Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Windows Contacts

For a long time it has irked me that Thunderbird supported read access to the OSX address book, a really minor player, but did nothing for Windows contacts.  Especially given that windows represents some 70% of the installed user base it just appeared like the developers had lost the plot.  Imagine my interest (and surprise) as I stumbled upon the fact that Thunderbird has supported the Windows Address Book since XP and that the contacts folder is likewise integrated into Thunderbird, in the same manner as, and using the same options, as the Windows Address Book.  It would appear that this functionality is there, just not enabled by default.

So to share this with the world, and get your windows contacts into Thunderbird please warm up your mouse and open the Thunderbird Config Editor.and add the following preferences.

Right clicking on the heading Preference Name will present a menu, select new and then either String or Integer as required in the instruction.

  • First Add a string with the name "ldap_2.servers.OE.description" , when you click Ok set the value in the dialog that opens to  "Outlook Express"
  • Next add a new integer ldap_2.servers.OE.dirType , and when you click Ok for adding it set it to 3.
  • Finally Add another string this time names "ldap_2.servers.OE.uri" , and when you click Ok set it to "moz-aboutlookdirectory://oe/" 
When you are done you will have three new preferences, that look like this

Now for the best part for those using Samsung phones.  The Samsung Suite places your contacts into the windows contact folder and synchronizes them from there.  So with this preference edit contact synchronised from your phone will also synchronize to Thunderbird.

One Caveat.  Contacts in this address book will not have a "show remote images" flag, so remote images for them will not show.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Expand your filter use

Filters are one of those things, we all expect the mail client has them, and mostly they are used for really mundane tasks like a block list.  But filters have many many uses and if you understand the process, you can probably think of a new use often.

But before talking about filters, there is the issue of when and where they will work.  The default out of the box arrangement for Thunderbird is they work on the inbox of a single mail account. As discussed below, that can be expanded for IMAP accounts and with the use of the Send Filter add-on you can run filters on mail as you send it.

If you have an IMAP mail account the filter will only run on the inbox. The functionality to enable filters to run on all sub folders has been around since Thunderbird version 3, but they never got around to placing a setting in the user interface to set it up, so you need to do it manually.

In Thunderbird select options from the tools menu. Then select the Advanced tab and finally on the General sub tab select the config editor button.  Promise to be careful

In the list of settings, right click and select New and then string from the fly out menu

in the enter preference name dialog, place the following text and click Ok
The next dialog asks for a value for mail.server.default.applyIncomingFilters. Enter the value
and click Ok

Note: These settings are case sensitive, so be sure to copy them exactly, including the camel case.

Now all your filters on IMAP mail accounts will run against all folders. This is a good thing if you want to say auto archive mail based on age.  It is a bad thing if you want to move mail from the inbox to somewhere else..  Enter the filtaQuila add-on.  This add-on, among it's list of features makes it possible to include the folder name in Filters,  so a filter that used to move mail from snoopy@charliebrown.org to the folder snoopy  now needs a folder name in the mix, either as if folder is not "name" so the filter will run on all folders but the destination, or folder is "name" so the filter only works on that folder.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Date and Time in mail lists.

The dates and times used by Email are UTC.  This means that for Thunderbird to set up the correct date and time on emails your operating system must be set to the correct timezone and daylight saving settings.

Simply because the little clock on the bottom right of your screen shows the correct time does not mean your time zone is correctly set.

Instructions for changing the timezone are;

XP    Vista Windows 7 and Windows 8  OSX

Thunderbird has only ever displayed the time on messages for today.  The logic involved is fairly simple.  It makes todays messages easier to identify in the list, and you don't need to be shown todays date as you already know it.

If for some reason your feel you must have a date MozillaZine have detailed instructions on overriding date and time formats in Thunderbird.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Images do not display.

Sometime the remote images in an email do not display  This could be due to the permissions.default.image hidden preference in Thunderbird. If you never see the allow images button on emails from senders not in your address book this setting is the probable cause of the images and the button not appearing.

As I understand this preference, it blocks remote images. 2 blocks everything 1 allows images from the original server, 0 allows images from any server. With 1 being the Thunderbird default.

Go to Tools menu > options > advanced > config editor

Type into the search box permissions.default.image or as much as you need to double click on it in the list below.

When changing this setting, it is advisable to reduce the setting to it's current value -1 as each reduction in values is a reduction in security as well as an increase in convenience.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The RETR command did not succeed. Thank ATT and YAHOO for the need for this post

This post is about the "conversation" that occurs between a mail client and the mail server when the client is downloading mail using POP3

Because email is one of the early developments of the internet, everything about the connection and download of mails is done in plain text in the English language.  So much so that you can log into a mail server and get you mail by typing text commands in response to text prompts from the server

But we are not going there. If that is your interest there is an article here that discusses how to use Telnet to connect to the POP3 server.

