Switch To Compact Headers In Thunderbird 3

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 28, 2009
Updated • Dec 18, 2020
Email, Thunderbird

The standard email header in the mail client Thunderbird spans across three rows. It displays information such as the the sender's email, the subject, email recipient and toolbar buttons to quickly reply, forward, delete or tag the email.

The email header can be expanded to display all email header information which are important if the technical details of the email need to be analyzed further. There is on the other hand no option to compact the header in Thunderbird to save space.

Update: The extension is no longer compatible with recent versions of Thunderbird. You can check out Compact Headers (yes, same name) which offers similar functionality. End

Most Thunderbird users may not require some of the information and options displayed by default in the header area of the email that is displayed in the client.

This includes for example the information to whom the email was sent to or action buttons like deleting emails which are also available on a right-click in the email itself.

That's where the experimental add-on Compact Headers comes into play. The add-on is compatible with Thunderbird 3 and newer only and can reduce the size of the email header to one row.

Thunderbird Default Email Header:

Thunderbird 3 Compact Email Header:

thunderbird 3 compact email header

The way the email header is displayed in compact form can be altered in the add-on's options. It is possible to increase the size to two rows which can also hold some of the buttons that are provided in the standard Thunderbird header. Buttons can be individually selected in the options. The other options are to only display the address and to link in subjects of RSS feeds which refers to Thunderbird's ability to display RSS feed contents.

Compact Header for Mozilla Thunderbird is an experimental add-on that is not automatically updating itself. The add-on comes with a "check for updates" button in the options. It is available at the Mozilla Thunderbird add-on repository at Mozilla.org.

Update: The extension is fully compatible with all recent versions of the Thunderbird email client. It is no longer experimental and can be downloaded from Mozilla's official Thunderbird Extensions repository.

To install it in Thunderbird, do the following:

  • Select Tools > Addons from the menu bar at the top.
  • Click on the preferences icon next to search on the page.
  • Select install add-on from file from the context menu that opens up.
  • Browse to the folder you have downloaded the extension to and select it.
  • Follow the extension installation dialog and restart Thunderbird in the end.
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  1. Lyndon Wharton said on January 2, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Where is the download?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 2, 2012 at 6:59 pm

      The download is linked in the last sentence.

  2. Anonymous said on August 16, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Ludicrous abuse of space – well done whoever wrote the cure.
    The header merely duplicates the info in the email list, and adds buttons – which would be just as well in the menu bar.
    I’m using a 17″ monitor, and I lose 40% of my screen height to non-message UI elements.

    40% !

  3. Anonymous said on May 25, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Thank you so much for this add-on! My laptop has limited resolution and the new buttons take up valuable reading space.

  4. Anonymous said on March 17, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Yes, most information is not necessary and/or already shown in the message display.

  5. Pasi said on February 6, 2010 at 1:53 am

    The new header space in Thunderbird 3.0 is hideous, awfull… !
    It is nearly as bad as in the Ubuntu Evolution email, which I threw out as fast as I found it can not be modified.

    This header space must be built by someone with 4000×3000 pixel screen. Should have tested it in a mini laptop too !

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