A Step-By-Step Guide to Searching Mail in Mozilla Thunderbird

Stack of Mail

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If you're in the habit of keeping hundreds or thousands of emails in your email folders (and who isn't?), when you need to find a specific message, the task can be intimidating. It's a good thing Mozilla Thunderbird keeps your email in its electronic mind—mapped, categorized, and ready for near-instant retrieval—in a powerful manner to boot.

Enable Fast and Universal Search in Mozilla Thunderbird

To make sure fast indexed search is available in Mozilla Thunderbird:

  1. Select Tools | Options… or Thunderbird | Preferences… from the menu.

  2. Go to the Advanced tab.

  3. Open the General category. This step may not be necessary in newer versions of thunderbird. If you don't see it, skip to the next step

  4. Make sure Enable Global Search and Indexer is enabled under Advanced Configuration.

  5. Close the Advanced preferences window.

Search Mail in Mozilla Thunderbird

To find a specific email in Mozilla Thunderbird, start by performing a simple search:

  1. Click in the search field in the Mozilla Thunderbird toolbar.

  2. Type the words you think were the subject of the email or start typing email addresses to find all the email from a specific person. 

  3. Click Enter or select an auto-completion choice if there is more than one match.

To narrow the search results:

  1. Click any year, month or day to show only results from that time.

    Click the looking glass to zoom out.

    If you cannot see the timeline, click the timeline icon.

  2. Hover over any filter, person, folder, tag, account or mailing list in the left pane to see where in time and on the timeline the messages matching the filter are located.

  3. To exclude persons, folders, or other criteria from search results:

    • Click the unwanted person, tag, or another category.
    • Select can't be… from the menu that comes up.
  4. To reduce results to a particular contact, account, or another criterion:​

    • Click the desired person, folder, or category.
    • Select must be… from the menu that appears.
  5. To filter your search results:

    • Check From Me to see only messages sent from one of your email addresses.
    • Check To Me to include messages to you as a recipient.
    • Check Starred to see only starred messages.
    • Check Attachments to see only messages that include attached files.
  6. That's it!

To open any message, click its subject line in the search results. To act on multiple messages or see more details, click Open as list at the top of the results list.