A look at some of the changes in Thunderbird 78 - gHacks Tech News


A look at some of the changes in Thunderbird 78

The team behind the desktop email client Thunderbird has released version 78.0 of the program officially today. The new version introduces major changes and is only offered as a direct download at the time of writing and not as an in-client upgrade.

The team advises users to stay on the previous version if they run Enigmail. It notes as well that Thunderbird 78 supports only MailExtensions, and that any extension not updated by its developer will not work in the new version of Thunderbird.

Last but not least, OpenPGP functionality is not enabled by default as it is still a work in progress.

Now the good news: Thunderbird 78 comes with several new features and improvements that will improve the productivity of users of the client. In this article, I'm going to highlight some of these to you.

Improvement 1: Multiple Email Addresses per field

thunderbird multiple emails per line

Previous versions of Thunderbird support one email address per field in the to, cc, and bcc fields. Means: if you send an email to several recipients, you need to create fields for each of them as you cannot just add multiple to the same line.

Thunderbird 78 supports adding multiple recipients to each of the recipient fields so that you don't need to resize the interface constantly to fit all email addresses on the screen and have enough space to write the message.

Downside to this is that there is no option to create multiple to, cc, or bcc fields, but Thunderbird expands the height of any field should you reach the end of the line.

Improvement 2: Add a splash of color to folders

folder properties

The new version of Thunderbird includes an option to change the default color of folders in the sidebar. Just right-click on a folder and select Properties from the context menu that opens to display the new option.

There you find options to rename the folder, and to change its default color. The new color is applied instantly to the folder.

Thunderbird 78 displays the root mail folders in blue by default, but every other folder in black. You may use it to better highlight important folders that are not root.

Improvement 3: Select Messages Column

thunderbird selection boxes

You can add a select messages box to the column layout of emails in Thunderbird to add an alternative selection option. Instead of having to use the mouse or keyboard to select emails, you may then check the boxes to select emails that you want to work with.

To use the feature, right-click on the header bar just above the list of emails in Thunderbird, and check the "Select Messages" option.

Thunderbird adds a new column with selection boxes to the mail list.

Improvement 4: Minimize to System Tray on Windows devices

thunderbird minimize tray

The Thunderbird 78 window behaves like previous windows by default. A click on minimize hides the client's window and keeps the icon visible in the taskbar.

Windows users may enable an option in the email program to minimize Thunderbird to the System Tray area instead.

Select Tools > Options, and on the page that opens, check "When Thunderbird is minimized, move it to the tray".

No need to use programs such as Minimize To Tray, ThunderbirdTray, or TBTray anymore.

Other improvements

  • Users can preview themes in the add-ons manager now.
  • Redesigned add-ons manager.
  • Recent folder list improvements.
  • Account creation dialog redesigned.
  • A new option to anonymize header data.
  • Address books are stored in SQLite databases instead of MAB format.

Now You: Have you tried Thunderbird 78 already? What is your take on the new client?

A look at some of the changes in Thunderbird 78
Article Name
A look at some of the changes in Thunderbird 78
A look at some of the improvements of the email client Thunderbird 78 which was released recently.
Ghacks Technology News

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  1. Steven Fleckenstein said on July 16, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    The biggest problem for my old eyes has been the inability to easily increase the font size of everything Thunderbird presents on my screen. I also like full custom themes, support of which was dropped after version 60.9.

    1. 99 said on July 17, 2020 at 4:20 pm

      >>> to easily increase the font size of everything Thunderbird presents on my screen

      Quick solution:
      → Edit/Preferences/Advanced/General/Config.editor

      Search and right-click the preference layout.css.devPixelsPerPx

      Modify, and enter a value of 1.20 or 1.25 or 1.5 or …
      That will zoom everything, including the global search tab text.

      or use customCSS


      1. TelV said on July 18, 2020 at 7:10 pm


        There’s no Preferences option on the Edit menu in Thunderbird 68.10.0

        Regardless of that fact a CSS modification isn’t necessary. To increase the font size / color / type go to Tools —> Options —> Display. The Advanced menu offers additional options.

      2. 99 said on July 19, 2020 at 9:13 am

        >>> There’s no Preferences option on the Edit menu in Thunderbird 68.10.0



      3. TelV said on July 19, 2020 at 1:06 pm

        A moot point, but why would you use CSS when you can simply use the Options / Display menu to change the font size / color etc.?

      4. Wayne said on July 19, 2020 at 8:49 pm

        > why would you use CSS when you can simply use the Options / Display menu to change the font size / color etc.?

        Because options affects message display, not the rest of the UI, i.e. doesn’t affect UI in general. Arguably a great weakness. It can however also be overcome by changing the OS resolution.

