Monday, December 22, 2008

ThunderBird A few Tips & Tricks

    Thunderbird, is an alternative open source e-mail client. I would recommend it to everyone. if you are using Thunderbird as your E-mail client then this article might be useful to you. So let's get started.

    You might encounter this problem at some point in time.  I use many sub folders and while clicking on them, the program stays frozen for a few seconds and then showed it's content. The same thing happens while trying to deleting a  mail. This was really annoying.
    Three ways of trying to sort out this problem are
    A Use Thunderbird's 'Compact Folders' option frequently. All messages in a given folder are stored in one continuous database file. When you delete or move a message, it is not actually removed from this file, but left in place and marked as inactive so the program knows not to display it. This is done to keep from slowing your system down by having to rebuild the whole database every time you move or delete a message. The operation to remove all inactive messages at once is called "Compacting". It rebuilds the database file, and updates the .msf summary file for that database. This can cure many message base ills and it should be done regularly.It's possible that many users have never heard of compacting folders (not to be confused with compressing a file). However, most e-mail clients do this to improve performance by not requiring the e-mail client to rewrite the entire folder every time you delete a single message. The reason you might never have heard of compacting is that most e-mail clients default to automatically compacting the folder whenever a certain amount of space is wasted, while you have to enable this in Thunderbird.

How to compact folders

    The best way is to let Thunderbird do this automatically: "Tools -> Options -> Advanced -> Network & Disk Space -> Disk Space -> Compact folder when it will save over 100 kB -> OK."

    To compact all folders in an account manually, click the account on the left, and then click "File -> Compact Folders". Compacting an account may take from a few seconds to 10 minutes or more, depending on how much mail you have and how recently you last compacted the folders. If you have trouble doing this and the process stalls, try compacting one folder at a time by right-clicking on the folder and choosing "Compact This Folder". If you do not let Thunderbird compact automatically, you should do this regularly.

    Most people never have a problem compacting a folder when its online. However, if you get Nstmp folders that's due to the compacting being interrupted while Thunderbird is downloading new messages. You can avoid this by going offline before compacting (go to "File -> Offline -> Work Offline", or simply click on the icon in the bottom left corner.) It is rare for this to cause other problems but if you suspect it, experiment with going offline before compacting (ideally on a new known good folder). You can only compact IMAP accounts while you are online. However, this normally doesn't cause a problem since IMAP accounts only download the headers to the hard disk.

The 'Xpunge' extension lets you add a button to empty the trash and compact the folders in multiple accounts (in one step). If you use the beta version you can set a timer to automate that. The Mozilla Add-ons web site has several other extensions that add buttons to compact folders.

If you have an IMAP account there are two ways to automate compacting its folders.

    * If you check Tools -> Account Settings -> Server Settings -> Clean up ("Expunge") Inbox on Exit it will compact the Inbox folder when you exit Thunderbird. If you check "Empty Trash on Exit" it will also empty and compact the Trash folder when you exit.

    * If Tools -> Account Settings -> Server Settings -> "When I delete a message" is set to "Move it to the Trash folder" and you set mail.imap.expunge_after_delete to true using the Config editor Thunderbird will compact the folder immediately after you delete or move a message. Note: Thunderbird ignores the modified mail.imap.expunge_after_delete setting until after you have exited and restarted Thunderbird.

    B Another method is right click on a folder which is sluggish go to 'Properties' & click on 'Rebuild Index' under the 'General Information' tab

If compacting doesn’t seem to work
    C When I checked my profile and found many files and folders. I also searched the Thunderbird website for more information. What really got attention to my eyes was this article.
    The apparently problem lies in *.msf files, which are summary files for each folder and might become corrupted and can contain "garbage". So I tested this right away (read results bellow). I have mentioned below the procedure but use this at your own risk. Backup your profile before proceeding.
   1. Close Thunderbird.
   2. Click START - RUN and type %APPDATA%\Thunderbird
   3. Then find profiles.ini file and open it in notepad.
   4. Find the line which contains Path= parameter. Under this parameter is a path to your profile.
   5. Go to your profile folder, where you will find *.msf files.
   6. Delete *.msf files and restart Thunderbird.
   7. Wait for a few minutes, while Thunderbird generates all *.msf files back. When summary file for X folder is done, you can click on X folder and see it's content. If you don't see anything, while clicking on X folder, than summary file is not ready yet or you might have another problem.
   8. Restart Thunderbird.

