Organize Your Messages by Using Filters

Message filters allow you to set up Thunderbird to organize your messages automatically. Filters can move messages to folders, delete them, forward them to other email addresses, and more.

To create a new filter:

1. In the Menu Bar, click Tools, then click Message Filters.

2. Click New. A Filter Rules dialog box will appear.

3. In the "Filter Name" field, type a name for your filter.

4. In the "Apply filter when" dropdown, click on one of the options.

NOTE: In most cases, you won’t want to change from the default “Checking Mail or Manually Run” option.

5. Choose a property, a test and a value for each rule you want to apply:

  • A property is a message element or characteristic such as “Subject” or “From”
  • A test is a check on the property, such as “contains” or “is in my address book”
  • A value completes the test with a specific detail, such as an email address or keyword

6. Choose one or more actions for messages that meet those criteria.

Elements of a new Filter Rules dialog

NOTE: To add another rule, click Add a new rule + at the end of the last rule. To delete a rule, click Remove this rule .

7. Click OK.

8. In the Message Filters dialog, click Run Now if you want the new filter to be applied to messages you’ve already received. The filter will automatically be applied to all new messages after it's saved.

Example filters

Add a star

You might want to automatically add a star to all messages from your workplace domain, making them stand out from the rest of your Inbox messages. You could create this filter:

Filter example, add Star

TIP: You can create a filter using a sender’s email address directly from one of that sender’s messages. In the message header, right-click on the sender’s address and click on “Create Filter From.” By default, the new filter begins with the rule From | Is | (sender’s email address).

Move to a folder

You may like to filter out lower-priority messages from your Inbox to reduce clutter. For example you may have chosen to receive notifications from businesses you patronize, but like to keep them in a separate folder.

First, create a folder called “Promotions” (or something similar) by clicking File | New | Folder. You could then create a filter like this:

Filter example, move to "Promotions" folder

Because you selected the "Match any of the following option", all messages that meet any one of these criteria will be automatically be moved from the Inbox to the Promotions folder:

  • Are from the address, or
  • Have “discount” in the subject line, or
  • Have the word “customer” somewhere in the address or display name (“customer.service”, “Customer Support” etc.)
NOTE: While you can also use filters to catch and dispose of junk email – that is, promotions you DIDN’T sign up for – it’s not recommended. Instead, consider using Thunderbird's junk mail controls, which were specially designed for this purpose.
TIP: If you have trouble with one of your filters, try starting small and working your way up. For example, you might have written a filter to move certain new messages to a different folder and it doesn't seem to do anything. Modify the message filter to make it add a star to all new messages. If that works, modify the filter to add the star only for those messages that you want to move to a folder. If that works, modify the filter move the messages instead of adding a star.

See Also

Quick Filter Toolbar

Using Saved Searches

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