Make custom reply header in Thunderbird

11 Feb 2008

Have you ever wanted to customize the way that your email replies introduce the quoted part of the message youre replying to? Thunderbird calls this the Reply Header.

For instance, lets say you wanted your reply message to a recent email from your friend Jimmy to look something like the following:

The entity known as wrote to John LeMasney, on the date and time 10/13/07 9:44 AM, the following message:
Hi, John, how are you?

With Thunderbird, it is easy to make this happen. Here is some information about the preferences that were going to change. Below that, Ill give specific instructions on how to change the settings.

// Change the reply header
// 0 - No Reply-Text
// 1 - wrote: - Netscape 3.xx/4.xx style
// 2 - On wrote:
// 3 - user-defined string. Use the prefs below in conjuction with this.
user_pref(mailnews.reply_header_type, 3);
// If you set 3 for the pref above then you may set the following prefs.
// The end result will be
user_pref(mailnews.reply_header_authorwrote, %s said the following);
user_pref(mailnews.reply_header_ondate, on %s);
user_pref(mailnews.reply_header_separator, );
user_pref(mailnews.reply_header_colon, :);

Source: Hidden Mozilla/Firefox/Thunderbird Prefs
Address :
Date Visited: Sat Oct 13 2007 14:39:45 GMT-0400 (EDT)

These changes are made in Thunderbirds configuration preferences, known better to Mozilla hackers as about:config or prefs.js

Lets make the changes:

  1. Open Thunderbird, open your preferences (options/preferences menu in Windows or Thunderbird/Preferences menu on MacOS) and choose the advanced tab.
  2. Click on Config Editor to open a convenient GUI to edit the about:config file.
  3. In the search bar labeled Filter:, type in reply_header and wait a moment for the list to filter to just show reply_header related preferences.
  4. Were interested in editing 4 values. You edit a value by double clicking on it, which opens a dialog window with a text box containing the existing value. Enter the new value and click OK to make a change, or Cancel to cancel. In these exampes, %s indicates a variable that will be replaced with the sender, date and tme, etc. Make sure its present as %s in order for this to work.
  5. open mailnews.reply_header_authorwrote and edit it to say The entity known as %s wrote to me
  6. open mailnews.reply_header_colon and edit it to say , the following message:
  7. open mainnews.reply_header_ondate and edit it to say on the date and time %s
  8. open mailnews.reply_header_type and edit it to say 3
  9. This last one is very important - it indicates that you want these edited values to be used instead of none, the default, or a preset alternative (0, 1 and 2 respectively) - look at the blockquote above for a better explanation of what each of these are.
  10. Then, restart Thunderbird, start a reply, and enjoy your new custom reply header!

Close your eyes and smile. Then, reflect on the idea that its only because this application is open source that you can make this level of modification to the way your information is displayed.

John LeMasney






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