      5. 99 said on July 19, 2020 at 10:31 pm

        layout.css.devPixelsPerPx scales the entire Thunderbird UI. The value affects fonts for menus, message bodies, the folder and threads panes and so on. The effect can be seen immediately without closing Config. editor.

        And this is what Mr. Fleckenstein was asking for: “to easily increase the font size of EVERYTHING Thunderbird presents on my screen”

        Increasing font size in messages can be done by Ctrl+Mouse Wheel, if you happen to have a Mouse Wheel.

        >>> but why would you use CSS

        Ask Mr. T. Hawack, he is THE EXPERT in tinkering with UI

  2. allen said on July 16, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Ahhh, the idiotic triple-A for bold, italic, and underline (instead of BIU). I once created a Tb addon that did nothing but change those button icons to fix it. (You’d think the devs could do as much to offer the simple option internally.)

    1. Joel said on July 16, 2020 at 6:51 pm

      The world speaks more than one language, BIU is mostly for english.

      1. Scott said on July 17, 2020 at 12:56 am

        That’s what localized versions are for. Not sure how Microsoft Office handles it, but that same standard should be used.

      2. Joel said on July 17, 2020 at 6:35 pm

        well not everybody has the resources or man power Microsoft has, maintaining a separate interface for each localization is way more work than you’d think.

  3. Pedro said on July 16, 2020 at 3:35 pm

    So many nice improvements! And new modern icons in the side tray to further improve the looks. :D

    1. Anonymous said on July 22, 2020 at 2:23 pm

      A friend of mine had one of these: https://www.schmitt.com/vendio/405930-6.JPG

      Ridiculous car, gas mileage of a tank, nightmare parking, but the ride was uniquely smooth, like the feel of riding in a limousine.

  4. Paul(us) said on July 16, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    Loving it. All Martin mentioned before is making Thunderbird the most sophisticated desktop email client there is, again.
    Hopefully, there will be in the future a possibility to maintain Thunderbird.

    1. Corky said on July 16, 2020 at 7:58 pm

      To be fair there’s not many desktop email clients around these days, i guess most people use their mobile phone or web-mail, personally i don’t want to have a tab in my browser constantly open just to check e-mail and webmail can be slow, clunky, or just damn horrible to use depending on provider.

      I’m also one of those strange people who doesn’t own, or want, a ‘smart’ phone. :)

      1. m3city said on July 17, 2020 at 9:44 am

        And I’m amazed that The Bat is still around. Paid only. Never tried it. Does anyone here has some experience, comparison with TB? There is sylphead and claws as well, but whenever I check it it feels little bit too complicated.

      2. Corky said on July 17, 2020 at 10:55 am

        I’ve tried most of them recently and settled on TB purely because of its search function, most other clients seem to either use regular expression searches or restrict you to searching one folder at a time, ain’t nobody got time for that. :)

        Like you say other clients seem to either throw hundreds of unneeded options at you (at least for me anyway) or are so basic that you may as well use web-mail.

  5. motang said on July 16, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    A download link would have been nice. :-)

    1. Caspy7 said on July 18, 2020 at 4:10 am
  6. Anonymous said on July 16, 2020 at 7:33 pm

    Thunderbird page says that this is beta, not release as implied in this post.

  7. ShintoPlasm said on July 16, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    And still no built-in conversation view or a two-line message list option. Gah!

    1. Wayne said on July 17, 2020 at 11:40 pm

      True, conversations is not built in. But https://addons.thunderbird.net/en-US/thunderbird/addon/gmail-conversation-view/ is very good, and 78 compatible.

    2. Caspy7 said on July 18, 2020 at 4:14 am

      In case you were unaware of it there’s https://www.thebanners.uk/standard8/2020/06/28/thunderbird-conversations-3-1-released/
      Believe he is still a Moz dev, though indicates it’s still being rewritten in parts and it’s short an expected feature or two. (Dunno what threshold might be required to be included by default.)

  8. Scott said on July 17, 2020 at 12:57 am

    “Improvement 2: Add a splash of color to folders”

    After they removed all the colored icons, this is now an improvement?

  9. pd said on July 17, 2020 at 8:38 am

    Does not look like they’ve fixed the decades-old performance lag bug that often kicks in before I have finished writing my first sentence. Thunderbird seems to hang for around 5 seconds or more before typing can continue to be seen.

    As much as I understand everyone’s frustrations with the disabling of XUL-based extensions, in the Firefox context, I was lived with this but now, whilst I still wish extension authors had more freedom, I have Firefox running with newer extensions the way I want it (with the exception of a lack of a status bar). So hopefully the same can apply with Thunderbird, in time, as extension authors get up to speed with the MailExtensions APIs.

    Until that retarding of simple character input is fixed though, I’ll have to stay with eM Client when I would rather use Thunderbird for a few reasons.

    Nice the address fields finally get ‘comma’ support, like most other clients I’ve ever used.

