Display name in message list and message pane

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It is possible for an email address to have an associated user-friendly display name. For example, the email address smithj@megacorp.com might have an associated display name of John Smith.

There are two places where a display name can be associated with an email address:

  • in an email message
  • in a contact in the Thunderbird address book

Suppose you receive a message from smithj@megacorp.com. As you look at the list of email messages in your inbox, what you see in the Correspondents column for the message will depend on whether or not there is a display name for smithj@megacorp.com in the message itself and/or in your address book.

  • If you already have the sender (smithj@megacorp.com) as a contact in your Thunderbird address book, then you will see the display name from your address book: John Smith.
  • If you do not have the sender as a contact in your Thunderbird address book, but he has sent John Smith as a display name along with his message, you will see his display name: John Smith.
  • If the sender has not sent a display name along with his message, then you will see his email address: smithj@megacorp.com.

Setting the Display Name in a contact in your address book

Note that it is useful to have contact info in your address book, because the contact info contains (or can create) a display name for messages that you send. When you click on an address book contact to send a message, the display name that you have in your address book is sent along with the email address.

If you receive an email message from someone who is not in your address book, and you use the message to add the sender's email address to your address book, if the message contains the sender's display name, then that display name is added to the address book. If the message has no display name, you can manually add a display name to a contact in the address book.

And of course you can manually add, remove, or edit a display name for any contact in the address book.

Setting the Display Name usage in options To always use the display name from the message header, go to Thunderbird > PreferencesTools > OptionsEdit > Preferences > Advanced > Reading & DisplayDisplay > Advanced and uncheck Show only display name for people in my address book.

You can specify this preference for individual contacts by editing the contact in the address book and unchecking Always prefer display name over message header.

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