: The mail overview looks cluttered without the Show InOut add-on.

The Show InOut add-on [7] lets you change this behavior. The installation follows the standard Extension Manager-based approach and does not require any special configuration.

After restarting Thunderbird, you will see new columns in the mail overview, which you can select in the normal way by clicking the list pictogram on the right. To be more precise, the plugin adds two options: In/Out and Counterparty. The former displays a symbol to tell you whether this is an incoming or outgoing message, whereas the latter shows the recipient or sender, depending on the message type.

If you insert the two columns and at the same time remove the legacy sender and target columns, you should see something like Figure 9. Thunderbird shows you the sender for incoming mail and the recipient for outgoing mail. The Show InOut website lists additional features that allow users to customize the add-on to suit their own needs.

Figure 9: Show InOut gives you a clearer view of messages you have sent and received.

Thunderbird has a powerful add-on interface that lets users extend its functionality. The "More Add-Ons" list does not claim to be complete, but it might whet your appetite.

More Add-Ons

The Enigmail plugin encrypts email messages with GnuPG [8][9]. Lightning, the calendar add-on, was covered in the April 2008 issue of Linux Magazine [10], but there are many more add-ons.

Attachment Sizes gives you an overview of file attachment sizes in incoming and outgoing messages [11]. Forward extends the button for forwarding messages, adding a function that alternatively embeds or attaches messages for forwarding [12]. MozPod is a really practical helper for synchronizing the Thunderbird address book with your iPod to make sure you have all your contact data with you all the time [13]. Unfortunately, the tool currently works on Windows or Mac OS X, but not on Linux.

The Select Inbox add-on [14] tells the program to open your email account's inbox directly when launching, even if no account is set to check for new email automatically. Thunderbird does not let you tag mail as having been replied to or forwarded, and if this bugs you, ToggleReplied is the tool you need [15]. Finally, you can remove annoying brackets in the subject line of a forwarded mail with QuoteAndComposeManager, which also offers a number of other interesting features [16].

The Author

Florian Effenberger is the international marketing project co-lead and marketing contact for German-speaking countries with, and he's a board member for the non-profit Germany organization. Florian specializes in designing and managing open source-based school networks. You can contact him at

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