Thunderbird Tip: Show Only Unread Messages

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I'm increasingly of the opinion that Mozilla's Thunderbird is the best email client for Windows. It's fast, free, versatile, and reasonably easy to use.

I say "reasonably" because there are a few valuable features hiding in plain sight. Thunderbird has no instruction manual, per se, so you might overlook some or all of those features if you don't know where to look -- or even what to look for.

Let's start with solving one of email's great hassles: unread messages getting pushed "below the fold" in your inbox, dropping out of sight because of the arrival of newer messages.

Regular readers know of my fondness for services like FollowUpThen, which act as a kind of snooze button for messages you want to attend to later. But that's not always the most practical way to deal with unread mail.

Indeed, sometimes it's better to have your inbox show you only your unread mail, rather than its usual mixture of read and unread. Thunderbird makes this action easy -- provided you know where to look. Here's the process:

1. Start Thunderbird.

2. Click View, Toolbars, Quick Filter Bar. (If there's already a checkmark next to Quick Filter Bar, you don't need to click it.) The Quick Filter Bar resides just above your inbox. Even if it was already there, you might never have noticed it or bothered to fiddle with it.

3. Just to the right of where it says "Quick Filter," there's an icon that looks like a tiny pair of sunglasses. Click it.

Presto! Now your inbox shows only unread messages -- and fits a lot more of them into view. I find this insanely handy. And the icon is a toggle switch, so you can just click it again to restore the usual all-messages view.

Neat, huh? While you're at it, check out my Thunderbird tips on making email replies start at the top and marking messages as read after you reply.

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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