When I reopened Thunderbird I was happy :to find folders opened instantly with no delays. I also noticed that some of *.msf files are smaller now, so this proofs that some parts were unnecessary in those files. OR


If the corruption is severe deleting the .msf files won't help much, and compacting the folder may just make it worse. You'll typically run into this only with the 'Inbox' folder. Its much more vulnerable to corruption because many users tend to store lots of messages in it and they also frequently delete messages in it. Thats why its recommended that you don't permanently store messages in your Inbox folder, move them to other folders. You can fix the problem by replacing the corrupt folder with a new known good folder that you copied the messages to.

   1. Exit Thunderbird and make a temporary backup copy of your profile folder so that you can revert everything easily if necessary.
   2. Start Thunderbird, create a new folder and name it 'Test' folder'.
   3. In the folder that is giving you problems (e.g. Inbox), select all the messages (highlight one and then press Ctrl+a) and copy them to
'Test' folder ("Message -> Copy" -> [account name] -> 'Test' folder). In extreme cases (if Thunderbird and/or the computer become extremely sluggish), you may have to choose only a few emails at a time (choose one and then press Shift+Page Down or Page Up once or twice).
   4. Verify that all of the messages have been copied to
'Test' folder.
   5. Right-click on
'Test' folder and choose "Compact This Folder".
   6. Go to your profile folder and see if
'Test' folder looks like it has been compacted. It should be significantly smaller in size than the folder from which you copied the messages.
   7. If it looks like
'Test' folder can in fact be compacted successfully, exit Thunderbird, and go to your profile folder. Then:
  • Rename the file that was giving you problems (e.g. rename "Inbox" to "InboxOLD") and delete its .msf file (e.g. "Inbox.msf").
  • Rename the 'Test' folder to "Inbox" (or whatever the problematic folder was called) and delete "'Test' folder.msf".
  • Restart Thunderbird, and use it as usual. If compacting folders seems to work correctly during a test period (such as one week) then you can delete the folder "InboxOLD".

    If you a lazy fellow like me & don't bother to compact folders, then be warned that you could face any of the following problems. Mail files will accumulate more and more of the "hidden" messages that have been marked for permanent deletion but have not yet been removed. This can cause a lot of disk space to be used, and it can have a negative effect on Thunderbird’s performance.

  •     Even if a mail folder seems to be empty or nearly empty, the mail file can become very large. This wastes disk space, and when you back up your mail files for safekeeping, you will waste time backing up all these "hidden" messages as well.
  •     When downloading messages, you might occasionally get duplicates of messages you’ve already received
  •     Messages that you have deleted or moved to other folders may unexpectedly reappear in their original folder.
  •     Your anti-virus software might detect infected messages that you long ago deleted, even if you emptied the Trash.
  •     It could cause problems when you try to defragment your hard disk.
  •     Your Inbox might stay blank for minutes.
  •     The new message count could become much larger than the actual number of new messages. A quick fix is to delete the .msf mail summary file for that folder—Thunderbird will create a new one the next time you run it—but this will not work if the folder is badly corrupted.
Inbox stays blank

Another problem that a user can encounter is 'Blank Inbox'.  When you try try to open the Inbox and nothing happens (the message list stays blank). The "Building summary file" message (in Thunderbird's status bar) lasts for minutes. Sometimes the contents of the Inbox appear and sometimes they don't. Thunderbird hasn't entirely frozen; it still responds but the Inbox doesn't display messages or behaves strangely.

Try C2 above

If the problem is still not solved then try (not done this personally).

  a.  Exit Thunderbird.
  b. Delete the files "InboxOld" and "InboxOld.msf" and the folder "InboxOld.sbd" from your profile folder.
  c. Download the ImportExportTool extension. Note: The ImportExportTool extension used to be called the mboximport extension.
  d. Start Thunderbird and install the ImportExportTool extension.
  e. After restarting Thunderbird, try to import one of the copies using the ImportExportTool extension.
  f. If this succeeds, you can move the messages to where you want them (I suggest somewhere else than the Inbox).
  g. If you get a message that the file is not in a valid mbox format, you can try opening the file using any text editor (note that for big Inbox files - I was working with one problematic one that was more than 200MB - it will take a long time to open the file)
  h. Check that the opened text file is of a proper mbox format. In the case of my problematic file, the corruption occurs in the first line of the file. Correcting the line results in successful importing using the ImportExportTool extension.
  i. If this also fails, you may have to take your loss.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thunderbird 2 the email client + customisation my experience

