Running the Latest Thunderbird on RHEL 6

Column picture by Tonton Jaja

Today I ran into a strange problem where messages seemed to be missing from my Inbox. Running “repair folder” from the properties tab automatically moved several messages to the trash. Moving them back to the inbox and repeating the process resulted in the same behavior. I thought maybe it was time to move on from the default version in RHEL 6, presently thunderbird-3.1.15-1.el6_x86_64, and live more on the edge.

I’ve also been using the same Thunderbird settings directory for two or three years so there was also the chance of some cruft build-up there as well.  What better way to rule out all possible issues than to run the latest version of Thunderbird with a fresh profile?

A simple way to do this is to rename ~/.thunderbird. If you change your mind or want it back, it’s simply a matter of closing Thunderbird, changing the name of the directory back, and running Thunderbird again. I believe there is also a way to this with the profile manager, but I like this way best.

I ran into one small problem due to my machine being 64bit and the regular Thunderbird Linux download being 32bit.  The solution was in this helpful forum post.

RhEL 6 Thunderbird Installation Steps

1) Download the latest stable Thunderbird version.

Updated October 27, 2011:  Thanks to the comment from Matej, pre-built 64bit packages are available, I’m not just not sure how regular folks like me would know to find them.  Back track on the link if you want a different language.

2) Un-tar the file that you download.  For simplicity I prefer to put it in my home directory.  With this approach it will not be accessible to other users, however it will not conflict with the existing installed RHEL rpm version.

$ cd Downloads
$ tar -xvf thunderbird-7.0.1.tar.bz2 -C /home/myuser

3) If you are running 64bit RHEL, you may encounter this error message:

thunderbird-bin: error while loading shared libraries: libdbus-glib-1.so.2: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

Installing the dbus-glib.i686 package provides the library you need:

$ su -c 'yum install dbus-glib.i686'

4) Run the new version of Thunderbird

$ cd /home/myuser/thunderbird
$ ./thunderbird

5) If you want to modify the launcher to run this version instead of the default installed RHEL version, right click on the launcher icon, select properties, and change the path to point at the Thunderbird binary in your home directory.  Something like: /home/myuser/thunderbird/thunderbird

Nostalgy is the most important add-on

The Nostalgy add-on is the primary reason I can’t bring myself to change email clients.  The ability to file messages with ease into any folder with one or two key strokes is something I cannot live without.  Don’t miss “shift + s” to save a message to the last folder you saved to.

Benefits of the latest version

  • Once you set the column view you like you can apply it recursively to all your folders. This was a huge pain in the past where columns had to be set manually for each folder.
  • Newer themes work and are compatible
  • Everything feels polished, newer and faster

Use at your own risk

The downside of running Thunderbird this way is that you aren’t running the officially supported version provided by Red Hat and you are relying on Mozilla to provide the latest version to you.  This should happen automatically via Thunderbird’s built-in updating service.  Preferences for automatic updates can be changed in the “Advanced” tab.  Naturally the packages built and provided by Fedora and RHEL have this feature disabled.

I’m currently running the latest version of Firefox the same way and have not encountered any issues.

Image by Tonton Jaja used under a Creative Commons license.

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