  10. John C. said on July 17, 2020 at 9:14 am

    This will be the SECOND TIME I’ve had to spend hours figuring out ways to replace the extensions I use. I will not do it. Accordingly, I’m going to be staying with version 68.10.0 unless there are any minor updates to that version. I’m sick and tired of Mozilla switching horses in the middle of the stream just to make their Google masters happy.

  11. common sense computing said on July 18, 2020 at 11:23 am

    Still on 52.9.1. From my cold dead hands, Mozilla.

    1. Wayne said on July 19, 2020 at 8:51 pm

      > From my cold dead hands, Mozilla.

      Er, not Mozilla. Hasn’t been for a long time. Check “Who we are” at https://www.thunderbird.net/en-US/about/

    2. Iron Heart said on July 20, 2020 at 8:24 am

      @common sense computing

      Thunderbird 52 hasn’t received a security fix in ages, therefore I suggest you give this a try:


      Your Thunderbird 52 extensions will most likely continue to work just fine in it.

  12. anon said on July 18, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    v68.10.* will be the last version of Thunderbird i’ll be using. I have no need for the -now obligatory- lightning extension (calendar) but i do need a couple of famous extensions like CompactHeaders and IdentityChooser which work perfectly in v68.10.00. Moreover, it now takes Thunderbird 2.5-3 seconds to start, that should be a huge reason to hold the release, imo.

    I did a few more tests and i’m amazed how v78 breaks ALL existing extensions. Here are CompactHeader dev’s last words on the matter:


    Source: https://addons.thunderbird.net/en-US/thunderbird/addon/compactheader/reviews/1162423/

    1. ULBoom said on July 29, 2020 at 3:09 pm

      Bummer, guess I’ll stay on the 68’s. Compact Header is the ONLY extension I use on T Bird beside a theme.

      When FF changed a while back, New Tab Homepage went through the same issues but was rewritten after a year or so. With luck CH will do the same.

      Simple little add ons are valuable, most alternatives are loaded with extraneous stuff.

  13. TelV said on July 18, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    One of the options I’d like to see is the ability to delete existing search engines. As shown in one of Martin’s screenshots (4th one down) he has Wikipedia as the default search engine. But the “Remove” button remains greyed out regardless of which option you choose, That button only becomes operative if you want to delete an alternative search utility which you’ve added to the menu.

    That in itself is also not straightforward and the user needs to have the XML file for the respective search engine. I didn’t find info on Ghacks in that respect, but found it courtesy of MakeTechEasier: https://www.maketecheasier.com/add-custom-search-engines-thunderbird/

    So now I have Startpage.com as the default search engine on 68.10.0

  14. Daniel Winter said on July 19, 2020 at 12:36 am

    What killed Thunderbird was that they release a new major version every 1-2 years that completely breaks all add-ons. People just get sick of it.

    1. m3city said on July 20, 2020 at 12:50 pm

      No they don’t. We can safely assume that if 90% of FF users don’t use/know about extensions, except bundled ones or promoted, then numbers fot TB are the same. I’m that 10% group. Next, 50% of of those will just get over it, use other extensions or wait patiently for an update. So 5% of users will moan on forums and either move to other software, where one has reconfigure and readjust anyway or will stay and moan that free soft is not like one’s wishes.

  15. Anonymous said on July 20, 2020 at 2:41 am

    I thought that Thunderbird would update in-app, but I find that this is not the case, so I will wait until (and if) it does. I am in no hurry.

    1. Wayne said on July 21, 2020 at 7:44 am

      That is correct, it will update in a few weeks when it is best to do so – patience will pay off.

  16. RossN said on July 20, 2020 at 5:36 am

    eM Client – if you only need to grab email from two accounts at once. Pay up for more.

  17. owl said on July 20, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    The mail client “Thunderbird” is
    The browser “Firefox ESR” is used as the platform.
    In other words, the program code and the extension “API” are the same (as with Firefox ESR).
    ESR (Extended Support Release) specification is planned to have a major update (substantial upgrade specification) once a year, during which “bug fixes and security patches” will be provided.
    (Additions such as “new features” are performed from often in the standard version, but limited to major updates in ESR version)
    ESR (Thunderbird) will continue to provide minor updates (bug fixes and security patches) for two months (or more) even after the major update is released, even for the previous (68 series) specifications.
    Release schedule:

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    What’s New in Thunderbird 78
    Official blog: The Thunderbird Blog
    article: by Ryan Sipes on Jul 16, 2020
    Below, reprinted the main part of the article:

    Thunderbird 78 is our newest ESR (extended-support release), which comes out yearly and is considered the latest stable release. Right now you can download the newest version from our website,
    and existing users will be automatically updated in the near future. We encourage those who rely on the popular add-on Enigmail to wait to update until the automatic update rolls out to them to ensure their encrypted email settings are properly imported into Thunderbird’s new built-in OpenPGP encrypted email feature.