I first started using Netscape Navigator for my browsing & email client needs in 1996. Later I started using Outlook Express (all different versions, from now on referred as OE6) for over a decade. I was never really happy with it but I had no better alternative (TINA factor), even tried Outlook 2000 but found it memory hungry (in those days) & above very slow.
I had heard of other email clients and had installed Eudora once to check its facilities, but was not impressed. OE never seemed to have had any improvement to its functionality. (Except for regular ‘security patches’) Then in beginning of 2008 I installed ThunderBird 2 (henceforth called TB2) and found it much to my liking & with its add-ons it was awesome. It takes about 19 – 21 secs to open first time and uses around 26 MB of memory. It seemed to have almost everything I wanted. But never migrated to it as there were news reports of TB3 in the offing. But in December ’08 I decided to take the plunge. My friend calls me a ‘Microsoft Refugee’ actually I think of my self as a ‘OE6 refugee’
Some of the features I always wanted in an email client are
a) The user can change the mail storage location. OE has this but not Outlook 2000. so that its no longer in the default C:\ drive.
b) Address book storage location is same as the point ‘a’.
c) Email mail a/c settings storage same as in point ‘a’
d) Mail filters could be saved ie: imported or exported.
e) Real time spell check something like in MS Word.
f) Could increase font size in message window by just ctrl +.
g) Wanted smileyes in the mail composer.
h) Auto zip facility of attachments inside the mail composer.
i) Option of easily changing the signature in the mail composer.
j) Easily save attachments automatically in one location (of limited use) or easily save attachments in the location of your choice and even automatically taking the subject line as the file name. (Useful when the attachment is a bank statement eg: (‘Bank Statement from ‘start period’ to ‘end period’ for ‘a/c number’’). This is the level of customization possible in TB2 using extensions.
A lot of these facilities are possible, as TB2 allows a lot of customization by using extensions. All this open source ie: It’s free. :-)
I changed from OE 6 to TB 2, installation is very straightforward and when given a choice to import mail, mail settings, address book. Select mail settings. After that open TB 2 look around to get a feel of it & then import the address book & email thru Tools -> Import.
Default Email a/c Next job is to make an email a/c default, of course if there is only one a/c it will be made default anyway & this para wont be necessary. All email id’s will be seen separate and one below another in the left side pane. Click on the one you want as default and then click on ‘View settings on this account’. The ‘Account settings’ window will now open. Now click on ‘Set as Default’ button. Next in the same window scroll down in the left pane that shows the folders of the email a/c’s and right at the bottom, click on ‘Outgoing Server SMTP’. Select the smtp entry for the default a/c & click on ‘Set Default’, so much for making an a/c default.
Address Book. Now for the address book. If in your previous client you had all your contacts in one folder, then the same will be seen in TB2. But if like me you had segregated your contacts in OE6 into separate folders, then you are going to be disappointed, as all the contacts will be jumbled up in one folder. You will have to make separate ‘folders’ called ‘address books’ (File -> New -> Address Book), in TB2 and drag contacts into the different ‘address books’ of your choice. I guess there is a trade off somewhere.
Mail Import. The imported emails will exist in a separate folder under ‘Local Folders’ called ‘Outlook Express Mail’ with all the separate folder tree structure you had made in OE6 (I assume you had many folders to segregate your mail in OE6). You will have to make a folder with the appropriate name in the relevant destination location. Then go to the imported folder, select all its contents (I assume you know how to do that), right click and click on ‘Move To’ and the relevant destination folder you see. It might so happen that if you have many folders of mail with a lot of contents then there is a possibility that, when you right click on the selected mail you cannot see the relevant destination folder you just made. Don’t fret just close TB2 & open again you will see it, and then do the needful. This ‘donkey work’ will have to be done there’s no escaping it.
In OE you could have had many email ids in your mail profile or you could make different profiles for each email id. If it’s the latter you will have to import mail separately. But import the mail from the second profile only after you shift the mail from the ‘Outlook Express Mail’ folder of the previous mail import & deleting the ‘Outlook Express Mail’ folder, which would then be empty.
If it’s the former then you have a chore of separating mail in the imported OE ‘Inbox’ folder as the contents can be for different a/c’s & also from the imported OE ‘Sent’ folder as the contents can be from different a/c’s.
The mail segregation can be done as follows.
There are two ways of doing it
a) Create a filter (this will be a temporary filter) to separate the mails AND transfer them to the relevant folder.
b) For the relevant folder type the relevant email-id in the search field (top right side of TB2) and then drag separated mail to their destination folder.
This would filter out most mails in these two imported OE folders, but problems could arise in the imported OE ‘Inbox’ folder where your email-id is in the Bcc list. In that case you may have to manually go thru each mail on an individual basis.
Message Filters. After this chore is done now for the ‘message filters’. I presume that if you had many folders in OE6, you would have made mail filters also called ‘Message Rules’ in OE6. Here too there is no escaping the drudgery of making each filter separately as OE6 never had a import/export option. You will have to go to Tools -> Message Filters, select the relevant a/c then click on New to make the filter. I have not elaborated as I presume if you had made a rule in OE6 you can do the same here. it would be a good idea to export your message filters to a folder (created by you) in your Thunderbird profile, so that way you have a backup of your filter when you take a backup of your profile.

