I'd love to test Mozilla Thunderbird except..

I’d love to give Thunderbird a spin for a few days but there’s a problem. It doesn’t support the Maildir format!
Currently I’m very happy with Kmail and lots of my mail folders are in Maildir format. I’ve over 1GB of mail (yes Mark, I still keep almost all my mail!) so having an easy way of exporting it to another format is important.
There is a feature request in the Mozilla bug database but it hasn’t seen any developer attention in a few months. 🙁
I could always start from scratch again with Thunderbird. Copy over the contents of my inbox and archive the really old mail in a tar ball. hmm. Nah, the last time I moved mail clients it was to move from the Netscape 4.7 client (used for years) to Kmail. I don’t know that there’s as much of a reason to move from Kmail now. (Well, besides the fact that I don’t use any other KDE application!)
Before you think, “He’s going to write a script to convert those formats!” No, I have too many plenty of other ways to scratch an itch!
I’ll let this one up to someone else.

Author: Donncha

Donncha Ó Caoimh is a software developer at Automattic and WordPress plugin developer. He posts photos at In Photos and can also be found on Google+ and Twitter.

12 thoughts on “I'd love to test Mozilla Thunderbird except..”

  1. Freak!

    Or that’s what I’d be calling you if I hadn’t started archiving mine two years ago. 😉

    I was thinking of moving mail clients awhile back too, but wanting and needing are two different things. As such I haven’t bothered and I’m still hammering mail out in Mail.app, it’s not worth my time to go about learning a whole new set of quirks associated with moving to a new app, when my existing one does the job fine.

  2. In KMail you can create a sub folder and set its type to mbox. Any messages that are moved to this folder will now be stored in mbox format. I thought I was actually pretty clever until I tried to move these to Thunderbird and its fails to show the messages. Apparently KMail and Thunderbird have different methods of indexing the mbox files.-

  3. Ok, it worked! Basic instructions:
    1. Crank up KMail and and create folders with the format option set to mbox as needed to organize your emails. Then copy your emails to these new mbox folders. Once you are done you can close KMail.
    2. Open Mozilla Thunderbird and in the Local Folder section create a folder for each of the folders you created in KMail to organize you emails. Now exit Mozilla Thunderbird.
    3. then change to the ~./[mozilla]/default/[random char].slt/Mail/Local Folders
    Inside you will see 2 files with name that match the folders you created in Mozilla. Ignore the ones with the .msf extention, and create a link to over write the on without an extention that points to the corresponding KMail mbox file.
    In KMail you moved all your messages to a single folder called KMailExport that was type mbox.
    In Mozilla you created a folder in the Local Folder called OldKMailMesssages

    Then the following would create the needed link.
    ln -sf /path/to/your/KMailDir/KMailExport OldKMailMesssages

    Hope this helps…BTW Mozilla will probably choke to death on a single 1GB mbox file. 😉

  4. I’m using Courier IMAPD in the way described. It’s not so bad (I’ve ‘only’ 128Mb of memory). It has the distinct advantages that you can, with ssh, access your mail from anywhere (that you trust not to be running keyboard monitoring trojans), that you can run as many different clients as you like, provided that they support IMAP, and that changes made by one program will be reflected in all.

  5. I’m trying to do this the other way around. I’ve been using Thunderbird for a while and all my saved mail is in whatever format Thunderbird uses, but it’s struck me that Thunderbird doesn’t provide me with anything that kmail + bogofilter would, whereas by using kmail I get all the nice KDE integration. Now I can save each email as a .eml file and import those into kmail but that’s going to take a very long time; has anyone had success doing it that way?

  6. Thunderbird uses mbox format files (something which bothers me!), so you can simply copy the files from your Thunderbird Mail directory into the Kmail Mail directory, perhaps renaming them, and Kmail will be able to read them fine.

  7. I got frustrated with this whole issue earlier too. Like several ppl above suggested, I went the IMAP route and love it. I choose BincIMAP since it is small and simple; It uses the maildir format as its storage so in your case you do not have to convert anything. Use fetchmail/cron to poll your various mailboxes and d/l the mail every minute or so. You can now swap back and forth with ANY email client that supports IMAP as much as you like (KMail, TBird, OE, etc) See this link for a little more detail:

  8. Before Thunderbird, emails was stored as mbox or maildir format, regardless of what application you used to read it.

    Mutt, Pine and KMail all just read those two accepted formats.

    Now with Thunderbird, we have to do some type of import which is a conversion.

    For years, my mail has been stored in ~/Mail and I would just switch email reading programs from time to time.

    With Thunderbird, this is not possible which is why I will be uninstalling the application.

    What was nice about the independent storage format was that I could switch from Kmail and Mutt as I wanted for the front end and I could also switch between fetchmail, getmail or even KMail POP3 handling on the backend. Everything was interoperable. Thunderbird is not at this point (yet?).

    This ‘independent storage’ is one of the strengths to move to Linux from Windows, you don’t have to deal with many proprietary formats – across applications, certain open formats just work.

    My 2 cents on this old thread.

  9. I also have backed away from Thunderbird and onto KMail because of the lack of maildir support. It’s a pity, because I support many Windows-based systems and the ideal ‘persuader’ for getting people off Windows and onto Linux is having identical apps in both environments….. FireFox and OpenOffice.org are doing a great job in this respect, but Thunderbird stands out as not-quite-there yet – actually the maildir support is more important for the Windows environment particularly because of the antivirus requirements and the ability to quarantine individual infected mails rather than the whole jolly inbox file.

Leave a Reply