Note: This documention series is not yet updated for version 60. Thunderbird 60, released in summer 2018, introduces changes for add-ons, documented in the Thunderbird 57-60 add-ons guide.
This tutorial will introduce you to the components of a Thunderbird extension and will show you how to build your own. The tutorial has the following pages:
- Introduction (this page)
- The extension filesystem (setting up your local system)
- Install manifest (the
install.rdffile that contains meta-information about the extension)
- Chrome manifest (list of packages and overlays)
- XUL (the XML user interface language that is used to modify the Thunderbird user interface)
- Installing locally (enabling the extension on your local Thunderbird instance)
- Packaging (making a distribution package that contains the extension)
- Distributing (from your own site or from http://addons.mozilla.org/)
This tutorial is compatible with Thunderbird versions 2,3 and 5. All Thunderbird builds are available from the ftp site.
References and resources
Tools and helper extensions
There are many tools available that help with developing Thunderbird extensions. At a minimum you will need:
- Text editor: Any editor that is capable of writing plain text can be used to write extensions. However, most developers use an editing program optimized for writing code (also known as an Integrated Development Environment). These provide features like syntax highlighting and code coloration, indentation, auto-complete, etc.
- File archive utility: Any utility that is capable of creating archive files can be used.
- Thunderbird extensions (documentation overview)
- Firefox addons developer guide (many topics are applicable to Thunderbird)
- Mozilla cross-reference source code browser ("comm-central" contains the Thunderbird code repository)