Thunderbird Conversations is a Thunderbird Addon that allows you to get a conversation view in Thunderbird, in the style of popular webmails, such as Gmail.
Thunderbird Conversations leverages the latest improvements in Thunderbird, and as such, at the time of this writing, is compatible only with the latest development versions of Thunderbird. If you feel adventurous, or can't live without a conversation view, install the latest preview version of Thunderbird from http://www.mozillamessaging.com/en-US/thunderbird/early_releases/downloads/ and read on!
Installing Thunderbird Conversations
Thunderbird Conversations is available for download from the official Mozilla Add-ons site, at https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/54035/. Once the file is downloaded, open Thunderbird, hit the Tools menu, and then click on Add-ons to open the add-ons manager in a new tab. Click on the Tools for all add-ons button next to the search bar (see the screenshot below), in the top right corner. This button is usually represented with a wrench. Select Install add-on from file, and then navigate to the place you saved Thunderbird Conversations.
After a customary restart of Thunderbird, you will be presented with a setup assistant. Click Apply changes, and after a short while, you should be able to use Thunderbird Conversations.
Day-to-day usage of Thunderbird Conversations
Thunderbird conversations makes your display threaded. This means that one conversation is now contained on one line only.
The small arrow indicates that this line represents a conversation that contains more than one message. Click on this line, and you will be presented with the conversation view in place of the old message display.
Instead of displaying a single message, Thunderbird Conversations now displays all messages that belong to the conversation. It may be that Thunderbird Conversations finds messages related to the current conversation in other folders. In this case, it will notify you about it. You click the navy label to jump to that folder.
Navigating inside the conversation
You can scroll inside the conversation, and click on message snippets to expand the messages. If you wish, you can click on the small triangle that's next to the selected message in the message list. It will expand the thread, and if you click on an individual message, it will focus the corresponding message in the conversation view.
Contacts in the conversation
If you leave your mouse on some participant's name, it will display a small popup that allows you to perform various actions related to that contact.
The send email button will open a new composition window. The recent conversations button will open a new tab that displays recent conversations involving that person. The + (plus) button will allow you to perform more actions, such as adding/editing that contact in the address book, creating a filter, or displaying messages from that person using a monospace font. The small icon allows you to copy that person's email address to the clipboard.
Quick reply in the conversation
If you scroll at the bottom of the conversation area, you will see a text field. Clicking on it opens the quick reply.
Just type a quick reply, click the send button, and Thunderbird Conversations will send the email. You can customize the list of recipients by using the edit links, or add more fields by clicking add bcc or add cc. The draft will automatically be saved if you change conversations. You can manually save or discard a draft by using the save or discard buttons. The continue using editor button will take the text you've written so far, and move it to a regular composition window, where you will be able to add attachments.
In case the message has attachments, they will be displayed at the bottom of the message.
Clicking gallery view will open all image attachments in a new tab for you to see them. Clicking on a thumbnail will open the attachment in a new tab, so that you can read a text attachment, or view an image full-size for instance. Clicking open will try to open the attachment using your favorite program, and download / download all will prompt you for a folder to save the attachment(s) to.
Performing actions on the conversation
There are two types of actions you can perform from inside the conversation: individual actions on a single message, and global actions on the whole conversation.
Acting upon a single message
The more menu at the top right corner of a message will allow you to perform operations on an individual message. The regular archive and delete operations are available. If you find out there's an operation that you wish you were able to perform, and that Thunderbird Conversations doesn't allow you to do it yet, just hit view using the classic reader. It will open the message in a new tab, using the classic interface, that might just have the option you're looking for.
At the bottom of the message, the reply / reply all / forward buttons allow you to reply to the message using the regular compose window. They do not use the quick reply feature discussed before.
Acting upon the whole conversation
At the top right of the conversation area, is a set of buttons that perform conversation-related actions. Just leave your mouse over a button for a few seconds, and a tooltip will show up with an explanation of what the button does.
- The open tab in a new conversation button allows you to view this conversation in a .new tab, and keep it open for later,
- The read/unread button becomes blue if there are unread messages in the conversation ; clicking it toggles the read/unread status of the whole conversation.
- The expand/collapse button allows you to expand all messages in the conversation, and then collapse them all.
- The print button allows you to print a conversation.
- The archive button archives all messages in the conversation.
- The delete button deletes all messages in the conversation.
Hitting the "+" button in a contacts tooltip will display the advanced options for that contact. From there, you can create a filter, or chose to display the messages from this sender in monospace.
You can revert the monospace settings from the addon's options.
Contacts for Thunderbird
Thunderbird Conversations can leverage Contacts for Thunderbird if installed.
- Instead of querying Gloda, the autocomplete results for the quick reply feature will query Contacts instead.
- The contact tooltips will fetch thumbnails from Contacts instead of Gravatar. This means if you've linked that person to their Facebook / Twitter profile, their avatar will be displayed in the contact tooltip.
- The contact tooltip will offer links for the various social networks that this person is associated to in Contacts. Clicking the small icons will open new tabs in Thunderbird, pointing to their Facebook, Twitter, Google or Flickr profiles.
In the image above, the avatar is fetched from twitter and clicking the blue t will open a new Thunderbird tab pointing to David Ascher's timeline.
Thunderbird Conversations plays nicely with Bugzilla emails. It automatically displays the value of the X-Bugzilla-Who header (i.e. the person who performed the action) instead of the From: field (usually bugzilla-daemon@...).
Thunderbird Conversations is compatible with Lightning (will display a notification bar if the message contains an event invitation), Enigmail (encrypted messages will be decrypted in the conversation view), BidiUI (if BidiUI is present, it will also operate on messages in the conversation view). Other extension authors who wish to be compatible with the Thunderbird Conversations should get in touch with its author. If your favorite extension isn't compatible with Thunderbird Conversations, ask the author to get in touch with the author of Thunderbird Conversations.
Thunderbird Conversations has numerous keyboard shortcuts. Most are consistent with Thunderbird's.
- If the message list has focus, tab will jump from the message list to the first message in the conversation. The first message will have a grey outline that indicates it currently has focus.
- Pressing f will take you to the next message in the conversation. Pressing b will take you to the previous message in the conversation.
- When a message is focused, hit the o (or enter) key to open or close a message.
- To move focus back to the message list, hit u.
- When a message is focused, Ctrl/Cmd-R, Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-R, Ctrl/Cmd-L have the standard Thunderbird meaning, which means Reply, Reply All, and Forward
- Hitting 1 to 9 when a message is focused will toggle the relevant tags on the message. Hitting 0 will remove all tags from this message.
- A has the standard Thunderbird meaning, which means “Archive”. Beware, if the conversation has focus, this will operate on all the messages in the conversation, including those which are in other folders!
- del will delete all messages in the conversation. Beware, if the conversation has focus, this will operate on all the messages in the conversation, including those which are in other folders!
- Ctrl/Cmd-Enter when the quick reply is focused will send the message
- Ctrl/Cmd-Shift-Enter when the quick reply is focused will send & archive the message
Here's a list of common "problems".
- If unrelated messages are threaded together, it often is because someone in the discussion hit Reply All instead of Edit as new. Both create an email with the same set of recipients, but the former keeps the message in the thread, while the latter creates a new thread.
- If related messages are not threaded together, it often is because someone used a poorly designed program to reply. Mobile phones often omit important information when replying, thus breaking threading.