Thunderbird's advanced search helps you find mail fast

The search features built into Mozilla's free e-mail program put your messages at your fingertips.

Compared with Outlook and other commercial e-mail programs (are there any other commercial e-mail programs left?) Mozilla's free Thunderbird e-mail client has a lot going for it. Not the least of Thunderbird's time-saving features are its search capabilities.

If you don't see the search toolbar directly above the main Thunderbird window, click View > Toolbars > Search Bar. By default, you can view all your mail, all your unread mail, all mail with one of Thunderbird's five built-in labels attached (Important, Work, Personal, To Do, Later), mail from people in your address book, messages received recently, mail with attachments, and mail that the program has identified as "Not Junk."

Mozilla Thunderbird View menu
Thunderbird's View options let you sort your mail into several prefab categories. Mozilla Foundation

To create your own message view, click Customize in the View drop-down menu, and choose New in the Customize Message Views dialog box, or select one of the existing views and click Edit. In the Message View Setup window, choose either "Match all of the following" or "Match any of the following," and make your selections in the location and parameters drop-down menus. Enter the text you want to search for in the text box, and click the plus sign to add additional parameters. When you're done, click OK twice. The view you just created will appear in the View box, and messages matching your selected parameters will display automatically.

Mozilla Thunderbird Message View Setup dialog box
Create a custom view in Thunderbird to filter your messages with a single click. Mozilla Foundation

Save time with Thunderbird's Quick Search
Custom views are great if you know ahead of time what you'll be looking for, but you can also create a "view" on the fly by converting a search into a virtual folder. Press Alt-I, Tab to move the cursor to the search box, press Alt-down arrow to display the search-parameters drop-down menu, use the arrow keys to navigate to your desired parameter, press Tab again to select it, and type your search term. When the results appear, choose Save Search as a Folder, rename the folder and make other changes (or accept the defaults), and click OK. The folder appears in the left pane in whichever location you chose for it in the New Saved Search Folder dialog box.

Tomorrow: The perils of trying to break the Microsoft habit.

About the author

    Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.


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