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Thunderbird – Fully sync with Gmail services (Email, Calendar & Contacts)

Thunderbird for Gmail

Created on Saturday, 14 April 2012 02:00
Written by Nicolas Bernaerts



Nowadays, more and more smartphones and tablets are running Android OS, which is tightly linked to google Gmail services.

These devices are designed to be fully synchronized with main Gmail services :

  • email
  • calendar
  • address book

On the other end, you are having a computer at home were you are also handling emails, calendar and personal address & phone book.

This guide will explain how to fully setup your Thunderbird client to get it fully synchronized with your Gmail account for all associated services.

With this setup, you will be able to handle your emails, calendar events and personal address book entries from any of your Android device (smartphone and/or tablet) and your personal computer.

And … all of them will always be fully synchronized. Whatever you do on one side will be forwarded to all others.

All this guide has been tested on a Ubuntu desktop, but it should work on any Linux or Windows Thunderbird client.

1. Preliminary GMAIL setup

Before going further in the guide, you have to configure few things in your Gmail account :

  • In the settings of Gmail section, enable IMAP protocol. This will be needed by Thunderbird.
  • If not already done, in the Calendar section, create your main Calendar.

2. Email Client

Within Thunderbird (or during the first launch), you first need to create your Gmail account using IMAP configuration.

Why IMAP ? Because with IMAP synchronization, your email client and your Gmail server account will always remain fully synchronized. Whatever is on your client will be available in the same folder on the server. As Gmail is providing more than 7 Gb space, it should not be a problem to keep everything on the server. That will also allow to fully synchronize your smartphone with your desktop Gmail folders.

So enter your full Gmail address, select IMAP and manual setup.

Thunderbird will detect all the proper IMAP and SMTP server settings.

The IMAP folders correspond to the labels in Gmail’s webmail. IMAP folder hierarchy is represented by ”/” in Gmail’s label. e.g. IMAP subfolder B under A is mapped to label of A/B.
You have to take into account that when using IMAP client like Thunderbird, your folders full path should never exceed 40 characters. If they are longer, your folders synchronization won’t work.
So, make sure to keep your folders names as short as possible.

2.1. General setting

You then need to configure the following options specific to your Gmail account :

Server Settings

  • Check for new messages at startup
  • Check for new messages every 10mn
  • When I delete a message : Move it to folder : [Gmail] / Bin

Copies & Folders

Junk Settings

  • Uncheck “Enable adaptive junk mail control for this account”
    ( Google servers are already doing it for us )

Synchronization & Storage

  • Check “Keep messages for this account on this computer”
  • Synchronize all messages locally regardless of age
  • Don’t delete any messages

2.2. Advanced setting

If you’d like to to further enhance your IMAP experience, you can setup 2 parameters from the Config Editor :

  • create integer browser.cache.memory.capacity and set it to 30720
  • set mail.server.default.fetch_by_chunks to false

Config Editor is available from menu Edit / Preferences / Advanced tab / General section / Config Editor button.

2.3. Useful extensions

When using Thunderbird with a Gmail account, 2 extensions can be very useful. They have to be installed from menu Tools / Add-ons.

  • Flat Folder Tree
    This extensions allows to hide the [Gmail] subfolder, shifting all the subfolders to the root level.
    Il is very useful to get a standard email account look and feel.
    To do so, just right-click on [Gmail] folder, select the new Breakout Subfolders menu. That’s it.ubuntu-thunderbird-flatten-folders
  • Thunderbird Conversation
    This addon provides a conversation view for Thunderbird, including contacts tooltips, attachment thumbnails, quick (inline) reply, …
    You will get the same conversation view as on Gmail web site.
    This extension is really a must have.

3. Calendar

To be able to use our Google Calendar from within Thunderbird, you have to install the following extensions from menu Tools / Add-ons :

Next step is to recover your Google Calendar private XML URL.

You can get it from the web interface of Gmail / Calendar, under Settings / Calendars / Your Calendar / Private address / XML. When you click on that button a URL will be displayed. Just Copy it.


Then, in the Agenda windows of Thunderbird, do a right-click on the left part and select New Calendar.

Create the calendar with the following parameters :


NOTE- Newer versions of Thunderbird have a check-box that say “Offline Support” instead of cache

You have to paste in Location the XML URL you previously copied.


Do not forget to check Use password manager.


Your Google Calendar is now configured in Thunderbird.

4. Google Contacts

To be able to handle your Google Contacts directly from Thunderbird, you just need to install the extension Google contacts thru the menu Tools / Add-ons.

Once this extension installed, launch the menu Tools / Address Book.

You will get a new address book called Google – your.account@gmail.com.

This address book is fully synchronized with your Google Contacts.

Whatever you Add / Modify / Delete from Thunderbird will be automatically updated on the Google server … and on all your Android devices.


Your Thunderbird setup is now fully functional to handle all your Gmail services.

Hope it helps !


I, Mike Baird, do not take credit for this tutorial. I do, however, hope this helps everyone with an Android phone that would like to have their calendar and contacts auto sync with their phone and computer…this works like a dream and Abbe and I are addicted to it now. So glad to ditch Outlook