How to set up and begin using Thunderbird 1.x (Windows)

Simple to use, powerful, and customizable, Thunderbird is a full-featured email application. Easily import your existing email accounts and messages. Spell check as you type, global inbox, deleting attachments and advanced message filtering round out Thunderbird’s modern feature set. Best of all, it’s entirely free.

This tutorial will guide you in installing, setting up and using Thunderbird for the first time.

Start by downloading Thunderbird from the Mozilla web site, located at http://www.mozilla.com/thunderbird/. Save the file to your desktop and when the download is complete, double-click that file. The installation is very straight forward, you’ll mostly click Next a bunch of times.

1. Running for the first time
  2a. Importing
  2b. Manual Setup
3. Checking/Reading mail
4. Spam/Junk mail filters
5. Composing Mail


1. Running for the first time

At the end of the installation, you’ll be prompted to run Thunderbird for the first time. When you do, you’ll be taken through the installation wizard. If you previously used Outlook Express, and want to import your email, settings, and address book, read on. If you do not want to import from Outlook Express, skip ahead to section 2b.

2a. Importing

Make sure that you select Outlook Express when prompted


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A confirmation window should appear, letting you know the import was successful.


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Don’t be surprised if you’re prompted to enter your password. Even if you opted to save your password in Outlook Express, you’ll need to enter it again at least once using Thunderbird. If you wish, you can place a check in the box labeled Use Password Manager to remember this password and Thunderbird will save your password (so you don’t need to enter it each time you check your email).


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Notice that your email, including any folders you may have created in Outlook Express, was imported to Thunderbird. Messages in your Inbox may appear as unread, even though you’ve read them already.

Skip ahead to section 3, Checking/Reading mail.

2b. Manual Setup

If you don’t want to import your email, settings and address book from Outlook Express, you’ll need to manually set up your account in Thunderbird. Fortunately, it’s very easy. The first time Thunderbird runs, a wizard will guide you in setting up your account. If you’ve skipped this step, or want to start the wizard manually, you can do so by selecting File –> New –> Account.

  1. Select Email account and click Next >

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  3. Enter your name and email address in the appropriate places and click Next >

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  5. Here you’ll need to enter your mail server settings. If you’re unsure of what they are, you can check the Simplehelp Broadband ISP Mail Server Settings tutorial, or visit your Internet Service Providers support site. Click Next > when you’re done.

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  7. Enter your incoming and outgoing mail server user names in the spaces provided. These are almost always the same user name. Click Next > to continue.

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  9. Give this account a name. It doesn’t have to be your email address, but that’s an easy way to always be sure which account you’re using at any given time. Click Next > to continue

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  11. Review your settings and click Finish to begin using Thunderbird.

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  13. When prompted for your password, enter it in the space provided. You may opt to place a check in the box labeled Use Password Manager to remember this password if you don’t want to enter your password each time you check your email.

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3. Checking/Reading mail

To check for new email at any time, click the Get Mail button. By default, Thunderbird will check for new messages every 10 minutes (while it’s open).

The default layout for Thunderbird is to have the folders listed in the left pane, the list of email messages in the top right and the message window itself on the bottom right. To view a message click on it once and it will be displayed in the bottom window. You can experiment with different layouts by selecting View –> Layout and then clicking a different style.


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If you double-click a message it will open up it its own window. From here you can reply to the message, forward it, or any one of a number of actions.


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4. Spam/Junk mail filters

Thunderbird includes an excellent spam filter service. If you mark each message that you consider spam or junk by clicking the Junk button, Thunderbird will “learn” what is and isn’t wanted.

The first time you mark a message as junk you’ll be prompted with a window that explains in detail how the Junk mail service works.

Messages that Thunderbird identifies as Junk will display a Junk icon. If Thunderbird incorrectly identifies a message as Junk, make sure to use the Not Junk button so that it will adapt.

After no time at all, Thunderbird will get very good at identifying unwanted mail.

Once you’re happy that Thunderbird is correctly identifying mail as either legitimate or Junk, you can have it automatically move Junk messages directly to your Junk folder (or Trash). To do this, select Tools –> Junk Mail Controls… and then place a check in the box labeled Move incoming messages determined to be junk too: and select a location (eg. Junk folder, Trash etc).


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5. Composing Mail

Composing email with Thunderbird is very straightforward. Enter the address of the person you wish to send your email to in the space provided (or select them from your address book by clicking Contacts).


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Spelling mistakes are underlined in red. To correct the spelling, right-click on the word and Thunderbird will offer suggested correct spellings.

Use the Insert button to personalize your messages by adding pictures, links, tables etc.

If Thunderbird prompts you to select a “format” for sending a given message, it’s safe to select Send in Plain Text and HTML, as nearly all email programs will be able to render one style or the other.

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