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 be set up to work seamlessly with Google's 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 Google's authentication process. Thunderbird is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and other operating systems.

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Configure Your Gmail Account

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

  1. On your computer, open Gmail.

  2. In the top right, select Settings (the gear icon).

  3. Select Settings again.

    Set up Gmail for IMAP
  4. Select the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab.

  5. In the IMAP access section, select Enable IMAP.

    Set up Gmail IMAP
  6. Select Save Changes.

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

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. The Mail Account Setup dialog is now displayed.

    Set up Gmail in Thunderbird
  4. Provide your Gmail account information (real name, email address, and password). Thunderbird will automatically configure your Gmail connection. 

  5. Select Done.

  6. Sign in with your Google account if prompted.

  7. Thunderbird will download your Gmail messages and you can now access your Gmail on Thunderbird.

Organize Gmail Folders Within Thunderbird

In the IMAP implementation used by Gmail, Gmail labels become Thunderbird folders. So when you label a message in Gmail, Thunderbird creates a folder with that label, storing the message in that folder.

By default, all Gmail folders you already set up are displayed in Thunderbird. If you want to choose which Gmail folders to display in Thunderbird, it's easy to configure your folder display.

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

    Set up Gmail in Thunderbird
  2. Uncheck any folders that you don't want to display in Thunderbird.

  3. The unchecked folders won't display in Thunderbird.

Messages will still be downloaded and available through the All Mail folder. They will also be included in search results.

Sync Gmail Contacts in Thunderbird

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

Thunderbird used to be managed by Mozilla Corporation and Mozilla Messaging but is now its own entity supported by volunteers. Mozilla still hosts many Thunderbird resources, however.