Mozilla Thunderbird – changing default email sort order

In: Mozilla

16 Sep 2004

Update: Trä pointed to the relevant bug: Bug 86845 – Sort order for mail/news not configurable by default.

In reply to my offer of free Thunderbird technical support, I’ve gotten a few queries from people asking how to get rid of certain annoyances they have with Thunderbird (out of the box), or whether these peeves have been “fixed”. Some of these I did manage to resolve, the rest turned out to be also my own peeves with Thunderbird that I didn’t realize I had until I was asked.

One reader asked:

Is there any hidden pref, or any way to make EVERY imap folder sort by Date with newest at the top, instead of the default which is newest at the bottom?

Exactly the same problem I had (I have 7 IMAP email accounts in Thunderbird at work), exactly the same problem I had tried to solve a long while back (to no avail). I’ve checked Google, Bugzilla, and Thunderbird’s pref.js but these didn’t turn up anything useful. It can’t be true that no one else finds this a problem. If you know that this can be changed somewhere or has already been logged into Bugzilla, let me know by leaving a nice little comment.

Coincidentally, on the same day, a colleague asked me how to sort messages in a folder by thread and then by date. Which of course can be done by clicking on the “Thread” icon (click it again if the chronological order is not in the direction you want). But this also only applies to a single folder which is a pain in the ass if you have to do the same for each other folder.

15 Responses to Mozilla Thunderbird – changing default email sort order



September 16th, 2004 at 9am

I just started using Thunderbird (I’ve been using Firefox for a while, but I was really missing the Global Inbox in earlier versions of Thunderbird) and I was wondering the same thing. By now, I’ve got all of my folders set to displaying by reverse chronological order, but there ought to be an easier way.



September 16th, 2004 at 12pm



September 17th, 2004 at 1am

I filed a bug with a possible fix that’s like what you can do in windows (file) explorer: “sort all folders like this one”

the bug itself

If you like this solution, be sure to vote for it!


Phil Stracchino

March 8th, 2005 at 7am

What I want is the ability to make Thunderbird sort by date received, instead of date sent, so that mail sent from different time zones doesn’t show up fifty messages back in my inbox and make me go hunt for it.



March 30th, 2005 at 11pm

In-Reply-to: Phil Stracchino
You can sort by date received — sort of. Turn on the header for “order received” and then sort on that. That’s what I use, for the very same reason you mentioned.



March 31st, 2005 at 12am

As for sorting by thread-then-date, it works, but not as I wish. I would like it to sort the threads by the date of the latest message in the thread. Instead it sorts by the date of the earliest message in the thread.

So, when someone replies to a really old thread, the message doesn’t show up at the top of my folder because it’s buried in the thread a screen or more away. I would like for recent replies to a thread to cause that thread to sort to the top of my thread-message list.

I’m quite sure TBird doesn’t do this now. Perhaps a plugin would help.



July 20th, 2005 at 10am

I agree about this problem. It’s the ONE reason I’m not using thunderbird, and as you say, there’s not a lot of activity with the bug.

My response to all people who say “oh, just click on ‘sort…blah blah blah”

I (and others) want to change the DEFAULT sort order. That is, the one that will be applied to newly created folders. Why is that important?

Easy – Do an import of mail from some other app (or a backup), which has HUNDREDS of subfolders. As these will be created, they will adopt the default folder settings, including this retarded sort order. (who here actually HAS their newest mail at the BOTTOM of a tray? anyone? no? what a surprise)

Thus, to ‘fix’ the folder sort order for the import, you would have to go through each one individually to correct it. No thanks. For this, thunderbird rates a ‘uninstall and wait for a few more versions to see what amount of nothing they’ve done on this issue.’



April 11th, 2006 at 5pm

9 months later and still the same :(


F Peeters

May 9th, 2006 at 7pm

I too should like the possibility to *show* and *sort* on received date rather than sent date…



July 3rd, 2006 at 8pm

I find this bug very annoying.

For some reason my TB sometimes “resets” all IMAP-Folders — all messages are “gone” and have to be retrieved again. Additionally all sort-orders are resetted, too. I hate this behaviour and wish there will be a solution to this.



November 10th, 2006 at 5pm

Oh my.. still this problem!?
Just click on the account subfolder and then in the Message Header Pane click on the horizontal tab above it, that reads “Date”


Sorted by newest received on top

Damn, what some people say when in ignorance. Don’t hesitate to contact me Chu Yeow, if you want to know some setting for Thunderbird :-)



Chu Yeow

November 10th, 2006 at 6pm

Kabza: This entry was posted September 16, 2004 hehe.


Chu Yeow

November 10th, 2006 at 6pm

Oh and, I think you completely missed the point. Try reading the entry again FWIW.


Josh Levine

July 7th, 2007 at 12pm

How to change the default sort order. Enjoy :)


Thunderbird default email sorting « Tardis for a Toolbox

January 6th, 2009 at 3am

[…] is added or imported the sort order is backwards. I did some searching and found others with the issue and the […]