Customizing Thunderbird new account wizard – The mailnews.js file

Every preference that you can choose in the graphical interface for Thunderbird is available in a flat preference file in your profile.  If you do not have a profile, when you first launch Thunderbird the program runs the Account Wizard to gather some information, but other information is gathered from mailnews.js (located in bin:defaults\pref\mailnews.js )   Settings in mailnews.js are mostly application wide: that is if you have mulitiple accounts within a Thunderbird profile (say a work account, a home-ISP account, perhaps a web/hot/g/yahoo-mail account) the settings will apply to each new account you create.

There are also some settings that apply to only a single mail account – those settings go into bin:defaults\profile\prefs.js  Since these prefs are tied to an account number, they will only apply to that account: so if the prefs.js account sets the cleanup_inbox_on_exit preference for server2 – it will not apply to the third, fourth or other mail accounts.  In this situation is is imperative that your users create their work account (the one based off your RDF/XML template) first.

 Cutting to the chase, the modifications to mailnews.js – per the ITS-User Services installer package available ITS User Services Downloadable Software Page … everything following the double forward slashes // are comments

  • pref(“mail.default_html_action”, 2);   // when sending messages in HTML and one or more recipients are not listed as being able to receive in HTML send in HTML anyway – default is 0 = prompt user
  • pref(“ldap_2.autoComplete.useDirectory”, false; // change to true requires Thunderbird to look through the LDAP directory while attempting to auto-complete names or addresses – load on our current LDAP server won’t allow this
  • pref(“ldap_2.servers.UNIDirectory.auth.savePassword”, true);
  • pref(“ldap_2.servers.UNIDirectory.description”, “UNI Directory”);
  • pref(“ldap_2.servers.UNIDirectory.position”,3);
  • pref(“ldap_2.servers.UNIDirectory.filename”, “UNIDir.mab”);
  • pref(“ldap_2.servers.UNIDirectory.uri”, ldap://;
  • pref(“ldap_2.servers.UNIDirectory.replication.lastChangeNumber”, 0);
  • pref(“mail.identity.default.autocompleteToMyDomain”, true); // changed from false so entry of “foo” gets changed to “” automatically for the user

  • pref(“mailnews.start_page.enabled”, false);
  • pref(“mail.server.default.delete_model”, 0); // mark as deleted instead of default=1 which moves to trash folder – is duplicative of UNIVMS.xml template, but this one will control accounts created for other IMAP servers
  • pref(“mail.server.default.empty_trash_on_exit”, true);  // Empties a Trash folder when exiting the program.  This does not compact the IMAP folders – that is done in prefs.js (below)
  • pref(“mail.server.default.spamLevel”,0); // set to zero disables Tbird spam filtering, since we have IronMail appliance upstream, Tbird junk mail filtering is largely redundant and usually adds complexity/confusion to end-users
  • pref(“mail.forward_message_mode”, 1); // set to 1 to forward messages as quoted inline rather than default zero – forward as attachments.
  • pref(“mail.SpellCheckBeforeSend”,false); // I imagine many faculty and staff prefer this set to true, but for students that type everything in acronyms (like on their mobile phones) this is ITS-US preferred. 
  • pref(“mail.spellcheck.inline”,false);

Stuff that can be added/may be of interest

  • pref(“ldap_2.autoComplete.directoryServer”, “ldap_2.servers.UNIDirectory”); // changes the null string to direct Thunderbird to use UNI LDAP as defined below when completing
  • pref(“ldap_2.prefs_migrated”, true); // CFC: changed to true Migrates LDAP preferences to Thunderbird 1.5.  Necessary to enable LDAP lookup and auto-completion.
  • pref(“ldap_2.autoComplete.interval”, 1750); // Default is 650ms .. change to 1750ms *SHOULD* provide an acceptable load on the UNI LDAP server, as it waits 1.75 seconds after the user stops typing BEFORE sending an LDAP query on the name as typed by the user in a TO: or CC: field


The items added to prefs.js by the ITS-User Services installer package:

  • user_pref(“mail.identity.id1.organization”, “University of Northern Iowa”);
  • user_pref(“mail.server.server2.cleanup_inbox_on_exit”, true); // This compacts your IMAP folders, permanently removing messages marked for deletion
  • user_pref(“mail.showFolderPaneColumns”, true);
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