Thunderbird woes (Goodbye KMail… :( )


After KdePIM switch to Akonadi KMail became less and less usable with each iteration and with each email received. I tried to band-aid it with spinning up dedicated MySQL server and configuring Akonadi appropriately, but alas, KMail would spend literally hours just fetching my email (some lousy ~3K emails per day).

I’ve switched from POP3 to IMAP, and armed myself with ThunderBird. First things first – my setup.


Application: Thunderbird 15.0.1 (20120911154255)

Operating System: Linux (x86_64-gcc3)

Above are the extensions I’ve installed and had some success with.


  • I have reduced the number of concurrent connections to the backend from 5 to 2 to lessen the load on the server a bit. Also my check interval is 10min to keep things nice and light.
  • Tweak config


Thanks to keyconfig I was able to bring most of KMail shortcuts to life. The more interesting ones were Expand/Collapse thread. Shortcuts are “.”/”,” respectively.

Expand current thread

tree = GetThreadTree();
if (tree) {
    row = tree.currentIndex;
    if (row >= 0) {
        tree.changeOpenState(row, true);

Collapse current thread

tree = GetThreadTree();
if ( tree ) {
  if (!tree.changeOpenState(tree.currentIndex, false)) {
    var parentIndex = tree.view.getParentIndex(tree.currentIndex);
    while (parentIndex >= 0) {;
      tree.changeOpenState(parentIndex, false);
      parentIndex = tree.view.getParentIndex(tree.currentIndex);

Thunderbird Conversation

Conversation add-on gets TB close to KMail grouping to a degree, but having my keys overridden forced me to drop that extension for now as I don’t want to maintain my own “branch of it” at the moment.


My backend is Zimbra server. Nice thing is that I can share Tags between Zimbra and TB which is nice. My filtering now done strictly in Zimbra. All I do is “tag” messages and store them in a flat Inbox. I sub-divide them later with custom searches using Tags etc. Trick is to create a Tag in Zimbra first, then create identical tag in TB. You may want to avoid using spaces in tag names – I’ve noticed some oddities there.

Now to the not-so-good part: failures.


With all the extensions and extra aid I still found TB lacking in basic features and some extensions to be really crippling in my setup. I realize that my expectations are different from the next person, and I am expecting a carbon-copy of KMail here, being KMail’s loyal user for about 10+ years. Keyconfig extension helped to bridge the gap, but there are some architectural decisions made by TB team that make me scratch my head and ask the question: “why?”.


With Lightning enabled and using my webcal provider my TB god dog-slow. Disabling Lightning brings the speed back. I even set up Lightning to sync every 15min to minimize the drag effect – no help. Some reports online suggest it could be related to numerous recurring events I have in my calendar. So much for integrated calendar.


Now let me say this: it is Pathetic (yes, with capital “P”). For a flagship application to not be able to handle threading it’s a disgrace. KMail was handling threading great with no complaints for many years. Thunderbird struggles recognizing threads properly and with all the tweaks I’ve done in about:config nothing really changed.

Collapsing/expanding single threads is a mouse-hassle whereas in KMail I can do it with a single keystroke. Seriously collapsing/expanding every thread on a large collection is a very silly idea to say the least. Luckily I have managed to get keyconfig set up with my favourite combo “,”/”.”.

Worse yet – in default view (just plain-old Inbox folder, no subfolders or anything fancy) I would be missing some emails. Doing the searches however locates messages properly. Very infuriating… I have disabled local caching of messages which seemed to bring back messages (I think) but they are still not threaded properly so searching is the only viable option.

Aggregated message lists

I’ve got spoiled by KMail’s aggregated view of message list. Grouped by day/month is a very good and efficient way of navigating around large message numbers.


I have no choice but to work through the quirks and annoyances of Thunderbird as the other alternatives don’t appeal to me at all: Alpine, Mutt, Evolution all could be great clients but lack the features I like to see in mail client.


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