Posted by: reformedmusings | January 18, 2010

Thunderbird 3 in Ubuntu 9.10 x86_64 Karmic

Thunderbird 3 has recently been released. In accordance with Canonical’s policy, Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic will not see an official update to it from Thunderbird 2. That will have to wait for Lucid Lynx. For x86 (32-bit) Karmic users, that’s not a problem. You can just download the .deb file from Ubuntuzilla and install it, or add Ubuntuzilla’s repository to your software sources (follow the directions at the link). TBird 3 will not install over Thunderbird 2 but should pick up your profile and import it. More on that below.

Important safety tip: Backup your entire Thunderbird mail profile before upgrading. That way if something goes wrong, you can reinstall Thunderbird 2 and return to your original position, or at least recover your mail.

For x86_64 (64-bit) Karmic users, the story isn’t quite that simple. The Ubuntu team hasn’t released a 64-bit version of Thunderbird 3 as of this post. But that’s not the final word. Just hop on over to the PPA for the Ubuntu Mozilla Daily Build Team. Follow the instructions on the page under “Technical details about this PPA” for adding the PPA as one of your software repository sources.

Be warned though, that you’ll get more than you probably wanted. The repository will  offer to update your Firefox 3.5.7 to 3.5.8 (or whatever is being developed when you read this). Unless you want to live on the bleeding edge with early developmental software, you may want to hold off on that. After I used the repository to install TBird 3.02pre, I deselected it as a source for now.

Another approach would be simply to download the deb files from the PPA and install it directly. After downloading it, just right-click on the .deb file, click on GDebi Package Installer, and install the package.

Either way, to install Thunderbird 3 correctly, you need to select the packages thunderbird-3.0 and thunderbird-3.0-gnome-support.

I also need calendar support with Thunderbird (see Mobile Calendar Synced to Thunderbird!), so the next step for me was to hunt down a 64-bit version of Lightning. Lightning is one of the few extension that cares about which operating system architecture that you are running. The “semi-official” source for Lightning and the Google Provider 64-bit extensions is the Mozilla calendar weblog.

WARNING: Don’t just click on the links in the weblog, because Firefox will try to install them into itself. That will generate an incompatibility error. Instead, right-click on the links, Save link as…, then download it. Open Thunderbird, go to Tools -> Add-ons, then click on Install… Find the xpi files that you downloaded and install them.

However, those files didn’t work for me. The files linked on that page weren’t in sync with each other as compatible versions. That may change by the time that you read this. So, I went to this site, chose the appropriate version, and downloaded the extensions as above. This nice individual keeps all the versions synced in their own directories, so they always work together. Excellent! I downloaded the latest versions of the three extensions from this site – Lightning, Google Provider, and Calendar Timezones.

Thunderbird 3.02pre installed without issue from the Daily PPA. On its initial run, TBird 3.02 found my TBird 2 profile and imported all the appropriate settings, including extensions and the theme. It found some extensions incompatible and disabled those for which it could not find updates. I only lost Header Scroll and SmartSave. Then it imported my mail from TBird 2 and indexed the individual mailboxes. That took some time as I have quite a bit of email. When TBird 3.02 completed the importing, it opened a migration screen:

The Migration Assistant merely explains your options in TBird 3 and compares them to TBird 2. I found it informative.

TBird 3 initially starts with just three icons on the icon bar: Get Mail, Write, and Address Book. The screenshot above shows that I added Print, Junk, and Delete. The usual functions in TBird like Reply, Forward, Archive, Junk, and Delete appear at the top right side of each message when viewing it in the preview pane:

The “other actions” below it include a conversation (threaded) message view and other actions for individual messages. All this is very handy when your mouse pointer is in the vicinity of the viewing pane.

The tabbed approach has also been well thought out:

Above I have the mail, calendar, tasks, and an opened message all in tabs. Switching between all the information is quick and easy. Very well done. Oh yeah, the calendar…

Next I installed the calendar extensions that I downloaded as noted above. Upon restarting TBird 3 and clicking on the calendar icon on the right of the tab bar, Lightning 1.0b1 used its corresponding Google Provider 0.6.b2pre to download my calendar immediately. The calendar load proceeded much quicker than Lightning 0.9. Having it available in a tab is great:

This particular view gives me the overall month, details on the week, and stuff coming up in the Today Pane along with tasks. That’s a lot of great info at my fingertips.

Overall, I’m very pleased with Thunderbird 3. The tabbed interface, smart folders, and improved Lightning calendar extension all provide an excellent personal information experience. Many kudos to the Thunderbird and Lightning teams!



  1. […] like with Thunderbird 3, there’s a difference in the availability of the 32-bit and 64-bit versions. For the x86 […]

  2. I’m testing Xubuntu Lucid (Alpha 2) and so far, it rocks!

    For the first time in ‘buntu history (I think), this Long-Term-Support release is being built on Debian testing rather than Debian Unstable. So far I have found it to be not only noticeably faster than Karmic, but also much more stable.

    Oh, by the way… it’s nice to see another Reformation blog here!


  3. Robin,

    Thanks for stopping by. That’s great news about Lucid. I’m looking forward to playing with the first beta in a virtual machine.

    I started this blog for the theology, but expanded it a bit over the last couple of years. I appreciate your articles and will spend some time reading your site.


  4. I found this blog as I was looking for an update to Thunderbird 3.0 64bit, and was surprised by the URL of the blog. I’m a missionary sent by a PCA church in Oregon to the Congo, who happens to do his daily (linguistic) work on Ubuntu. (and owns all of gromit’s movies — how many minority groups can you belong to?) It’s good to be reminded that I’m not alone. Keep up the good fight.



  5. Kent,

    Thank you for your critical work in bringing God’s word to the ends of the earth. May God richly bless your work for His kingdom. Sounds like He’s already blessed you with great tools.

    Go Gromit!

    By His grace,

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