After a long day at work, there is nothing I like better than downloading another set of messages to read when I get home. (Actually, this is pretty handy for reading Bugzilla bugmail if you don't happen to have a broadband connection available, or if you just want to have your mail and newsgroup messages available offline to consult if you expect a long plane ride.) Thunderbird has a number of ways to manage your offline experience.
If you would like to make your messages available locally when you work offline, you need to set the preference in Tools | Account Settings. Clicking the Select Folders for offline use button launches a window with checkboxes so that you can mark the folders you want to download for offline use. I never used this feature much until I started writing this book, but now I probably couldn't live without it.
How Do I Go Offline?
To go offline, toggle the Online/Offline button at the bottom left of the mail window or select File | Offline | Work Offline.
Composing Mail Offline
It is possible to compose mail messages while in offline mode and then send them when you go back online. To do this, click the Write icon and compose your message. When you are finished, click the Send Later icon. When you go back online, Thunderbird launches a dialog box asking if you want to send these unsent messages. See the next section if you want to configure your unsent messages settings.
Managing Your Offline Settings
In addition to the settings that are available in Account Settings, File | Offline | Offline Settings allows a few other configuration options for your offline settings:
Start Up optionswhether you want to be offline or online when starting the client
Whether to send unsent messages when going back online
Whether you want a confirmation prompt for downloading messages
If you have already selected folders for offline use, Download/Sync now allows you to download/sync mail and newsgroup messages. Selecting Download/sync now launches a dialog box that allows you to select mail messages and/or newsgroup messages. You can also select a checkbox to send your unsent messages. The last preference allows you to continue working offline when the download/sync is complete.
Flagging and Selecting Your Messages
You also have the opportunity to flag your messages as you are reading them and then later download just those messages for offline use. There is also a way to download messages that you have selected. To flag your messages:
Flag the messages first (Message | Mark | Flag) while you are in online mode.
Go to File | Offline | Get Flagged Messages.
To select your messages:
Select the messages first by highlighting the ones you want to download while you are in online mode.
Go to File | Offline | Get Selected Messages.
After completing these operations, messages that you have flagged or selected will be available when you go into offline mode.
Tool Kit: Moving Thunderbird to a New Computer
Let's face itthe way technology is moving today, you might find yourself in a situation where you get a new computer and want to move Thunderbird to your new system. Just installing the program on your new computer won't help, because you will need to bring your Thunderbird profile over from your old computer so you can access all your mail, address books, and account settings that are stored in the profile folder. (Note: If you are using IMAP, your mail will be stored on a server, but you should still bring your Thunderbird profile over from your old machine to capture your address book and other settings.) There are a few different ways to accomplish this. I suggest consulting the MozillaZine FAQ on Backup and Restoring (http://kb.mozillazine.org/index.phtml?title=Thunderbird_:_FAQs_:_Backing_Up_and_Restoring) because it provides a good overview of all the ins and outs of backups and restoring.
Using a Backup Utility
The other option you have is to use a utility to back up your Thunderbird profile. An example of one such utility is MozBackup (http://mozbackup.jasnapaka.com/), which is a Windows-only utility that backs up your Thunderbird profile into a single file (with the extension *.pcv, which is really a zip file format). That file can then be restored on the same Windows machine you are working on or a new machine.
Using MozBackup to Back Up Your Profile
Make sure Thunderbird is not running.
Download and install MozBackup.
Launch MozBackup and select the "Back up a profile" option.
Select the profile you would like to back up in addition to the location where you want the file to be saved.
Select the details you would like to back up by checking the appropriate boxes.
Move through the rest of the screens until the backup is complete.
Using MozBackup to Restore Your Profile
Make sure that Thunderbird is on your computer and has been used at least once.
Launch MozBackup and select the "Restore a profile" option.
Select the profile you would like to restore and then the backup file you want to restore from. Be aware that the profile you select will be overwritten by the file you are restoring from. MozBackup does allow you to create a new profile if you don't want to do this.
Move through the rest of the screens until the profile restoration is complete.
Fire up Thunderbird. You should now be able to use the profile you backed up.
Note that MozBackup is an example of one utility that can help you with backups. Go to http://www.fileguru.com/backup-tools/backup-tools.asp to see a list of other programs that you may be able to use for backup.
Phew. That was a lot to digest. Because of the multitude of server configurations and mail providers, there can be a lot of different permutations when setting up mail. If you happen to encounter a setup issue that was not covered in this chapter, head to the Thunderbird forums and newsgroups and post your question there. The "Accessing Mozilla Thunderbird Help" section in Chapter 9 gives a summary of all the places you can go to get help for Thunderbird.