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created 2005 · complexity basic · author Stanislav · version 5.7

There is finally an extension for Thunderbird that enables you to compose mail in an external editor.

You can find it at

It works also in Windows 2000, as well as Windows XP and Linux as the author claims. I couldn't make it work at first. You have to start a new message, right click the toolbar and add an icon for External Editor. Now, when you click on the icon, your mail is displayed in Vim.


A new extension that works with Thunderbird >= 91 is now available at

Check out GitHub wiki page for installation and configuration guide.

> Frankly, I think this tip should be removed. The plugin was last updated 2005 and it is not compatible with recent versions of Thunderbird anymore.

> Why not use a real mail client (pine, mutt) instead?

Because here at work I am stuck in Windows. I have tried using pine, mutt in Windows, even Sylpheed. They do not work as I expect.

At home I am using FreeBSD, and I am using Thunderbird as a mail client for our "family" address so my wife can use it too. The beauty is, she gets the default interface, and I can press Vim icon and get my preferred editor.

> Why not use a real mail client (pine, mutt) instead?

Obviously you have never tried managing multiple IMAP accounts with mutt.

The author has now fixed the bugs so that carriage returns are not shown in Windows and you can use "+set ft=mail" as an argument.

So my value for text editor is now

gvim.exe "+set ft=mail"

and it works very nicely.

If gvim is not in your path, you'll have to fully qualify it.

The docs say to use:

gvim --nofork

That extension does not support multibyte language. When writing mail in English, it works well.

I copy the content from Thunderbird to Vim, and then :set syntax=mail, then edit it, then paste it back to Thunderbird.

Use vim in a terminal is also possible for thunderbird's external editor. A small script can be downloaded from This provides a familiar way for many Linux users.