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Knowledge base Thunderbird

There are many ways to access email and many email clients available. An email client is an application which runs on your computer and accesses email and shows it to you. It allows you to compose and send emails. It is possible to send and receive emails entirely via a web site but usually an email client is better at the job and often has more features.

We use and recommend Thunderbird. You can install Thunderbird on almost any platform. It is free, and it has loads of add on features.

Installing Thunderbird

Thunderbird is available for linux, windows and mac. Linux systems will often have it installed or available from a package install menu. On windows and linux you can simply install from the Mozilla web site. Simply select install and accept at the prompts.

When you run Thunderbird it will ask initial email settings. Enter your email settings. We recommend you use IMAP as this allows you to access the email from many different computers and mobile phones. There are many options, and one even allows a local copy of emails on your computer, which you may find useful as we cannot guarantee to keep all email forever.

Email etiquette

A few points to bear in mind with email:-

  • Please send emails in plain text not HTML. Usually an email is a simple paragraph or two of text. This is far better sent as a plain text email. It keeps it short and quick and it can be read by any mail client even on mobile phone email clients, blackberrys, and so on. We recommend making plain text the default email composition setting in Thunderbird account settings.
  • Be considerate with large attachments. In fact with any attachment. Not everyone wants a huge email. Not everyone can read every file format. Not everyone can read word documents even. If you are quoting something on a web site, quote the web site address rather than attaching a large file.
  • When replying you normally quote at least some of the original email. Cut off any signature (should be removed anyway but not all email clients send signatures correctly). Remove irrelevant parts. Quote relevant parts with lines starting ">" (thunderbird does this for you) and reply below each part to which you are replying.
  • If you have a signature block, keep it short, ideally no more than 4 lines of text.
  • There is no real point in replying to spam
  • Please be polite


It is possible to install an add-on to Thunderbird that provides encryption and signing of emails using PGP. This is called enigmail. Just search for enigmail on the Mozilla addons website and follow the instructions.

You will need to understand a bit about how to use PGP.