Installing Thunderbird on Linux

This article will show you how to install Thunderbird on the Ubuntu distribution of Linux. Other distributions of Linux are similar but are not covered specifically in this article.

Many Linux distributions include Thunderbird by default, and most have a package management system that enables you to easily install Thunderbird. Generally, you should install from the package management system, because it will:

  • Ensure that you have all the required libraries
  • Install Thunderbird in a way that works best with your distribution
  • Create shortcuts to launch Thunderbird
  • Make Thunderbird available to all users of your computer
  • Make removing Thunderbird work the same as removing any other application
  • Help remind you about Thunderbird updates

Package management also has some disadvantages:

  • It may not give you the latest version of Thunderbird
  • It may give you a version without Thunderbird branding

Therefore we recommend installing Thunderbird from the Ubuntu package system which as of Ubuntu 10.04 is the Ubuntu Software Center. See "Installing from the Ubuntu Software Center" below.

Installing from the Ubuntu Software Center

Install the latest official release

On Ubuntu systems (10.04 or newer), the easiest way to install is via the Ubuntu Software Center. Note that you will need super user rights. Go to Applications -> Ubuntu Software Center and search for Thunderbird :


Click on install and let the system install the Thunderbird application.

Once the installation has finished, you will be able to start Thunderbird from Applications -> Internet-> Mozilla Thunderbird Mail/News. Pressing the right button on the item will allow you to copy it to different places, like the panel or your desktop:


Installing via command-line

sudo apt-get install thunderbird

This is the command you need to install the latest thunderbird.

Downloading and installing from the Mozilla Messaging website

If you choose not to install via your system's package management system, you can download and install from an installer file.

  1. Download the installation archive from Mozilla web site
  2. Unpack the Thunderbird installation archive
  3. Create a Menu Item for Thunderbird

Downloading the Thunderbird archive

Open a web browser, go to and click the download button to download the en-US version of Thunderbird. For a different language version, select the preferred language in the drop-down box in the lower right corner of the page. On the subsequent page select the type of the installation you want. In the download window, select Save File and click OK.

Unpacking the Thunderbird archive

When the download has completed, open the Downloads window, right click on the file you have downloaded and select Open.


Click Extract.


Select the /home/username/ folder and click Extract.

When the extraction has ended, click Quit to finish the process.

Adding Thunderbird to the panel

To make it easy to start Thunderbird, you can place a startup shortcut on your desktop or into a panel for fast access. On non-Ubuntu distributions of Linux, you should be able to customize it a similar way as described below for Ubuntu users. See How to add entries in GNOME menu to learn more.

Using Terminal to download and install Thunderbird

You can perform the whole download and installation procedure in Terminal if you want. The first two steps described above (downloading and unpacking Thunderbird archive) can be done with the following command:

wget ' -O- | ' sudo tar xj -C /opt && sudo ln -s /opt/thunderbird/thunderbird /usr/bin/thunderbird

Note that this will also create a link in /usr/bin/ so that you can launch Thunderbird from the terminal without specifying its folder. Modify the following parts of that command to suit your environment:

  • change en-US to your locale
  • change thunderbird-3.1.4.tar.bz2 to the version requested.

Enter your password to confirm the action.

To update Thunderbird, you have to launch it as an administrator:

sudo thunderbird

To uninstall Thunderbird, enter:

sudo rm -rf /opt/thunderbird /usr/bin/thunderbird

apt-get Command Line Thunderbird Installation

Ubuntu Software Center is a graphical front end to the command line "apt-get" system that makes it much easier for non technical users to install Thunderbird. Since apt-get requires command line knowledge and is more technical, it won't be covered here.

If you are more technical and wish to use apt-get to install Thunderbird, please consult the apt-get documentation on the Debian website (Ubuntu Linux is based on Debian Linux).

See Also

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