Color Folders brings a splash of color to Thunderbird folders

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 3, 2014
Updated • Jul 25, 2019
Email, Thunderbird

I'm an avid user of the Thunderbird desktop email client and even though development has been put on a backburner by Mozilla, it is offering all the features that I require.

What I like about it especially is the fact that I'm in full control of all emails. If you use an online service such as Gmail or Outlook, you are at the mercy of the provider in regards to email storage and availability unless you back them up regularly to a local device.

If the service goes down temporarily or permanently, you may lose access to emails in the process.

Back when I started using Thunderbird I created a sophisticated folder structure and combined it with the program's filtering options to automatically sort emails into designated folders.

While that works fine up to this day, I always disliked the fact that there was no option to distinguish folders visually from each other.

That would be fine if all folders would have the same priority, but since this is not the case, it may make sense to highlight some of the important folders or at the very least change less important folders visually so that they blend in more with the browser.

I discovered Color Folders on Karl's blog. There he is also recommending Email Account Colors which I have reviewed previously here on Ghacks.

Color Folders

Color Folders adds one feature to Thunderbird: the ability to change the default yellow color of custom folders to another color.

thunderbird color folders

To modify the color of a folder right-click it, select Color Folders from the context menu, and pick one of the colors displayed by the extension.

A click on more colors opens another palette with dozens of additional colors for you to select.

The colors are only shown in the left sidebar, and only for the selected folder but not subfolders of it. If you want to paint a folder structure in a specific color, you need to do it manually for each folder.

My system, in case you are interested, is to use colors sparingly only to highlight important folders. I use the same color for folders of a certain topic, e.g. business or private folders, which I think is better than using different colors for these kind of folders.


Color Folders makes sense if you use custom folders in Thunderbird. Since it cannot modify default folders such as inbox or spam, it is only useful for that. I'd really like to see a version that adds folder icon modifications as well, but there does not seem to be an add-on available that can do that.

Colors are the next best thing and if used sparingly, help highlight folders of importance.

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  1. Michael Wittlin said on January 17, 2020 at 7:04 pm

    Hey guys.
    There is a follow-up project called “Colored Folders” by Lab5, since the original project has not been maintained for oder 6 years now and no longer works in current Thunderbird.
    “Colored Folders” is the same project, but actualized – In other words : Lab5 is sinply the new maintainer of the project.

  2. Dave Hunter said on December 29, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    I completely agree with NB’s message of Oct 31, 2019. I used Color Folders extensively as a very productive tool. Now, overnight, it’s no longer compatible.
    This function should be built into TB as a basic tool.

  3. NB said on October 31, 2019 at 1:36 am

    Shame the idiots ‘developing’ TB have now messed it up, this extremely useful addon no longer works. WHY can’t they add this basic functionality to TB itself ?

  4. Shai said on June 7, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    Useful. Color coding can certainly help.

    Personally, I stopped using elaborate folder structure quite a while ago. Instead, I’ve consolidated many of my folders and now using Tags and Saved Searches to group together some relevant items that I need to get access to quicker than using a manual search. This system is not only more convenient for me to use daily, but it was partly driven by the not-very-efficient way that TB stores the email in, which caused me some trouble in the past. It also makes Archiving more easy in my opinion.

  5. Trish said on June 4, 2014 at 5:05 am

    Thank you Martin!
    I have one for you to manually sort folders – if you do not know about it already;-) It’s wonderful specially when you have many filters in place.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 4, 2014 at 7:00 am

      Thanks will take a look!

  6. Karl Gephart said on June 3, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks for the link love, Martin! :)

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