Changing Mail Storage location

To create the mail storage location of your choice do the following

  1. Completely close Thunderbird.
  2. Copy the profile folder to wherever you want to store it. You can copy it anywhere except the application's program directory.
  3. Start the Profile Manager. A window similar to the one shown will open.
  4. Click on "Create Profile..." and, in the dialog that opens, enter a descriptive name for the profile you copied.
  5. Click on the "Choose Folder..." button. A "Browse for Folder" dialog box will open.
  6. Select the profile folder you copied and click OK.
  7. Review the path shown in the "Completing the Create Profile Wizard" dialog to make sure it is correct, then click "Finish" to create the new profile.
  8. Select the new profile and press the Start button to start Thunderbird using the moved profile.
  9. Next, check that you can see the folders for each account. If they're missing, use the "Browse" button for the local directory in Tools -> Account Settings -> Server Settings and Tools -> Account Settings -> Local Folders to specify the correct account and mail directories.
For backups of your email, address books, extensions, message filters all you have to do is make a copy of your profile folder, the same one you changed the location of above. That’s it, a far cry from OE6 where every thing was dispersed, so required far more effort.
Customization. This can be done, using extensions, which can be found, on the mozilla site. There are scores of extensions many very useful, some frivolous. Installations are straightforward. Download the required extension then, inside TB2 go to Tools-> Add-ons->Install.
I have found the following useful and am using them.
1. Attachment Extractor. Extracts all attachments from selected messages and then can delete, detach or mark-read and more
2. AutoZip Attachments. Auto Zip Attachments allows you to easily compress (zip) attachments. In mail composer. This icon will be seen in the toolbar of the mail composer window
3. British English Dictionary. (This works in FireFox too.)
4. ReminderFox ReminderFox. displays and manages lists of date-based reminders and ToDo's. ReminderFox does not seek to be a full-fledged calendar. In fact, the target audience is anybody that simply wants to remember important dates (birthdays, anniversaries, bills, etc) without having to run a whole calendar application. ReminderFox makes sure you remember all of your important dates via easy-to-use lists, alerts, and alarm notifications. This will be seen in the right hand corner of the status bar.
5. Signature Switch. Switch the signature on/off or choose a new one from your predefined set. This icon will be seen in the toolbar of the mail composer window.
6. ThunderBird Message filter Import/Export. Thunderbird Message Filter Import/Export is a thunderbird/mozilla extension to import/export message filters and will be found at Tools -> Message Filters (for exporting) & Tools -> Import Filters (for importing filters).
7. Webmail
8. Webmail Gmail
Some extensions may require additional settings change to customize for your needs. Eg: (1), (above) which I will show below.
These settings (shown below) will allow your email attachment to either be saved on the desktop (default) with the subject line of the email as the attachment file name or can be saved to a destination of your choice, with the subject line of the email as the attachment file name. Destinations other than desktop can be remembered for future use by the settings in the the ‘Advanced’ tab -> ‘Most Recently Used Folders List’ .
where \abc is the user profile name

 To Use (ver on Thunderbird 10.0.2 (Update as on 7-3-2012)

Once installed, just select the messages containing the attachments you want to extract, right click, and select 'Extract Selected Attachments' from the context menu. This will extract all the attachments from all the messages you have selected to the default Thunderbird download folder. If you want to choose the destination this time, select 'Extract Selected Attachments To..." to save to a folder of your choice. You can also access these functions from the 'Tools' menu in a 'Extract Attachments' submenu. There is also a Toolbar button you can add which gives you one-click extracting - left click to extract selected to default; right click to extract selected to a specified folder.

