Thunderbird: Notifications and Indicator Applet in Ubuntu Lucid

August 5th, 2010 | Tags: , , ,

This post is an update on integrating Thunderbird with Ubuntu’s notification system. For Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx it supersedes my earlier post on the topic which was applicable previous versions of Ubuntu (Jaunty and Karmic).

The big difference in Lucid Lynx is the Indicator Applet and the “Me Menu”, both of these incorporating features related to the “social from the start” marketing tagline. In particular, the Indicator Applet integrates with Evolution, Ubuntu’s default mail client, to show new email notifications and allow quick access to the mail client. Once again, no out-of-the-box integration with Thunderbird. So the challenge is twofold: integrate with the notification mechanism (black pop-ups) as well as the Indicator Applet. The Mail Notification extension unfortunately falls short in the latter part.

Luckily, Ruben Verweij has developed libnotify-mozilla, a Thunderbird extension which works just great for both of the above requirements. Be sure to check out the blog (here and here) and the project’s Launchpad page to get the details and latest news. Here are the steps to set up the extension:

  1. Download the Mozilla Notifications Extensions .xpi file and save it in a temporary location on your system.
  2. Open Thunderbird and install the extension (Tools > Add-ons > Install).
  3. Disable the native Thunderbird notifications by unticking “When messages arrive: Show an alert” in Edit > Preferences.
  4. Install libnotify-bin package (execute in Terminal):

    sudo apt-get install libnotify-bin

  5. In order to have Thunderbird entry in the menu even when it is not running. First create a new file as follows (run from Terminal):

    mkdir -p ~/.config/indicators/messages/applications
    gksudo gedit ~/.config/indicators/messages/applications/thunderbird

  6. Then paste the following text in the file and save it:


  7. (optional) If you wish you can remove the Evolution entries from the indicator menu. Note: because of bug 533021, this is a workaround which will remove Evolution from the menu for all users on the system, not just yourself.

    mkdir -p ~/.config/indicators/messages/applications-blacklist
    sudo mv /usr/share/indicators/messages/applications/evolution ~/.config/indicators/messages/applications-blacklist

    (Once the above bug is resolved in the future, move the file back to its original location and create a softlink to it from the blacklist directory: ln -s /usr/share/indicators/messages/applications/evolution ~/.config/indicators/messages/applications-blacklist/evolution)

  8. Log out from your user session and back in.
  1. boonie
    December 1st, 2010 at 23:49
    Reply | Quote | #1

    Hi there,

    I have two questions

    1) I cannot get the thunderbird icon to display in the applet no matter what I do. can you tell me how

    2) The only time the indicator-messages goes green to alert me of new mail is when I manually open thunderbird and check it for mail. Was I wrong in assuming that this was the kind of application that does not require thunderbird to be open and running?

    Previously I would have used mail-notification and thunderbird. This did not require me to manually open thunderbird to alert me that mail was there.

  2. December 28th, 2010 at 15:29
    Reply | Quote | #2

    Hi boonie,

    1) If I understand you correctly, do you see the Thunderbird entry in the menu but without an icon? On my system, if I have a look in the file /usr/share/applications/thunderbird.desktop there is the following line:


    Clearly this is not a full path to any particular file. My guess is the GNOME knows where to look; in my case there is a file /usr/share/pixmaps/thunderbird.png which I am guessing it’s picking up. However, note that this is just a guess.

    2) You’re correct, Thunderbird needs to be running in order for the indicator to turn green. But you don’t have to “check manually” for new mail, as long as Thunderbird is set to poll for new mail e.g. every 10 minutes, the indicator will work.