How To: Install Thunderbird 3 in Linux

Update: In Ubuntu 10.04 Thunderbird 3 is now in the repositories so you can just install it through Synaptic or use sudo apt-get install thunderbird

Thunderbird is my email client of choice, but Thunderbird 2.x has some issues that bug me, like poor search facilities, no tabbed emails etc. so I want the next version with all its added goodness. However, Thunderbird 3 isn’t packaged in the Ubuntu repos yet, and I don’t feel like adding a PPA to my software sources (where Thunderbird is oddly branded as its project codename: Shredder) or waiting a couple of months until it’s available – so I’ve installed the new version manually and hooked it up to my Thunderbird 2 emails like this:

Thunderbird Logo

1.) Get Thunderbird 3 from

2.) Extract it by right-clicking on the file and selecting Extract Here, or from the console with something along the lines of:

tar xfvj thunderbird-3.0.tar.bz2

Why xfvj? Because:
x = Extract
f = File mode (use the file listed on the command line)
v = Verbose (print a bunch of stuff to the screen so you can see what’s happening)
j = The file is compressed (you can tell because it’s called thunderbird-3.0.tar.bz2), so pipe it through bzip2 to decompress it first

3.) Copy it to a more reasonable location where you want it to live with:

sudo mv ./thunderbird /opt/

4.) Sort out your email profile:

Thunderbird 2.0 uses the location ~/mozilla-thunderbird (i.e. a folder called .mozilla-thunderbird located in your home directory) to store your email, while Thunderbird 3 uses ~/.thunderbird, so when I did this I hedged my bets to make sure TB3 didn’t knacker the only copy of my email hive by creating a copy of the ~/.mozilla-thunderbird folder and renaming it to .thunderbird

5.) Create a launcher for our new Thunderbird install:

Assuming you’re using gnome, right-click on the top gnome panel and select Add to Panel, then select Custom Application Launcher and enter the following details:

Thunderbird 3 Launcher Details

6.) Launch Thunderbird 3 from your spiffy new launcher

Ch-Ching! New, emaily goodness is yours for the taking. You might want to uninstall Thunderbird 2 from Synaptic and nuke your old ~/.mozillia-thunderbird folder once everything’s up and running as it’s pretty unlikely you’ll ever be going back to an older version.

Shouts out to Parick Micka for his post which got me started, as the official Thunderbird install/upgrade instructions for linux – well, I couldn’t find them, and don’t know if they even exist.

3 thoughts on “How To: Install Thunderbird 3 in Linux”

  1. Thanks for the link love. Out of curiosity, do you think it might be more practical to simply create a symbolic link ~/.thunderbird pointing to ~/.mozilla-thunderbird in step four to save some space?

    1. No worries :D

      And yeah – guess you could symlink it with ln -s ~/.mozilla-thunderbird ~/.thunderbird, but I wasn’t sure if TB3 was going to eat my emails when it tried to import them, and if it had mangled the conversion I’d have lost the lot, so I made a copy to be on the safe side…

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