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Thunderbird is the latest evolution of the once integrated Mozilla email client -- which in itself was an evolution of Netscape. While we still recommend using pine, Thunderbird has some benefits:

  • Nice GUI
  • Ability to display HTML e-mails
  • Built-in Junk mail detector

...just to name a few.

The basics

Where to get Thunderbird

If you're using a Peyton Hall Linux system, Thunderbird is maintained on our central NFS share and can be launched by loading the Thunderbird module with module load thunderbird if it's not already loaded, then typing thunderbird at the command-line while in an X Windows session. If, however, you want to install it on a stand-alone machine such as a laptop or Windows desktop, the latest version can be found at

How to install

Installation instructions are contained in the release notes for each version. See and click "Release notes" just below the download link.


Thunderbird is fairly intuitive to setup, and the help and instructions provided with the program and on the Mozilla website should be fine for most cases. Below are instructions for configuring Thunderbird to access your mail in Peyton Hall.

Accessing your Peyton mailboxes

The instructions for setting up Thunderbird are very similar under Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.

  1. Start the program.
    • If this is the first time you're running Thunderbird you'll probably see an import settings dialog. Close that and then you'll see the New Account Setup dialog. Close this as well.
  2. Open the Account Settings dialog:
    • On Windows or the Mac go to Tools -> Account Settings.
    • On Linux this can be found under Edit -> Account Settings.
  3. Click the Add Account option.
  4. Select E-mail Account and click Continue
  5. Enter Your Name as you'd like it to appear on your e-mail, and fill in your E-Mail Addresss. Click Continue
  6. Select IMAP and type into the Incoming Server field.
    • If this was your first time setting up an account in Thunderbird, you'll also be prompted for an Outgoing Mail Server... fill in
  7. Click Continue
  8. Incoming User Name should already be set with your Peyton Hall username, if not fill it in. Click Continue
  9. Pick a descriptive Account Name... the default should be ok too. Click Continue
  10. Click Done... however, you are not done yet!
  11. Click Server Settings under the account name you just created
  12. Under the Security Settings section, select SSL
  13. On the right side of the box, click Outgoing Server (SMTP)
  14. Two options:
    • If you already filled in an outgoing server, select mail.astro and click Edit
    • Otherwise, click Add. Enter into Server Name
  15. Set the port to '587'.
    Why is this? Some places block traffic on port 25, so even though you're not a spammer they'll treat you like one. Since port 587 is only used for client connections such as this, they do not block this port. And since you're an email client, and will need to authenticate to the server no matter what, you might as well set this to 587 now instead of having to change it if port 25 is blocked somewhere.
  16. Make sure Use name and password is checked and that your astro username is filled in.
  17. Under Use secure connection select TLS. Click OK
  18. Click OK again

That's it, you should now have a functional Thunderbird setup. You might want to look at the other options in the Account Settings box as well, as there's a lot of things you can adjust to suit your needs.

Useful plugins

Thunderbird has the capability to add plugins and extensions which you can add to the program to fill a need. The Thunderbird website has an extensive list of plugins, but here's a few that we find useful for various reasons:

  • Enigmail brings GPG encryption into Thunderbird directly
  • Mail redirect adds a "Redirect" button to the tool bar, and the 'b'ounce functionality of Pine to Thunderbird.
  • Signature switch lets you setup multiple signatures for email, and quickly switch between them.
  • View headers toggle button does just what it says - gives you a toggle button to view all the headers of an email. As of right now (May 2007) there's a bug which doesn't let you scroll the headers, so if there's too many to fit on the screen it gets a little messy.
  • ViewSourceWith adds the ability to view the source of an email (or web page, its original intention) in any editor you choose. Great for pulling out long-winded email headers from a message into gvim for trimming & pasting (or grepping)
  • Update notifier will let you know when there's updates to Thunderbird, or any of your extensions.
  • Display mail user agent is just a fun extension which puts a small icon to the right of the screen (in the same area as the headers) to show the mail client used by the sender, if it can be determined.


For help with Thunderbird, please see the Thunderbird FAQ at Mozilla's website. What follows will be questions specific to Thunderbird's use in Peyton Hall.

Transferring email

If you're just arriving - or about to leave - Peyton Hall, you can use Thunderbird to transfer your mail from one IMAP server to another fairly easily. Simply setup the second mail server (see above for an example), then drag your mail folders from one server to the other. You can also create the new folders on the target system, then open the old folder, highlight all the messages (Edit -> Select -> All), then right-click them and choose "Move to" or "Copy to".

Purging Old Emails

If you decide to synchronize your IMAP folders with local folders on your own machine, be aware that Thunderbird might be set to delete older emails within the folder. This can be problematic if you've been saving your emails on another client and have just switched to Thunderbird - it might see that you have e.g. e-mails older than 30 days in said folders and wipe them both in the local directories as well as in IMAP itself.

Go to Tools -> Account Settings -> Synchronization & Storage. Look at the setting for 'To recover disk space, old messages can be deleted, both local copies and originals in the server' and ensure that it is set how you want.