Message Tabs

This article is no longer maintained, so its content might be out of date.

Message tabs enable messages, folders, search results and even some web content to be displayed in tabs within a single Thunderbird window. Similar to Firefox's tabbed browsing, multiple messages can be displayed without opening multiple Thunderbird message windows.


How to change tab behavior

The message tab behavior depends on a preference setting. Thunderbird gives you the option to make messages open in new tabs, new windows or an existing Thunderbird window. You can change this preference in the OptionsPreferences window:

  1. The template "OptionsPreferences TB" does not exist or has no approved revision.
  2. Select the Display panel.
  3. Select the Advanced tab.

options-open-tabs-win-tb17 Tab_Preference_Location-win


By default, when Thunderbird is opened it creates a single tab. This displays all of the mail accounts and folders in a panel on the left, and a message list and selected message on the right. (The messages displayed depend on which folder and message is selected.)

Default Tab Screenshot

Using tabs

When you double-click a message, press Enter when a message is highlighted, or right-click a message in the message list and select Open Message in New Tab, the message will be displayed in a new tab:

Open Message in a New Tab 2

To open a folder in a tab in the background (that is, to keep focus on the current tab while opening a new tab that contains the selected item), right-click the folder and select Open in New Tab. You can also middle-click a message or folder to open it in a tab in the background.

When you perform a search, the results are displayed in a tab:

Search Results in a Tab

When you double-click a newsgroup message or a blog post in the message list, the message or post is displayed in a new tab:

Double Click New Tab

Use the Ctrl + Tab (and Ctrl + Shift + Tab) keystrokes to move to the right or left tab respectively. To move to a specific tab, use Ctrl + <number>Alt + <number>Command + <number>, where "<number>" is a digit that represents the desired tab's position from left to right. (For example, to jump to the fourth tab from the left, use Ctrl + 4Alt + 4Command + 4.)

You can reposition tabs by clicking and dragging individual tabs into the desired position.

Certain kinds of web content can also be displayed in a tab in Thunderbird. For example, if you click Help and select What's New, Thunderbird opens a tab and displays content from the web. However, as a user, you can't select web content to display in a tab - it only happens when the function is invoked from within the Thunderbird program or from within a Thunderbird extension.

To close a tab, either click the close symbol or use the Ctrl + WCommand + W keyboard shortcut.

These fine people helped write this article:

Illustration of hands


Grow and share your expertise with others. Answer questions and improve our knowledge base.

Learn More