    Last year’s release focused on ensuring Thunderbird has a stable foundation on which to build. The new Thunderbird 78 aims to improve the experience of using Thunderbird, adding many quality-of-life features to the application and making it easier to use.

    About Add-ons
    As with previous major releases, it may take time for authors of legacy extensions to update their add-ons to support the new release. So if you are using add-ons we recommend you not update manually to 78.0, and instead wait for Thunderbird to automatically update to 78. We encourage users to reach out to their add-on’s author to let them know that you are interested in using it in 78.

    Learn More
    If we listed all the improvements in Thunderbird 78 in this blog post, you’d be stuck reading this for the whole day. So we will save you from that, and let you know that if you want to see a longer list of changes for the new release – check the release notes on our website.

    Great Release, Bright Future
    The past year has been an amazing year for Thunderbird. We had an incredible release in version 68 that was popular with our users, and laid the groundwork for much of what we did in 78. On top of great improvements in the product, we moved into a new financial and legal home,
    and we grew our team to thirteen people (soon to be even more)!

    We’re so grateful to all our users and contributors who have stuck with us all these years, and we hope to earn your dedication for the years to come. Thunderbird 78 is the beginning of a new era for the project, as we attempt to bring our users the features that they want and need to be productive in the 2020s – while also maintaining what has made Thunderbird so great all these years.

    Thank you to our wonderful community, please enjoy Thunderbird 78.

    Download the newest release from our website.
    System Requirements:
    Thunderbird Release Notes:

    1. owl said on July 20, 2020 at 12:20 pm
    2. owl said on July 20, 2020 at 12:36 pm

      “Portable Edition” of Mozilla Thunderbird is not official release and is developed and supported by “Mozilla & PortableApps.com”.
      Currently available for download:
      Version 68.10.0 for Windows, English (84MB download / 335MB installed)
      Download Details
      Open Source Initiative
      Publisher: Mozilla & PortableApps.com (John T. Haller)
      Date Updated: 2020-07-17
      Date Added: 2004-09-09
      System Requirements: Windows 7, 8, 10 & WINE
      App License: Open Source (MPL/GPL/LPGL under Mozilla EULA)
      Source: Thunderbird, Launcher source included, PortableApps.com Installer
      MD5 Hash: 8f355e29183e6e93d85c6d373fc2b2bb (English)
      SHA256 Hash: 40e73e420d4c1649e40b00672f0fdcdb95335fca97da04f79ded8a25bf2af92c (English)
      Mozilla®, Thunderbird® and the Thunderbird logo are registered trademarks of the Mozilla Foundation and are used with permission.

    3. m3city said on July 20, 2020 at 2:42 pm

      Thank you for your effort to extend this news.

  18. Beancounter said on July 20, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    Must support native Exchange protocols out of the box for it to have any chance of consideration for corporate use, all settings and user profiles be fully and easily manageable via standard methods, registry, group policy, command line, and program files and user data stored in standard Windows folder guideline locations. None of this is the case at the moment, sadly. Outlook needs competition.

  19. Bolt1955 said on July 24, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    Any idea when TB will auto-update from 68 to 78? Presumably, based on comments on the TB blog, that will be when enough major add-ons have converted to 78 compatibility. TB mentions Enigmail as a show-stopper — but there are several important add-ons (to me at least): Remove dupes, Provider for Google Calendar, and a couple of others. I looked at the add-ons page entries for a few yesterday, and as of then, none reported being compatible with 78. So no two-way sync with Google Calendar would definitely be a very major issue for me.

  20. Chief said on July 26, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    Let me start out by saying that I appreciate the hard work that so many contribute to projects like Thunderbird, what you all do is amazing and helps so many.

    I’ve used Thunderbird for as long as I can remember, on every operating system I run, and this release is the first one that has me looking for a different mail client. I’ve tried to force myself to like ver 78.x, but the issues with how it approaches changes between dark mode and light mode are pretty annoying, the interface causes a great deal of eye strain, and gone is the ease with which adjustments could be made to fix that. There is no continuity between elements and this becomes more evident when switching between light and dark themes. Eyestrain with ver 78.x is at an all time high, and I have not been able to make any adjustments that can correct that. There should be one easy place to change how EVERYTHING in the interface looks, without resorting to trickery or having to go to multiple locations to accomplish it. Everyone seems to think that they need to keep changing everything frequently to stay relevant, but in doing so they throw the baby out with the bathwater all too often. I’m not sure what drove the changes in version 78, but I wish we could get back on the other path, it was much easier on my eyes.

    Again, I appreciate all the volunteers do, it is not my purpose to malign them or their work, I’m just not a huge fan of the interface changes and this is just my two cents worth. In the meantime I’m going back to the previous version. Thank you for all you do!


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