How to Fix: Minimize Thunderbird to Tray Bar (Not Task Bar)

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Infopackets Reader Barb F. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

Thanks for your ongoing articles on Thunderbird - they've been a big help! I have a question as well. In earlier editions of Thunderbird, there was an option such that if I minimized Thunderbird, it would minimize to my tray bar (where the clock is) rather than on the task bar. I've searched and searched inside the program preferences but I don't see an option for Thunderbird to 'minimize to tray bar'. I prefer this behavior because I leave Thunderbird open all the time, but I don't want it taking up space on my task bar. Is there a way to minimize Thunderbird to my tray bar, like the good old days? "

My response:

This is a great question, and I wondered the same thing. After a bit of research, it was suggested that the reason why Thunderbird does not minimize to tray bar anymore is because it goes against Microsoft's best software practices guideline for software developers. For example: in the olden days of Windows XP, many programs minimized to the tray bar automatically - and some even sneaked there way there - which inevitably clogged up the tray bar more than it needed to be. Microsoft has since redesigned how the tray bar operates, and suggests that software developers only use it as a "notification area" only. As such, they recommend software programmers stick to minimizing programs directly to the task bar instead.

There is however a way around this. As I also discovered, there are a handful of plugins available for Thunderbird which allow for "minimize to tray" action. I tested a few add-ons, but the one that I found that works the best is called "FireTray". I also found that FireTray had the most features to choose from, including "closing [Thunderbird] minimizes to tray" and "enable mail notification," which changes the icon to show when you have new mail. Excellent!

How to Fix: Minimize Thunderbird to Tray Bar (Not Task Bar)

Installing an add-on to Thunderbird is not quite the same as it is with Firefox. With Thunderbird, you have to download the add-on file manually, and then manually install the add-on file into Thunderbird. In comparison: with Firefox, you only need to click a button that says "add to Firefox" and it automatically downloads and installs the add-on file. Below, I'll go through the steps below to explain how to install FireTray to Thunderbird.

  1. First, open a new tab in your browser and go to the FireTray for Thunderbird home page. Next, click on the "Download for Windows" green button. You will be asked to save the file. Save it to your download folder, or somewhere else that is easy to remember and access.
  2. Now, launch Thunderbird. If you have the menu bar enabled, click Tools -> Add-ons; if you don't have the menu bar, then click the square icon near the top right which has three horizontal lines (also known as the Menu button), then click Add-ons.
  3. The "Add-ons Manager" window will now appear. Near the top middle of the screen you should see a cog-wheel icon with a pull down menu. Click that, and select "Install Add-on from File..." After that, navigate to where you downloaded FireTray and double click the file to install it to Thunderbird.
  4. At this point you may be prompted to restart Thunderbird for changes to take effect; if so, do that. Once Thunderbird is back up and running, go to the Tools -> Options menu (or click the Menu button and select Options); you should now see FireTray is installed as an add-on. Click the Options button to configure FireTray.
  5. The "FireTray Preferences" window should now open. Under the "Windows" tab, ensure that "Minimizing window hides to tray" is check-marked. If you prefer to have Thunderbird running 24/7 on your system, you may also want to check-mark "Closing window hides to tray" so that Thunderbird never closes unless you right-click Thunderbird in the tray bar and select "Quit". Another option I found very useful is to "Enable mail notification" from the "Mail" menu; this will change the Thunderbird icon in the tray bar to a "new mail" icon if you ever receive new mail.

I hope that helps.

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About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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