Posted by: reformedmusings | July 9, 2009

Restoring Thunderbird mail hyperlinks to Firefox 3.5

After you install the current Firefox 3.5 from the repositories and then uninstall Firefox 3.0.x, clicking on hyperlinks in your emails will probably no longer open the browser. That’s because the Firefox 3.0.x uninstall removes the ‘/usr/bin/firefox’ symlink. That’s easily fixed.

The Quick Fix

Simply type (or paste):

sudo ln -s /usr/lib/firefox-3.5/ /usr/bin/firefox

in a terminal window. That creates the symlink “firefox”, to which Thunderbird’s settings file points with a default installation. The symlink, in turn, points to the script that starts Firefox 3.5. If this doesn’t work, just read the background below to find out the symlink file name needed.


Thunderbird’s user settings are stored in ‘/home/[username]/.mozilla-thunderbird/[profilename].default/prefs.js’ where you fill in your local names in the square brackets. The lines that execute hyperlinks are:

user_pref(“”, “/usr/bin/firefox”);
user_pref(“”, “/usr/bin/firefox”);

As you can see, when the symlink /usr/bin/firefox is deleted during the firefox-3.0 removal, Thunderbird has no means to execute hyperlinks. We could just change the target in this setup file, but I think that its better to avoid making version-dependent changes in application setups.

Creating the symlink restores the status quo without changing individual application setups. I’m betting that future Firefox installations will eventually overwrite the symlink to point to themselves. If not, the link can be modified to point to the next version. Simple, elegant solution.

Note that your Thunderbird installation may vary slightly in the setup file contents, but the general principle will apply. For example, your network.protocol-handler may be a different symlink file name. Just make the symlink that name and you’re covered. It’s possible that the Firefox 3.5 installation and Firefox 3.0.x removal sequence won’t affect your Thunderbird at all. If it does, though, know you can easily fix it. And you won’t have to call and pay the Geek Squad, either.


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