How to Create Rules in Thunderbird - A Complete Guide

Dec 15, 2023 | By Deepak Singh Bisht

Do you find yourself drowning in a sea of emails that don't require your immediate attention? Imagine if there was an easy way to manage these emails, automatically sorting them into specific folders. Well, the good news is, there is! Email clients like Thunderbird offer a neat feature called 'Message Filters' or 'Email Rules' that can do this for you.

If you're a Thunderbird user, this post will be a game-changer for you. Here we will learn about the Thunderbird message filters and how to set Thunderbird email rules to keep your inbox tidy and stress-free.

What's a Thunderbird message filter?

Thunderbird message filters are a set of automated rules applied within the Mozilla Thunderbird email client. These filters are designed to automatically process incoming (and sometimes outgoing) emails based on criteria defined by the user. The primary function of these filters is to manage and organize emails efficiently, reducing the need for manual intervention.

How they work

When an email arrives in Thunderbird, the message filters immediately assess it against the predefined Thunderbird rules for incoming mail. These rules are conditions that you specify, like keywords in the email's subject line, the sender's email address, or certain words in the email body. Once a rule is triggered, the filter performs the action associated with that rule.

Types of actions

Moving messages: Filters can automatically move emails to designated folders based on your criteria. For example, all emails from a specific sender can go directly into a folder named after them.

Forwarding emails: They can be set to automatically forward certain emails to different addresses, a useful feature for ensuring important messages are sent to relevant people or departments.

Deleting emails: Filters can also be configured to automatically delete emails, like those identified as spam or containing specific unwanted content.

Additional actions: Other actions include marking emails as read or unread, tagging them with specific labels for easier identification, or even changing their priority status.


Time-saving: By automating the sorting and organizing process, these Thunderbird filter rules save significant time that would otherwise be spent manually managing emails.

Efficiency: They enhance the efficiency of email management, especially for users who deal with high volumes of emails daily.

Customization: Users can create highly customized rules, making the email management process adaptable to specific personal or professional needs.

Use cases

Professional use: For professionals, filters can be set to prioritize client emails, automatically forward project updates to team members, or filter out non-urgent communications.

Personal use: On a personal level, filters can help in segregating social media notifications, promotional emails, and personal messages into different folders.

In summary, Thunderbird Message Filters are a powerful tool for automating and simplifying email management. Their ability to perform various actions based on user-defined rules makes them an indispensable feature for both personal and professional email users, helping to maintain an organized and efficient inbox.

How to create rules in Mozilla Thunderbird?

Creating rules in Thunderbird is a simple process. Here's a way to setting up Thunderbird rules:

  1. Start Mozilla Thunderbird
  2. Create a New Folder
  3. Go to the Tools and select Message Filters.
  4. From Message Filters, click on the New button.
  5. Enter Filter Name and select all checkboxes if required
  6. Choose Match any of the following.
  7. Select Message properties like Subject, From, Body, Date, Priority, Status, To, CC, etc.
  8. Select Condition such as Contains, Doesn't Contain, is, isn't, begins with, and ends with
  9. Enter Keyword, sender id, etc.
  10. To add more filters or conditions, click on the + button.
  11. From Perform these actions, choose any action like Move Message to, Copy Message to, Forward Message to, Mark as Read, Mark as unread, Add Star, Set Priority, etc.
  12. Select a destination folder and click on the OK button.

You're all set! Your Thunderbird email client will now automatically organize your emails based on the rules you've set up.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make emails go to a specific folder in Thunderbird?

  1. Start Mozilla Thunderbird
  2. Go to the Tools and select Message Filters
  3. Click on the New button and provide a Filter name
  4. Select all checkboxes and choose Match any of the following
  5. Enter conditions such as SUBJECT, CONTAINS, and Type the word
  6. From Perform these actions, select Move message to option, and choose a folder
  7. Finally, click on the OK button.

How can I filter promotional emails automatically?

  1. Start Thunderbird and go to Tools > Message Filters.
  2. Click New to create a new filter.
  3. Name it something like "Promotional Emails".
  4. Under the conditions, select "From" and then "contains", and enter the email addresses or domains of frequent promotional senders.
  5. Alternatively, use "Subject" and "contains" and enter common phrases found in promotional emails like "sale", "offer", or "discount".
  6. Set the action to "Move Message to" and select or create a folder named "Promotions".
  7. Save the filter. Now, incoming promotional emails will automatically go to the designated folder.

How do I create a filter for high priority client emails?

  1. Start Thunderbird and go to Tools > Message Filters.
  2. Click New to create a new filter.
  3. Name it something like "High Priority Clients".
  4. Set the condition to "From" and "contains", then enter the email addresses of key clients.
  5. You can add multiple conditions for different clients.
  6. Choose the action "Add Star" and also "Set Priority" to "Highest".
  7. Optionally, you can also move these to a specific folder named "Important Clients" for easy access.
  8. This filter will highlight and prioritize emails from specified clients.

Is there a way to auto-forward certain emails?

  1. Start Thunderbird and go to Tools > Message Filters.
  2. Click New to create a new filter.
  3. Name it something like "Forward to Manager".
  4. Set conditions based on the type of emails you want to forward, like specific subjects or senders.
  5. Choose the action "Forward Message to" and enter the forwarding email address.
  6. This is particularly useful for ensuring that important emails are shared with relevant colleagues or departments.

Can I apply multiple filters to the same email in Thunderbird?

Yes, you can apply multiple filters to the same email. Thunderbird processes each filter in the order they are listed in the Message Filters window. If an email meets the criteria of multiple filters, each applicable action will be executed in sequence.

How can I organize filters for better management?

You can organize filters by naming them descriptively and arranging them in the order you want them applied. It’s also possible to group similar filters together, such as all filters related to work emails or newsletters, for easier management.

Is it possible to temporarily disable a filter without deleting it?

Yes, Thunderbird allows you to temporarily disable a filter without deleting it. In the Message Filters window, simply uncheck the box next to the filter you want to disable. This way, the filter is kept intact for future use but won't be applied to new emails.

Can Thunderbird filters handle emails with specific attachments?

Yes, Thunderbird can filter emails based on attachments. You can set up filters to identify emails with attachments of certain types or sizes, which can then be moved, deleted, or flagged according to your preferences.

Are there any limitations to Thunderbird's message filters?

While Thunderbird's filters are powerful, they can't execute complex scripting or handle very specific cases that require nuanced human judgment. They work best for routine and clearly definable email sorting tasks.

How can I backup or share my Thunderbird filters?

Thunderbird allows you to export and import filter settings, making it easy to back them up or share with others. This can be done through the Filter Export/Import add-on or by manually copying the relevant filter files from your Thunderbird profile directory.

The Final Word

Managing a crowded inbox is no fun. But, with Thunderbird's message filters, you can automate the process, saving time and sanity. You can set up Thunderbird rules to sort and move emails based on various criteria, keeping your inbox organized and making email management a breeze. It might take a few minutes to set up, but the time you'll save in the future makes it worth it. After all, an organized inbox can be a significant step towards a more efficient, less stressful workday.

The Author

Deepak Singh Bisht

Deepak Singh Bisht

Content Lead |

Deepak Singh Bisht is a dedicated IT professional with over 9 years of experience, is a key member at SysCurve Software for the last 5 years. His expertise lies in email migration and data recovery, with a focus on technologies like MS Outlook and Office 365. Deepak, who also delves into front-end technology and software development, holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Applications.

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