Change the way Thunderbird handles quotes

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 4, 2006
Updated • Mar 15, 2014
Email, Thunderbird

Thunderbird changed the way quotes are handled in the email client recently. If you have been using a different email program before you may have come to the conclusion that the way Thunderbird is handling quotes is quite irritating.

Take a look at the screenshots below and you know what I mean. The first shows the general way most email programs handle quotes. The second shows the way Thunderbird handles quotes by default.

The difference is that Thunderbird indents each quote in away that it may become difficult to follow as the text is no longer vertically aligned in the email.

The Thunderbird add-on Quote Colors changes the way Thunderbird handles quotes. You can change the way back to the default way quotes are handled or change it into one of the options shown on the screenshots below.

So, if you do not like the way Thunderbird handles how quotes are displayed you can change it easily by installing the Quote Colors add-on for the email client.

quote colors thunderbird

To display text vertically aligned, enable the collapse borders option in the preferences. You can still modify how quotes are displayed, for instance by changing colors for different quote levels, changing border width and style, or use custom message colors.

Update: Please note that you need to modify a config file of the extension if you want to install it on a Thunderbird version newer than version 3.x. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Download the Thunderbird extension from the Mozilla Add-ons store.
  2. Use a program such as 7-Zip to extract the xpi file.
  3. Open the folder and use Notepad or another plain text editor to open the install.rdf file.
  4. Locate the line <em:maxVersion> and replace the version there with 30.0 so that the new line looks like this <em:maxVersion>30.0.*</em:maxVersion>.
  5. Now select all files of the unpacked archive, and create a new zip file from all of them using 7-Zip again.
  6. Rename the file extension from .zip to .xpi.
  7. Load the extension in Thunderbird and it should install just fine.

custom colors quote thunderbird

collapse quotes thunderbird

quote colors add-on thunderbird

Update: The Quote Colors add-on has not been updated since 2009, and as a consequence, it is no longer compatible with the most recent versions of the email client. While there are some advanced configuration options available in Thunderbird, none change the general display of message quotes in the browser.

A Thunderbird add-on that you may be interested in is Nested Quote Remover. While it does not get rid of the way Thunderbird handles quotes, it removes unnecessary nested quotes from the email client to improve the accessibility of conversations in the program.

The extension has not been updated since 2011, but seems to still be compatible with the latest versions of the email client. You can download the latest version of the add-on from the official Mozilla website.

You may find the following two extensions useful as well. Quote Collapse provides you with the means to collapse and expand quotes which may go a long way into improving their accessibility in the program. Quote Highlight on the other hand takes care of quote formats that are not recognized by Thunderbird as quotes by default.


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  1. JMGG said on January 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

    You said that Outlook isn’t your main email client, so which is your main one?

    1. BalaC said on January 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

      I think its thunderbird

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on January 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

      It is Mozilla Thunderbird.

  2. Salaam said on September 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Awesome! This actually solved my problem… what a stupid bug.

  3. Claud said on December 19, 2012 at 2:08 am

    If this is the same bug that I’ve encountered, there may be another fix: (1) hover over open Outlook item in Taskbar, cursor up to hover over Outlook window item, and right-click; (2) this should give you Restore / Move / Size / Minimize / Maximize — choose Move or Size; (3) use your cursor keys, going arbitrarily N/S/E/W, to try to move or size the Outlook window back into view. Basically, the app behaves as though it were open in a 0x0 window, or at a location that’s offscreen, and this will frequently work to resize and/or move the window. Don’t forget to close while resized/moved, so that Outlook remembers the size/position for next time.

    1. Lynda said on February 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      THANK YOU Claude!!! I could get the main window to launch but could not get any other message window to show on the desktop. You are my hero!!!!

    2. Chad said on November 20, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      Solved my issue! 6 years later and this is still problem…

    3. Ivan X said on January 21, 2021 at 4:50 pm

      Fantastic. Thank you. Size did the trick.

  4. Andrew said on October 26, 2013 at 7:06 am

    This solved my Outlook problem, too. Thank you. :)

  5. Charles said on December 7, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Thank you so much, this started happening to me today and was causing big problems. You are a life saver, I hope I can help you in some way some day.

  6. garth said on November 7, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    You are a god – thank you!

  7. Faisal said on February 9, 2015 at 10:09 am

    thanks a lot…. work like charm.. :-)

  8. Simon said on March 24, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Yah…thanks Claude. I’ve been having the same problem and tried all the suggestions…your solution was the answer. It had resized itself to a 0/0 box. Cheers

  9. Olu said on April 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Excellent post. This had me baffled even trying to accurately describe the problem. This fixed it for me.
    Thank you

  10. Coenig said on July 23, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Thanks a lot for the article. Don’t know why it happenend, don’t know how it got fixed, but it was really annoying and now it works :-)

  11. Fali said on January 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks a lot. I was facing this issue from past 3 week. I tried everything but no resolution. The issue was happening intermittently and mainly when I was changing the display of screen ( as i use 2 monitors). The only option i had was to do system restore. But thanks to you.

    1. MIki said on January 10, 2019 at 11:54 am

      I’ve been tried to sole this problem for 12hours. Your comment about changing the display of screen helped me a lot!! Thanks!!

  12. Christina said on January 20, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you…don’t know why this happened but your instructions helped me fix it. Running Windows 10 and office pro 2007

  13. Oz said on July 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Great tip! Thanks!

  14. Tracy said on September 1, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Worked for me, too – thank you!!!

  15. shawn said on September 9, 2016 at 10:25 am

    It’s Worked for me, too
    thank you very much!

  16. Jari said on October 31, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I had a similar issue with Outlook 2013 on Windows 10 and this helped me to fix it. Thank you very much!

  17. Michel H said on November 30, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Thank you so much. Solved!
    Considering you published this in 2012, incredible not been debugged by Microsoft.
    Thank you again. M

  18. Ziad Bitar said on January 9, 2017 at 2:00 am

    This problem was faced by only one user logging to TS 2008 r2 using outlook 2010.The issue was resolved.


  19. Anonymous said on February 15, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Great tip. Thank you!!!! If it helps, I had to use the Control Key and the arrow keys at the same time to bring my window back into view. Worked like a charm.

  20. Rochelle said on March 6, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Thank you, this worked !!!!

  21. anom1234 said on May 20, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    Man, you are a fucking god. Thanks a lot, what an annoying bug!!

  22. JC said on October 12, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Awesome, this post solved the issue. Many thanks!

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