Get Thunderbird to minimizing to tray instead of closing

One of the first set of things i do when i install a fresh (k)ubuntu is change the default email client. Both evolution (ubuntu) and kmail (kubuntu) don’t just cut it for me, they always seem bloated and buggy. I am a KISS guy -not that kiss (fine am that kiss too but the kiss i refer here is the Keep It Simple Stupid kind of kiss 😀 ) hence i find thunderbird to be the email client that just suits my needs. It doesn’t try to take over the world or make dinner for me. Its first and foremost an email client and its keeps with the Unix philosophy of do one thing and do it well.

However one thing i have always wish it had was the ability to run in the background so that if i close thunderbird i want it to minimize to the system-tray/notification area and inform me real time when i have a new mail. Thunderbird has a small memory footprint hence am not bothered about it sucking up my system resources. For a very long time i took what life offered and made do with opening thunderbird to check for a new mail and closing it when i am done (i hate having my task manager side of the system panel filed up with running applications). Then one day i was like heck i have had enough and decided out to find a way to get thunderbird to do exactly what i want (run in the system-tray when not needed.) i did some googling and the name firetray came up, turned out it was just want i wanted.

Installation and Configuration

Firetray is an add-on for thunderbird and can be downloaded from here download and save the file to your hard disk. In Mozilla Thunderbird, open Add-ons from the Tools menu.

thunderbird tool

Click the Install button, and locate/select the file you downloaded and click “OK”.

thunderbird extensions

After this you need to restart Thunderbird for the firetray to start working. You might also want to go through the preference of firetray to configure how you want it to behave, for example by default thunderbird does not minimize to the system-tray when you close it. You can go through the settings and configure it to your taste. Here is how i have configured mine.

firetray config


I have come to find firetray a very valuable plugin for thunderbird.


It allows me to make Thunderbird run in the background and get out of my way. when they is a new mail, i get notified and it tells me how many unread mail i have in-box

One more cool thing i love about it is how it makes it easy to check for new messages and even send a quick email, By just right clicking on the icon on the system-tray


Ok that is the end of my rant. Hope this helps somebody.

FYI: Firetray can also be added to firefox, sunbird, seamonkey 2 and songbird, allowing to set up custom icon, minimizing to tray instead of closing, control playback using multimedia keys in songbird

  • nobu^

    Thanx, that’s a very helpful thing! 🙂

  • Cae

    I am using Minimize To Tray for Thunderbird 3 to the same effect 🙂

    Also, lightning (nightly build) to compliment Thunderbird

    • Oh its cool i think i might also give that a try but for now firetray works really nice. thanks and yeah compliment to thunderbird

  • daisyvilla

    This is so helpful. I have been waiting for the kind of add-on!

    • thanks am glad it worked for you.

  • Matias

    I couldn’t find that FireTray-icon after i downloaded it on add-ons. So do i have to extract that “firetray-0.2.3-fx+tb+sm+sb-linux.xpi”-file and where?

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  • Gotit

    Great add-on!! Thanks for the head’s up on it 🙂

  • Jay Knight

    Many thanks for these walk throughs it helps the newbie like me who wanted to dump windoze for years. I’m hooked on Linux Mint and finding learning easy and fun. We need more walkthroughs like this one. 🙂

  • nice article ! wrote well, thanks !

    here are some new features explained of Thunderbird 3.0:

  • does this plugin stands valid for v3 ??

    • very much does, am using it atm with thunderbird 3 on kubuntu 9.10 and it runs like a charm. not so sure about the gnome though i dont see any reason why it shouldnt

  • Thank you SO MUCH! That was the one huge complaint that I have had about using Thunderbird, and I’ve been looking for a way to fix it!

  • I know you’re not Thunderbird’s tech support or anything. Since we both use WordPress and Thunderbird, I wonder if you’ve ever tried subscribing to a wordpress feed using Thunderbird. Currently it doesn’t work with my wordpress blog, and I’ve read that this is common; have you found this to be the case?

  • Hey Chad, I know this was posted a while back, but move your feed over to Feedburner or import it into a Google Reader account. Thunderbird has no issues with reading feeds from either of those sources.

  • arsenba

    Thank you!!! it is exactly what I wanted!!