February 2nd, 2021 | Published in Software
Ever since I chose Thunderbird as my desktop email client many years ago, there have been on ongoing struggle with one particular issue. For the life of me, I can’t understand why Thunderbird developers don’t fix it or at least make it a configurable option. I am talking about the [X] button. When you click it, the program is gone. Not a biggie, you might say, but NO, it IS! You rely on your email client, and you expect it to bring up a notification when new messages arrive. If you or someone else closes the program by accident, you could go for hours without realizing that you are not seeing any incoming emails because Thunderbird is not running in the background.
Looking for a solution, I have tried several add-ons like MinimizeToTray (followed by MinimizeToTray Revived, followed by MinimizeToTray Reanimated), with varying degrees of success. To be more precise, they started out fine, but at some point they stopped working when a new Thunderbird upgrade was rolled out. It was really like a never ending arms and shields game. When another incarnation of the plugin was declared incompatible with Thunderbird as of version 68.0, I was about to give up, but because the problem was still there I kept looking. And, believe it or not, an answer was found!
Turns out, one frustrated Thunderbird user named Johannes Schultz, a.k.a Saga Musix, decided to take it upon himself and came up with a very radical approach to get over it once and for all. Here is what he says on his webpage:
After the x-th reincarnation of the MinimizeToTray add-on for Thunderbird broke in Thunderbird 68, it seems like it becomes more and more difficult, if not impossible, to solve the issue at hand – keeping Thunderbird minimized in the notification area when closing or minimizing it – using Web Extensions.
So I decided to fork a program a friend of mine wrote – traktouch, as it solves a very similar problem. I could have written it from scratch, but this way I didn’t have to write most of the boilerplate code.
You might ask, why is the above mentioned plugin called MinimizeToTray and not MininimizeOnClose? Well, that is because the ability to minimize Thunderbird on close was a byproduct of the extension that was designed to address a related issue whereby the program did not go into the System Tray when minimized, and just stayed in the Taskbar! It was not until version 78.0 that the developers got around to implementing the Minimize To Tray functionality as a configurable option in Thunderbird.
Can you imagine this? An email client that by definition must remain in memory so it can check your inbox for new messages in the background, yet it always sticks around right in front of your eyes in the Taskbar! No wonder that add-on developers sought to address that deficiency first, and only then added logic to preventing Thunderbird from being accidentally closed. As I already mentioned, the former of the two is now taken care of — kudos to the Thunderbird team, and for the latter one we now have a permanent solution in TBTray, which actually fixes both.
TBTray is an open-source portable Windows application that doesn’t require installation. It is licensed under GPL and is free for personal and commercial use. You just go to the TBTray download page and click the link to the TBTray.zip file.
Once the archive is downloaded, unzip its contents into a folder of your choice and follow the instructions on the TBTray webpage.
IMPORTANT: Be sure to use the bit version (32- or 64-bit) of TBTray that matches the bit version of Thunderbird, not the bit version of your Windows operating system!
After you are done setting up TBTray, you will see a Thunderbird icon sitting in your System Tray. It will be hiding in the ‘Only show notifications’ area, so you will need to bring it up to see the icon. You can drag the icon onto the Taskbar if you want, but that is up to you. What you definitely want to do is make sure that the New Messages notification icon is configured to be in the visible ‘Show icon and notifications’ area. To verify this, send yourself a test email and click the Get Messages button in Thunderbird. If the notification icon doesn’t show up right away, it most likely sits in the hidden area. Bring up the System Tray, locate the icon and move it onto the Taskbar.
Now you should be all set. Enjoy your new Thunderbird experience!