Friday, December 05, 2008

How to download/re-download recent Gmail messages onto multiple machines

As you know Gmail POP will only download once & if you've already downloaded your Gmail messages via POP once, you cant do it again on another machine or mobile phone. Gmail will have marked those messages as downloaded already, but to re-download them, use this neat trick, spotted in the Gmail help list:
If you're accessing your Gmail using POP from multiple clients, Gmail's recent mode makes sure that all messages are made available to each client, rather than only to the first client to access new mail.
Recent mode fetches the last 30 days of mail, regardless of whether it's been sent to another POP client already.

This is how you do it. For all POP clients. Replace '' in your POP client settings with '' & after that do one of the following
· In Outlook, on the Advanced tab, check the box next to Leave a copy of messages on the server.
· In Outlook Express, on the Advanced tab, check the box next to Leave a copy of messages on server.
· In Thunderbird, on the Server Settings tab, check the box next to Leave messages on server.
· In Apple Mail, on the Advanced tab, remove the check next to Remove copy from server after retrieving a message.

Handy, especially if you want download messages on your laptop, desktop & handheld after getting them once on one of them.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sharing files/folders across machines thru Linksys WRT54G

After I wrote the blog ‘ How to configure Linksys WRT54G wireless router’ many people then asked me how to share file & folders from the laptop/s & desktop connected to the wireless router.
First check if you can ping the laptop from your desktop & vice versa (this should work as you can access internet from both the machines) :)

On your desktop
1) Go to windows explorer & go
2) To the folders you want to share with the laptop
3) Right click on it then go to ‘Properties’
4) Next click on the ‘Sharing’ tab
5) Go to ‘Network Sharing & Security’ & click on
6) ‘Share this Folder on the Network’ check box &
7) ‘Allow network users to change my files’ check box.

Now on the laptop (mine is a Compaq machine having Vista Home Basic ) :)

On your laptop (1)
1) Switch on your WLAN (always a good policy to keep it off when not in use)
2) Next Log in to your network (Start -> Connect to -> Double click on relevant network connection option)
3) Open ‘Explorer’ go to the ‘Network’ in the tree on the left side.
4) F5 to refresh the view if necessary. If you can see the desktop great, if not go to next para.

if you cant see it, it means your firewall on your desktop could be preventing it from being seen (like in my case).
In this case go to your firewall (ZoneAlarm Pro in my case)
1) Go to ‘Firewall’ then to the ‘Zones’ tab
2) Click on the ‘Add’ push button
3) go to ‘IP range’
4) in ‘Zones’ select ‘Trusted’
5) Then add the IP of your wireless router ( in my case) In my case the desktop becomes & laptop becomes
6) So in the next line I add IP as

So I have added the IP range that should be seen thru the firewall.

On your laptop (2)
1) F5 to refresh the view, you should now be able to see the desktop
2) Click on the icon of the desktop computer & you should be able to see the folder you had previously given sharing rights from your desktop machine.

To the laptop folders which you want seen on the desktop machine you have to do the following.

1) Go to the relevant folder on the laptop right click
2) Go to ‘Properties’
3) Click on the ‘Share’ tab
4) Add the person you want to allow sharing
5) Give him the required permissions.
6) Then click on the ‘Share’ push button.
After that click on
7) Click on ‘Advanced Sharing’
8) Next select the ‘Share this folder’ check box’
9) Add the relevant share name
10) Select the number of simultaneous user you want’
11) Give him the required permissions.
Now you should be able to see the laptop on your desktop.

Now go to your desktop
1) Click on ‘My Network Places’
2) Then click on ‘View Workgroup computers’
3) You should be able to see your laptop icon here.
4) Double click on it & you should be able to see the folders/files/drive you had given permission earlier on your laptop.

If you get an error of no permissions or rights then click on ‘Start’ -> ‘Network’ on your laptop then click on the ‘Network & Sharing Center’ you will see ‘Sharing & Discovery’.
1) ‘File Sharing’ should be ‘On’ &
2) ‘Public Folder Sharing’ should be ‘On’ and
3) ‘Password Protected Sharing’ should be ‘Off’.

This last bit of switching ‘Off’ ‘Password Protection’ is something I don’t like, but have not found a way around currently :(. For the current network connection made as mentioned in my blog is secure, but when this laptop is connected to a unsecured network any where your shared folders/files/drive could be at risk from intruders. As Vista is a new animal to me and since this is the first preloaded OS machine I have I am quite ignorant about how (regarding rights/permissions) the OS was loaded. (Before this all machines I had were assembled to my specs and the OS & s/w’s were installed by me so I feel quite handicapped with this laptop having Vista.