I am concentrating on only Three of those POP commands STAT, LIST and RETR.

STAT is the command issued to the server to ask if there is mail to download.  The server replies with a message that looks like

+OK nn mm
where nn is number of messages and 
mm is the total size of those messages. 

LIST is the command that follows and is designed to get the server to provide more information about the messages it is holding.  So when your mail client issues the list command to the server it get a reply that looks something like this.

Thunderbird: LIST
Server: +OK 2 messages (320 octets)
Server: 1 120
Server: 2 200
Server: .
In this example there are 2 messages available  
The important information for the mail client such as Thunderbird is that the server has allocated the messages a number (in the examples case 1 and 2) that proceeds the message size information.

This allows for the Third command, RETR.  Using the information obtained in the proceeding LIST the mail client can now proceed to ask the mail server for the message.  This is done using the RETR command and the message number.  This command is issued once for each message to initiate a download of that message and looks something like this.

             Thunderbird: RETR 1
             Server: +OK 120 octets
             Server: <the POP3 server sends the entire message here>
             Server: .

As you can see, for the RETR command to fail, there basically has to be a problem on the server as the mail client (Thunderbird) is only asking the server to provide that which it has already said is available.

Further information can be found in RFC 1939 which is the standard that all POP3 compliant mail server and clients must comply with

Friday, March 15, 2013

Importing CSV files

Now this post is very much driven by the fact that there are still plenty of major players in the email world that have never grasped the more advanced methods of exchanging address information and we are continually relying on that old nugget CSV.

It is fine for those that have been using computers for 20 years or more, we used to exchange data between dBase and just about everything else, so CSV is no stranger.  To those that have grown up in the point and click world of Microsoft Windows on the various Mac operating systems, anything that can not be done with a Mouse is foreign territory.

Enter Comma Seperated Values (CSV), a true "blast from the past" having a history that goes back into the 1960s, long before Apple had a computer and well before the mouse was even an idea. CSV is unfortunately a term used to describe a collection of data formats, about the only thing they have in common is that between each pierce of information there is a comma and the information is in "text".

Because there is so much difference between what is called CSV between the programs that generate is (some put text inside double quotes, "This This", others do not. It becomes important to actually have a bit of a visual at the data in the to get some idea of how the data is laid out.  It is to this end that you will often see a recommendation to open the file in a spread sheet application.

The actual data stored in the file looks something like this

 First Name,Last Name,Email Address,Home Phone,Mobile Phone,Business Phone
Rob Roy,mcgregor,rob@mcgregor.com,,,

Developers of Spreadsheet applications have spent many years developing sophisticated import wizards for CSV files so you can tweak the import using options to make the data look like it is in columns under headings.  Ultimately this process results in a "more standardised" data format and your CSV file opening in your spreadsheet looking like a table.

This data layout is generated by Windows Live.  Thunderbird expects there to be a first and last name, but it also expects a display name but Live simply does not include this, so we have to massage the data supplied by windows Live to make things work.  Having the data in LibreOffice it is a fairly simple process to add a column for the display name.  But first things first. You need to save the document as an ODF file, as Libre is stubborn about what you can and can not do with a CSV file.

Right clicking on the letters and the top displayed a menu and you select insert columns from it.

I do this twice, and create two columns on as a temporary display name and the other as the final display name.

Now to get the display name data.  Obviously the information we want is in the first two columns, so we need to include the information from both of these columns into on. ie Concatenate the data.

To do this we use a formula.

For those not used to formulas, once it is entered the first time, you can use the little black square on the bottom right to drag the formula down the list to the end.  What we have now is a formula generated display name, but the cell contains a formula and displays what we want.

The next step is to copy and paste the information from the temp column to the final "Display Name"  when you paste, use the paste special and change the options so all you paste is text.

Now we should have  the Diusplay name in two columns, so right click the Temp Display name column and delete it. so things end up looking like those shown in the image below.

Now  File menu, select "save as" and select the file type of CSV. 
Thunderbird will not do anything but choke if you forget this step.

For those using LibreOffice, it automatically changes formulas to the display value when you save as a CSV file. I have no idea is this is the case with other spreadsheet programs.  Needless to say you can skip the copy and paste text part if you are using Libre office, just name the column to "Display Name" in the first place and only create one now column.  For myself, I will continue the two column approach because that way I can see and be sure, I am not relying on the computer program to get it right for me.