John & Anne Wiley

Export Thunderbird Email To Android, iOS or Anywhere

I use the great free open-source Thunderbird app on my MacOS laptop.  Recently I needed to export Thunderbird emails so they can be read offline on my Android devices (phones and tablet).  The export features available in Thunderbird as of version 45.4.0 (Mac) are limited.

Luckily the great free open-source Add-on named ImportExportTools by Paolo aka “Kaosmos” adds a vast number of extra capabilities.  Though all those great extra features can make it seem complex, the Add-on also puts some quick and easy options onto the File menu of Thunderbird.  One that’s great for reading Thunderbird emails offline on a phone or tablet is “html with index.”  This option copies each email you select, into a matching file in web browser html format and adds a cool clickable html index file to list them all, so the emails are easy to read on any phone or tablet (or any computer or other device with web browser).

The emails are displayed on my Android phone and tablet looking much as they do in Thunderbird, and the index file shows them sorted in the order you have currently displayed when you export them. Exporting emails from Thunderbird on any Windows or Linux computer with this method should work basically the same, though the File sub-menu names and locations may differ slightly.

Note that this solution will not enable composing or replying to emails in Thunderbird, but is simply to allow reading them offline on any device (Android in my case though iOS on iPhone and iPad works the same, and of course you can also copy them to most any computer for viewing).

•Before you begin, install the Add-on for Thunderbird.  There’s an official Thunderbird page about how to install the ImportExportTools Add-on here:

If you’d like to export emails differently there’s an official Thunderbird page about the complexities of import/export in general here:

How to Export selected emails from Thunderbird

This was written up for version 45.4.0 (Mac) with ImportExportTools version and works for reading the exported emails offline on any device. Other options for exporting emails with or without the Add-on will produce different and for me inferior results. To export emails in Thunderbird so they’re displayed in any web browser app much as they are in Thunderbird, I did these steps:

  1. Select the messages to export displayed as you’d like them, then use:
    File/Save selected messages/with HTML index/HTML format
    (see screen capture below).
  2. Choose the folder where you want the files to go (one for each selected email).
    TIP: Use the New Folder option at the bottom of the Thunderbird export folder pop-up window to create a date-named (e.g. 161110Emails for my 2016/Nov/10 export) folder to hold them all in one place where they’re not spewed into all your existing files in your default export folder. The very handy index file will probably end up at the bottom of the folder below all the individual email files, so for convenience add a dash “-” to the start of the index file so that -index.html sorts to the top.  To read the emails, just click that index file and it will open in your default web browser. Click then on any email link of course, to read that email.
  3. To put the emails on a phone or tablet, just copy the folder you’ve saved them into over to your phone or tablet.

Here’s a screen capture showing the selection of the options in step 1 above, showing some randomly selected emails for export from a Mac laptop:

Export Screen-shot

Export Screen-shot

•Simply using Save As and other export methods results in a nasty file or massive collection of them that’s not in date sequence or trimmed of excess headers.  There are other Thunderbird Add-Ons and options for email Export, but they may not be so quick and easy for simply reading emails offline on a phone or tablet.

•Although it probably works fine via other methods, copying the folder containing all of the exported email files from MacOS to Android devices via Bluetooth may not work without first compressing the folder into a ZIP file.  Once that is copied to the Android device you may need an app to UNzip the folder.  If you don’t already have such an app, you’ll probably want one eventually.  For all Android devices, I use and recommend the free Zarchiver app because it’s powerful yet free of the invasive Permissions and adware common in many apps:


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