Thunderbird Message Filters

I’ve been a big fan of the Mozilla products for quite some time now. I like how they are independent, lightweight, and easy to use. I really do love the Microsoft line of products as well, but I have no real compelling reason to use them. I love Office and cannot live without it. But I’ve ditched IE a long time ago and Outlook was ditched after I got my Mac. This is because I realized how much easier it was to move my calendar from my Mac (using iCal) to Outlook as opposed to the other way around.

Since I don’t use only one computer, I have this problem of redundant data and data that is out of date. I’m not so concerned about some data, such as, my internet history, cookies, or add-ons (themes & extensions). What I am concerned about are things like my bookmarks, preferences, mail settings, and mail filters. I’ve solved the first problem with a spiffy little extension for Firefox called Firefox Bookmark Synchronizer. That lets me have the same bookmarks on all of my computers that use Firefox.

Recently, I’ve been switching over to Thunderbird to handle my mail. It is based on open standards, which plays nice with my Mac, and it works better with my IMAP than Outlook does. So, I’ve been using that on all of the computers that I use–the only exception being my Powerbook, I use on there because of the integration. The one problem that I ran into was that I have spent a good amout of time setting up message filters on my home install on Thunderbird. This is great and all, but I had to make these message filters in addition to the ones that are already on on my Mac. So, it was frustrating to do them again, but I won’t get into that. Different program, different rules, I get it.

After I created my filters on my home install of Thunderbird I thought that I was set. But, after a couple of weeks I realized that I don’t check my mail much on my home PC. So, having multiple Thunderbird installs created a problem for my message filters. Some of them had them, most didn’t. I was wishing that there was a plugin similar to the bookmark sync that would sync my message filters. I can’t say that I have that many, I don’t, but it is just a hassle that I don’t want to have to deal with. So, I did some searching online today and I found the thing I was looking for: the message filters file.

The one nice thing about all of the Mozilla products is that many of the settings and preferences are split out into separate files. So, if I just wanted to have my message filters, I could just copy them over to another computer. This is exactly what I did. The file that I am looking for, msgFilterRules.dat, is located in either the mail directory or the individual account folders (e.g within the ImapMail directory. Of course these folders, by default, are all located in the following directory:

Documents and Settings\<Your LOGIN Name>\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\<Your Profile>

You’ll need to make sure that you can view hidden folders in XP since this happens to be one of them.

One thing to note about the msgFilterRules.dat file is that there is one created for each account on your computer. So, if you have 3 IMAP accounts and one POP3 three account you will have 4 of these msgFilterRules.dat files. There is not just one global msgFilterRules.dat file.

Once you find the file that you are looking for (the msgFilterRules.dat is created regardless if you have message filters created or not) you can copy the file itself, or its contents, to the computer that you want the rules on. I’d advise on closing Thunderbird before you do this, you just can’t be too sure. Then, when you re-open Thunderbird and go to Tools -> Message Filters you will see your copied rules in place.


Well, I wish that there was an easier way to keep them all the same. But, the above will take care of it.

5 thoughts on “Thunderbird Message Filters”

  1. kael – It just so happens that one of the IMAP servers that I use has server side filtering on it. But, the one problem that I have ran into is that my mail programs will not pickup the new messages. Maybe this is a misconfiguration on my part, but I was just not reading messages that I should be. But, server side filtering is probably the best way to tackle this problem completely.

  2. Ryan – you are right about new messages not being picked up by Thunderbird, even if the folders are set for offline viewing. This makes server side filtering very problematic. I’ve missed important messages, resulting in problems. Like you, I wish there were some kind of syncing capability. Your file copying solution works, but, even that is a pain to remember to do on each computer before starting T-bird. And, hmmmm… now, which machine did I add that filter to? The really right solution is for T-bird to sync up IMAP folders automatically, with an option to turn it on or off. Then, server side filtering would work.

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