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How to create message filters in Thunderbird to keep your inbox organized

Here's a handy way to automatically filter incoming email to specific folders in Thunderbird.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Close-up image of a businesswoman working on the computer.
iStockphoto/Getty Images

Call me a dinosaur, but I still depend on email. I use it for personal and professional communication every day of the year. Because of that, my inbox can get scarily full. Within a span of sixty minutes, I'll have received hundreds of emails in multiple accounts. 

It becomes pretty tedious to keep clean. 

That's one of the many reasons why I use the Thunderbird email client. With a simple-to-use GUI, I can create specific filters for incoming emails to send those emails to certain folders. This feature is automated and works every time the client pulls mail from the server. Create enough filters and you can keep that main inbox considerably cleaner.

Also: How to encrypt email in Thunderbird (and why you should)

How to create message filters in Thunderbird to keep your inbox organized

So, if a full inbox gives you hives, this feature is right up your alley. Let me show you how to create a filter in Thunderbird.


The only things you'll need for this is Thunderbird installed on your desktop or laptop OS and a working, configured email account. That's it. Let's filter some emails.

1. Select the email to be filtered from your inbox

From your inbox, locate and select an email from the sender you wish to filter.

2. Create a filter from the message

Click the Thunderbird menu button (three horizontal lines in the upper right corner) and then click Message > Create Filter From Message.

The Thunderbird menu includes the Create Filter From Message entry.

You create a filter from a selected message in Thunderbird.

Image: Jack Wallen

Also: How to encrypt your email and why you should 

3. Customize the filter

In the resulting window, the email address you're filtering should already be populated. All you need to do is select from the two drop-downs, of which there are:

  • Action: What to do with the message
  • Location: Where to save the message

From the left drop-down, you can configure the filter to do things like move, copy, forward, mark as read, tag messages, and more. From the right drop-down, you select the folder that will house the message. You can also click + to add another action. 

For example, your first action might copy the email to a specific folder and the second moves it to a different folder. This would be a great way to have a backup of all emails that come in from a specific contact and then keep those emails housed in their own folder.

The Thunderbird Filter Rules window.

Creating a filter in Thunderbird is easy enough.

Image: Jack Wallen

Also: The 6 best email hosting services 

There are other options to choose from when creating your filter. You can specify how the filter is to be applied, filter before or after junk classification, and specify the exactness of the filter (should it match all of the criteria or any of the criteria). 

Once you've configured the fitter to your specifications, click OK to save it. Thunderbird will automatically start applying the filter as mail comes in.

That's it, you've created your first Thunderbird mail filter. Keep creating new ones and your inbox will finally be clean enough to manage. Just remember, however, there's probably unread emails in those destination folders… don't forget to check 'em.

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