Other Modifications and Tasks

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A few additional tasks should be performed. Backups are vital your email is stored in your profile and should be backed up on a regular basis.


Backups are vital to keeping your email data safe from destruction. A minimum backup is to copy a profile into a new location. If this location is on the same computer, and same drive, a drive failure can cause the loss of both the backup and the original data. Only back up locally if you have no other choices, and if you do so, make an offline backup as soon as possible afterward.

If you are running Windows XP and have a CD-R or CD-RW drive, you can easily back up your email to a CD-R or CD-RW disc. It takes just a second to do, while recovery can take much longer.

Making a backup is easy. You need to find your profile; it is usually in c:\documents and settings\userid\application data\thunderbird (where userid is your logon username). Then do the following:


Close all Mozilla applications, especially Thunderbird.


Copy (do not move) the entire Thunderbird folder to a CD-R, CD-RW, or other writable persistent media. Alternatively, copy your profile to a network share on another computer.

Restoring the backup is as easy:

  1. Close all Mozilla applications, especially Thunderbird.

  2. Make a second backup of the current Thunderbird folder as described previously.

  3. Copy the original backup files you saved in the backup procedure to the same location they were originally located. Make sure you get all the files and folders.


Before doing a restore, I recommend you back up the bad copy of a folder before overwriting it with the backup copy. This can save you if you find the backup is worse than the damaged profile.

There are third-party backup options as well. MozBackup is a small backup utility for Windows users that backs up the profile folders into a compressed file. The file's extension is .pcv, but it is a standard Zip file; if it's renamed, Windows XP's Explorer will open it. You can download MozBackup from http://mozbackup.jasnapaka.com/.

Compact Folders

Thunderbird folders are simply large databases that contain all the messages the folder contains. Like databases, when you delete an item such as an email message, the empty space is not automatically recovered. Instead, the message is marked as deleted and the space continues to hold the message.

To recover the deleted messages space, you have to compact the folder. The compacting process rewrites the folder database file without the deleted messages, making it much smaller and more efficient.

Folders are compacted by selecting Files, Compact Folders in Thunderbird's menu. The amount of time it takes to compact is related to how large the folder is and the performance of your computers. Larger folders with many deleted messages can take longer to compact than smaller folders.

All folders are compacted using this method: To compact an individual folder, right-click the folder and select Compact This Folder from the pop-up context menu.

Profile Management

Unlike Firefox, where one user can have many profiles, Thunderbird users typically have only one. The reason for this difference is that Thunderbird stores more than configurations in the profile. This is where the user's email messages are stored. (For more information, see the section "Backups," earlier in this chapter.)

However, just like Firefox, Thunderbird offers profile management tools. And, Thunderbird does allow multiple profiles. For instance, if a computer is used by more than one person, each person will want her email to be relatively confidential.


Speaking of confidentiality, do not assume that your emails are secured in Thunderbird. The mail is stored in the Mbox format (used by many email clients) and is editable with Notepad or WordPad, as shown in Figure 13.5.

Figure 13.5. This shows how easily you can browse the inbox from outside Thunderbird using WordPad.

They are stored in your profile, but you must apply file permissions to really begin to protect your email folders from prying eyes.

The Profile Manager is a part of Thunderbird and works in much the same way. The Profile Manager is started by starting Thunderbird with the -p or -profilemanager switch.

You can tell Thunderbird to start with a specific profile by using this syntax, either in Windows's Start, Run; a command prompt; or a shortcut:

"C:\program files\Mozilla Thunderbird\thunderbird.exe" -p "profilename" 

This assumes you have installed Thunderbird in the default location. Additionally, you need to change profilename to the name of your profile.

Antivirus Software Issues

Viruses? We don't need no stinking viruses. Unfortunately, Thunderbird does not get along well with some antivirus software. The main problem is that email messages are stored in a single, large database file, rather than as separate files. If some antivirus programs see a virus in that large database file, they delete it because they are configured to do so. When this happens, you lose your email.

The antivirus software programs most compatible with Thunderbird include the following:

  • Alwil Avast! with Thunderbird 0.9, 1.0

  • Computer Associates eTrust EZ Antivirus version eTrust v6.4 (this can have some problems, however)

  • eset NOD32 version 2.12.3

  • Grisoft AVG7 with Thunderbird 1.0, 0.9 (read http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?p=1202435)

  • Kaspersky Lab Anti-Virus

  • Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security 2005 version 12

The following antivirus programs don't work well with Thunderbird. Again, this list is not exhaustive, and these products change on a regular basis:

  • McAfee VirusScan

  • Panda Antivirus Internet Security

  • Symantec Norton AntiVirus version with Thunderbird 1.0

For any antivirus program, you can configure it to not scan your Thunderbird profile folders. However, because most virus infections come as email attachments, this technique can seriously compromise your computer's antivirus protection.

Account Pane Order

If you are not happy with the ordering of the account names in Thunderbird's folder pane (shown in Figure 13.6), they can be reordered. There are some limitations, however.

Figure 13.6. The Folders pane order can be reset with an edit to prefs.js or by using an extension.

The Folderpane extension can accomplish this. Another technique is to manually edit prefs.js. You must follow some rules on account ordering, however:

  • Newsgroups are always last, unless they are the default account.

  • Local folders are above newsgroups, unless either the newsgroups or local folders are the default folders.

  • Email and RSS accounts are always above local folders, unless one is the default account.

  • The default account (RSS, email, news, or local folders) is always listed first (at the top). This behavior can't be changed.

If you are willing to live with these restrictions, you can reorder your folder view.

Signature Display in Color Versus Gray

By default, the Thunderbird Compose window displays your signature in gray so that it is set apart from the remainder of the message body text. This color can be changed with a preference. The signature color affects only the display in the Compose window and not the color(s) of the signature as it is sent.

The following lines, when placed in the Thunderbird userContent.css file, change the display color of your signature:

// Change display color of text and links in signature .moz-txt-sig, .moz-signature {color: yellow !important;} .moz-txt-sig > a, .moz-signature > a {color: red !important;} 

This displays the signature text in yellow and any links in the signature red. Change the colors as you want.

Turn Off Color Quote Bars Use > Instead

Another modification that can be placed in userContent.css and in user.js is one that tells Thunderbird to not use the colored bars to mark quoted sections, but to leave the > symbols instead. In user.js enter this code:

blockquote[type=cite] {         padding-bottom: 0 ! important;         padding-top: 0 ! important;         padding-left: 0 ! important;         border-left: none ! important;         border-right: none ! important; } 

In user.js, enter this code:

user_pref("mail.quoted_graphical", false); user_pref("mail.quoteasblock", false); user_pref("mailnews.display.disable_format_flowed_support", true); 

If you do not have a user.js file, create one and place it in your profile folder.

Throbber URL

The throbber is the small, animated icon that shows the program is working. There is a throbber in Firefox and one in Thunderbird. To change Thunderbird's throbber, you can change, or add, the following lines in your user.js file:

// Change throbber URL in main window user_pref("messenger.throbber.url", "http://kb.mozillazine.org/"); // Change throbber URL in Compose window user_pref("compose.throbber.url", "http://kb.mozillazine.org/"); // Change throbber URL in Address Book window user_pref("addressbook.throbber.url", "http://kb.mozillazine.org/"); 

These settings could be placed in prefs.js; however, manual modification of prefs.js is not recommended.

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    Firefox and Thunderbird. Beyond Browsing and Email
    Firefox and Thunderbird Garage
    ISBN: 0131870041
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2003
    Pages: 245

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