How to configure Thunderbird to open emails in windows

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 15, 2021
Updated • Dec 15, 2021

The email client Thunderbird opens emails that you select, for instance by double-clicking on them, in a new tab in the client's interface. It is possible to switch to opening emails in message windows instead, and you have the choice between using a single window for messages or multiple windows instead.

thunderbird message windows

Some Thunderbird users may prefer a single window, as it keeps things neat and tidy. Downside to using a single window is that you can only display one email at a time using windows. If you prefer to launch multiple messages in Thunderbird in their own window, you may configure the email client to do just that.

Thunderbird: open emails in windows

Here is how you configure Thunderbird to open emails in separate message windows or a single window.

  1. Open the Thunderbird email client, if you have not already.
  2. Select Tools > Preferences. Thunderbird may not display the menubar at the top by default. You can display it temporarily with a tap on the Alt-Key on the keyboard.
  3. While the General tab is active, scroll down to the Reading & Display section.

There you find the preference "open messages in". It has four options, of which three determine how Thunderbird opens messages that you select:

  • A new tab -- This is the default option; emails are loaded in tabs, with each email being loaded in its own tab. Tabs get reloaded when Thunderbird is started the next time, provided that it has not been closed before.
  • A new message window -- Opens messages in their own window. Multiple windows are created, one for each email that you open this way.
  • An existing message window -- Opens a maximum of one window for all emails. When you select a new email, the old is unloaded and the new message is displayed.

The fourth option determines how move or delete operations interfere with open emails. You can check the option -- close message window/tab on move or delete" to close tabs or message windows automatically if the loaded email is moved or deleted.

The changes that you make take effect immediately.  Just select another option if you want to switch again or restore the default behavior of Thunderbird.

Advanced Information

Advanced Thunderbird users and system administrators may configure the option in the Config Editor and through configuration files. Here is how that is done:

  1. Select Tools > Preferences to open the Thunderbird preferences once again.
  2. Scroll down in General to the bottom of the page, and activate the Config Editor button.
  3. Use the search field at the top of the configuration editor to find mail.openMessageBehavior.
  4. Double-click on the preference to change its value.

The preference supports three values:

  • 0 -- Open emails in new windows each time.
  • 1 -- Open emails in a single window and replace the previous email in the process.-
  • 2 -- Open emails in tabs (default).

Now You: which of the options do you prefer, and why?

How to configure Thunderbird to open emails in windows
Article Name
How to configure Thunderbird to open emails in windows
Find out how to change the default tab-based email viewing option in the Thunderbird email client to open messages in windows instead.
Ghacks Technology News

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  1. yanta said on December 16, 2021 at 1:07 am

    Wow! They broke it?

    I’m using Thunderbird 52.9.1 and emails open in new windows. It it as simple as not showing the preview pane then all emails are shown in their own window

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