Thunderbird Extensions
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External Editor - Usage


Allows to open and edit your messages in an external text editor such as NEdit, emacs, etc...


The External Editor button is not visible by default; you must customize your composer toolbar:
  • Open the compose window
  • Select the menu View/Toolbars/Customize..., or right click on the toolbar and select Customize...
  • Drag and Drop the new icon External Editor on your toolbar
  • Click OK
Then, open the extension option window and set your editor (without path or with an absolute path)


Just click on the extension button or use the keyboard shortcut (Ctrl-E), edit your message in your editor (while editing, the compose window is disabled), save, close, and the message will be updated in the compose window.
Emacs users can install this major mode designed for EE (look here for details).

HTML Edition

When editing a HTML message, the External Editor button provides a drop-down menu allowing to edit as HTML (thus keeping all text enhancements), or as plain text.

Unicode support

Starting with version 0.6, unicode is supported. You must set unicode encoding in the Compose window before launching External Editor: Menu Options/Character Encoding: Unicode (UTF-8).

Headers Edition

Headers can be edited in the external editor, given as a comma separated list in a paragraph before the message content.

Supported headers are: Subject, To,Cc, Bcc, Reply-To, Newsgroup.

Subject:  Here is the subject
To: adressTo1, adressTo2
Cc: adressCc1
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=# Don't remove this line #=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
... the mail content begins here ...

But you can then modify it, use multiple lines, and add as many headers type as you want. Example:

To: adresseTo1, adresseTo2
adresseTo4, adresseTo5
Cc: adresseCc1
adresseCc2, adresseCc3
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=# Don't remove this line #=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-


  • Your external editor must run in foreground, i.e. must not return before you close the file.
    • NEdit: use "nedit" or "nc -wait"
    • gvim: use "gvim --nofork"
    • and for vim: use "xterm -e vim"
  • External Editor has been tested on Windows (XP) and Linux. It also works on Mac OSX, beginning with Thunderbird 1.1. Previous versions of Thunderbird could not use External Editor because of Mozilla bug 267269.

Creation date : 20/08/2005 @ 22:47
Last update : 14/04/2008 @ 21:15
Category : External Editor
Page read 149232 times

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react.gifReactions to this article (Please no question here. Use the forum instead)

Reaction #6 

by tocer 29/04/2006 @ 07:35

very good job. thank you very much!cool

Reaction #5 

by roger 17/03/2006 @ 00:50

Works awesome!  Thanks!  No longer do I accidentally type :wq in my email messages smile

Reaction #4 

by rohan 13/02/2006 @ 18:50

Thank-you so much for writing this extension.  It is the one thing that allowed me to move to Thunderbird from other mail clients. cool

Btw.  It works a charm with emacsclient on linux.

Reaction #3 

by norpan 08/02/2006 @ 14:17

If using gvim, you can also just do:
set guioptions+=f
in your personal vimrc file.

Then gvim will not do its forking trick and behave like all other programs.

Reaction #2 

by Brian 02/01/2006 @ 21:40

To get GNU emacs for Windows to launch in the forground besure to browse to emacs.exe as opposed to runemacs.exe.  runemacs.exe is specifically for running emacs as a background process.

Thanks for writing this extension!

Reaction #1 

by TomDrabenstott 30/08/2005 @ 22:28

My version of gvim *(6.1) required "-f" vs. "--nofork" to stop it from forking.
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