Custom controls for Thunderbird

While the user interface for Thunderbird can be customized by adding various control buttons, one of the problems I had with an early version of the program, that still persists in the current release, was that the Previous and Next buttons move to the previous/next – unread – message, rather than allowing me to scroll through the message base one item at a time.

Previously, I solved this by installing the Buttons! add-on ( that provided, amongst other features, custom previous and next buttons that did operate on the next message in sequence. Unfortunately, this add-on was last released in 2007 and doesn’t support the current release of Thunderbird (Version 3.1.7).

Another solution is obtained by installing the “Custom Buttons” add-on ( As the name implies, this package let’s you set up custom buttons; however, in order to do so, you need to know the specific command to add to a button to achieve a particular task.

A list of such commands can be found at

Now it’s easy to set up customized previous and next buttons to work the way that I want:

1. In Thunderbird, navigate to – View – Add new button… (or right-click on the tool bar)

2. In the dialogue box, set Name to Previous!

3. Browse to assign an existing image file to the button (or use the default image)

4. In the code box, on the line following /*CODE*/, type goDoCommand(“cmd_previousMsg”)

5. Press OK.

Create custom button

Note that the exclamation mark in Previous! will distinguish the new button from the old “Previous” button in the customization menu. Also, to generate an appropriate image file for use with the new button, I used GIMP to capture (File – Create – Screenshot – Select a region to grab – Snap) part of the image used for the old previous button, i.e. the “message page” and the double arrow.

Creating a “Next!” button is undertaken similarly. Grab the part of the image with the forward-facing double arrows from the existing Next button, and specify Code = goDoCommand(“cmd_nextMsg”).

The two custom buttons can be added to the tool bar on the main screen, and also to the tool bar in the message display window. These buttons make it really easy to scroll up and down the entire list of messages.


Can we go to the next message? – Please!

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