How to search Thunderbird emails with Spotlight on a MacBookPro (OSX 10.4.11)

Ever since I started using Thunderbird on a mac (over a year ago), its been annoying that Spotlight searches other files on my laptop, but not my emails. I finally had time to put aside an evening to try this, and got it working in just a few minutes.

Here’s what I did:

  • Shutdown Thunderbird. The more cautious should backup their files – I was feeling cavalier so didn’t bother.
  • Go to and download the attached zipfile.
  • Open the zipfile on your desktop, and extract the file Thunderbird.mdimporter.
  • Move Thunderbird.mdimporter to either “~/Library/Spotlight/” (which I did) or “/Library/Spotlight/” (as suggested in some other posts)
  • Start Thunderbird, and go to Thunderbird->Preferences. In the Preferences dialog, go to the Advanced tab, and then at the bottom of the General sub-tab, click on the “Config Editor…” button. Search for mail.spotlight.enable, and double-click it in the search results to change the value from “false” to “true”.
  • Close Thunderbird.
  • Open a terminal shell, and run "/usr/bin/mdimport -L" to verify that the new Thunderbird importer is correctly found and now running. If Thunderbird.mdimporter is not here, go back and verify the steps above.
  • Some posts commented that you needed to restart your machine, but I cant remember if I needed to do this.
  • After waiting a few minutes, use Spotlight to search for an email. Try searching for something obvious – like “@” or your email address – the point is to see if any of the indexing has started. If the indexes are still being built, you might find very few results, but should at least get something. Allow time for indexes to get built on all emails.
  • Observe that Spotlight lists email messages in “Mail Messages” section of search results. Observe that clicking on an email message in search results will open a new Thunderbird window of that actual email.
  • Thats it – enjoy! πŸ™‚

Tip of the hat to,,, for pointing the way; I ended up doing a subset/combination of parts of each of their instructions, so hope folks find the steps I followed useful.

For the record, I was using the following:

  • MacBookPro running OSX 10.4.11
  • Thunderbird

3 thoughts on “How to search Thunderbird emails with Spotlight on a MacBookPro (OSX 10.4.11)

  1. Thanks for sharing this .. easy to do and worked like a treat. We all use Thunderbird so I will add it to the staff computer image at our college. Yes, it did kick in after I restarted my OSX laptop πŸ™‚

  2. […] I went back and rechecked all the steps in my earlier blog post, thinking maybe some files were lost in the upgrade, but all appeared ok. Using “/usr/bin/mdimport -L” I verified that the importer was present and still running. I even tried “/usr/bin/mdimport -E” to do a complete new re-index, in case it was somehow corrupted. Still no success. […]

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