Gmail Conversation View For Thunderbird

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 14, 2009
Updated • Dec 31, 2016
Email, Gmail

Thunderbird Conversations, formerly Gmail Conversation View, adds a message grouping option to the Thunderbird email client.

The email client Thunderbird displays email conversations on a single page. The visual hint the program uses to distinguish between different messages is a vertical line that is colored.

Those lines can take up quite a bit of screen estate if the conversation went back and forth several times already.

We recently covered the Collapse Quotes add-on for Thunderbird which provides a better overview by collapsing all but the first line of each message.

But the default display mode has another issue. It is difficult to quickly switch between messages of a conversation.

Thunderbird Conversations

Thunderbird Conversations offers solutions for both issues that Thunderbird users may face when they are using the email client.

The add-on ports the way Google displays conversations on its Gmail service to the Thunderbird email client.

Each individual email is drawn with a border so that you can distinguish them on first glance. The colored vertical lines are not needed in this view mode at all because of it.

Update: Installation has been improved. All you need to do is to install the extension in Thunderbird. It will apply the new format to all messages right away.

It is also no longer necessary to customize the menu anymore. The extension adds button to the email header right away that you can click on to perform operations such as collapsing all messages or toggling their read status. Update end

Installation of the add-on is unfortunately complicated. This can be attributed to the early experimental stage of the add-on above anything else. Gmail Conversation View requires the installation of either the Compact Header or the Customize Header Toolbar add-on.

Another step that is necessary (after installation of two of the add-ons) is the manual customization of the header toolbar in Thunderbird. This is done by right-clicking the email header and selecting customize. It is now important to drag and drop the button of the add-on - which is called View Full conversation - to the other buttons that are displayed in the email header.

A click on that new button will from now on change the view of that email from the standard Thunderbird view to the Gmail view. Those changes are temporary for now and gone as soon as the user moves away from that email conversation.

The developer has plans to extend the functionality. One interesting option would be to enable the Gmail conversation view mode permanently for all email conversations. Gmail Conversation View is compatible with Thunderbird 31 and newer. The latest version of the add-on can be downloaded from the Mozilla website.

The add-on improves how conversations are displayed in Thunderbird. While it brings Gmail's way of displaying conversations to Thunderbird, it is not limited to Google Mail but compatible with all email accounts that you manage using the email client.

Other notable features that the add-on adds are auto-collapsed quotes to save space, and keyboard shortcuts.

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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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