How to Access Gmail With Thunderbird

Easily sync Gmail with Thunderbird and stop switching between inboxes

Thunderbird is a free, open-source, cross-platform application for managing email, news feeds, chat, and newsgroups. One great feature of Thunderbird is that it can work seamlessly with Google Gmail, synchronizing messages between your local version of Thunderbird and your web-based Gmail account. Here's how to access Gmail through Thunderbird on your desktop.

This article pertains to Thunderbird versions 38 and newer. Older versions don't integrate properly with the Google authentication process. Thunderbird is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and other operating systems.

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How to Configure Your Gmail Account

For Thunderbird to integrate properly with Gmail, the first step is to enable IMAP on your Gmail account. IMAP is on by default on newer Gmail accounts, so check this only if you have an older Gmail account.

  1. On your computer, go to the Gmail site.

  2. In the upper-right corner, select the gear icon.

    A screenshot of a Gmail inbox with the Settings gear highlighted
  3. Select Settings.

    A screenshot of Gmail with the Settings menu item highlighted
  4. Select the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab.

    A screenshot of Gmail settings with the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab highlighted
  5. In the IMAP access section, select Enable IMAP.

    The Enable IMAP option
  6. Select Save Changes.

How to Set Up an IMAP Account for Your Email Client

After IMAP is enabled in Gmail, if necessary, set up a new IMAP account in your email client of choice. Here are the settings:

Incoming Mail (IMAP) Server

  • IMAP Server: imap.gmail.com
  • Port: 993
  • Require SSL: Yes
  • Username: Your Gmail email address
  • Password: Your Gmail email password

Outgoing Mail (SMTP) SERVER

  • SMTP Server: smtp.gmail.com
  • Port for SSL: 465
  • Port for TLS/STARTTLS: 587
  • Require SSL: Yes
  • Requires TLS: Yes (if available)
  • Require authentication: Yes
  • Username: Your Gmail email address
  • Password: Your Gmail email password

How to Access Gmail With Thunderbird

To access your IMAP-enabled Gmail account in Thunderbird:

  1. Open Thunderbird on your desktop.

  2. Select File > New > Existing Mail Account.

    Set up Gmail in Thunderbird
  3. In the Mail Account Setup dialog box, provide your Gmail account information (real name, email address, and password). Thunderbird configures the Gmail connection automatically.

    Set up Gmail in Thunderbird
  4. Select Continue.

  5. Sign in with your Google account.

  6. Thunderbird downloads your Gmail messages, and you can now access your Gmail on Thunderbird.

How to Organize Gmail Folders Within Thunderbird

In Gmail's IMAP implementation, labels become Thunderbird folders. When you label a message in Gmail, Thunderbird creates a folder with the same name and stores messages there.

By default, Thunderbird shows all Gmail folders that you set up. To choose which Gmail folders to display in Thunderbird, you can change a few settings.

  1. In Thunderbird, go to the File menu and select Subscribe.

  2. Clear the check boxes next to the folders that you don't want to display in Thunderbird.

    Uncheck the labels you don't want to sync
  3. Select OK.

    The OK button
  4. The unchecked folders don't display in Thunderbird.

Thunderbird still downloads messages and makes those messages available in the All Mail folder. These messages also appear in the search results.

Sync Gmail Contacts in Thunderbird

To sync your Gmail contacts in Thunderbird, try an add-on such as Google Contacts or gContactSync.

Mozilla Corporation and Mozilla Messaging used to manage Thunderbird, but it's now a separate entity running on volunteer support. Mozilla still hosts many Thunderbird resources, however.