Thunderbird includes a message indexing and search system called "Gloda", which is short for "Global database". It improves search performance, provides sophisticated full-text search capabilities and displays faceted (categorized) search results.
Global search queries all of your messages, regardless of the account the message is associated with or the folder where the message is stored. The Quick Filter, on the other hand, is used to search for messages in the current message list. (See the Quick Filter Toolbar article for information on using the Quick Filter.)
Global search is enabled by default. (It can be disabled on the Advanced panel in the Thunderbird optionspreferences.) The global search text box is located on the right side of the toolbar above the Quick Filter bar.
The search is performed in all fields in all messages: subject, message body, From address, To address, etc. The search is not case-sensitive - searching for "thunderbird" will return messages that contain both "thunderbird" and "Thunderbird".
You can use the wildcard character "*" at the end of your search item. "thunder*" will then not only find messages with "Thunderbird" but also those about "thunderbolts".
Search results are displayed in a new tab. You will be able to filter the search by various criteria.
Enter a term in the search box. As you type, a drop-down list will display possible matches for your term (such as email addresses that match the characters you have entered).
Enter multiple terms in the search box. Thunderbird will search for messages that contain at least one occurrence of each of the specified terms. If you enclose multiple terms within quotation marks, Thunderbird will search for the words as a phrase. That is, the search results will only contain messages that have all the words in the order they are specified in the search field. These two types of searches can be combined. For example, if you enter:
converting "imap pop"
...Thunderbird will find emails that contain the term "converting" and the phrase "imap pop".
Search for the terms "new", "Thunderbird" and "pages" (without any quotation marks). Results should include messages that contain at least one occurrence of each of the terms:
Search for the phrase "new Thunderbird pages". Results should include messages that contain the entire phrase:
You can combine these two types of searches. For example, search for "New Thunderbird" and "pages" returns messages that contain the phrase "new Thunderbird" and the word "pages":
Search results are displayed in a new tab. There is a panel on the left that categorizes the results, showing, for example, the number of messages containing the term(s) in conversations with specific people, or in messages stored in particular mail folders, etc.
Use the Filters fields in the left panel to filter the messages returned by the original search. If you click an item under "Folder", "People" or "Account, you will be given the option to specify whether the message must (or must not) contain the item.
For example, say you were searching for "Thunderbird" AND "pages". You could refine the search results by selecting messages where you were a recipient (by clicking the To Me checkbox). Then you could further refine the results by selecting specific people and mail folders associated with the message (by clicking on the text in the left panel). (To remove selected people or mail folders from the filter criteria, click on the text again.)
A timeline is displayed above the messages included in the search results. The timeline shows the number of messages that match the search criteria, organized in chronological order.
Click on one of the bars or on the month, day or year labels to change the period of time that is displayed.
If you hover over one of the filter criterion in the left panel (without actually activating the filter), a darker area in the timeline bars shows when messages related to that criteria were sent / received.
Click the bar-graph icon in the top right corner to toggle the timeline display.
Click a message in the search results to view it. It will open in a new tab, along with other messages that have the same Subject. Your original search will be left unchanged in the search tab, so you can go back and continue searching.
When the message list is displayed, you can use the Quick Filter fields to search within the list.