Thunderbird Tip: Change IMAP Folder Subscriptions

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Recently I shared a couple Thunderbird tips: How to make e-mail replies start at the top, and how to mark a message as read when you reply.

See, I'm still test-driving Thunderbird as a potential replacement for Outlook. It's getting the job done, but I occasionally find myself grumbling about settings that should be easy to find--but aren't.

For example, I'm using Thunderbird as the mail client for a handful of Gmail accounts, all of which are configured for IMAP. (If you're not familiar with that concept, read this: Use Gmail IMAP with Your Desktop E-Mail Client.)

Just one problem: Nowhere in the account settings or options menus or anywhere else can I find a way to choose which IMAP folders I want to subscribe to.

Sure, Thunderbird pulled in all the basic ones--Inbox, Drafts, Trash, etc.--when I set up the accounts, but there are other folders (i.e. labels, to use Gmail parlance) I want to access.

Turns out the setting is almost hiding in plain sight:

Thunderbird IMAP subscribe
1. In the left-hand column, find the account you want to modify. (In my case, it would be

2. Right-click that account (i.e. the e-mail address, though you can also right-click the Inbox), then choose Subscribe.

3. Presto! Your complete IMAP folder list. Check the ones you want to subscribe to, and uncheck the ones you don't want.

4. Click OK and you're done.

I really shouldn't complain about Thunderbird's scattered settings, as Outlook is often much worse. But I do find it irksome that such a basic option can't be found alongside all the other e-mail account settings.

Agree? Disagree? You know what to do. (Oh, you don't? Leave a comment, that's what.)

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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