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How to minimize Thunderbird to the Linux system tray

Birdtray is an application that allows users to keep the Thunderbird email program running in the system tray so that it is always accessible, and out of the way. It can also provide on-screen alerts for new messages.  Follow along with this guide to learn how to set up Birdtray on your system.

Note: this program requires the installation of the Mozilla Thunderbird email program on your Linux PC. If you do not already have Thunderbird installed, please check out our in-depth guide on how to get it up and running.

Installing Birdtray on Linux

The Birdtray tool is available to all Linux users via the Flatpak app store, and via source code (though we do not recommend compiling it unless you understand programming or are an advanced Linux user). Additionally, the app is in the Arch Linux AUR, for those that use Arch.

To start the installation of Birdtray on your Linux PC, press Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on the keyboard to launch a terminal window. Then, with the terminal window open, follow along with the command-line instructions below that corresponds with the Linux OS you use.

Arch Linux AUR

To start the installation of Birdtray on Arch, use the Pacman command to install the latest versions of the “Git” and “Base-devel” packages. These are required to interact with the AUR, and without them, it will not be possible to get the Birdtray app working.

sudo pacman -S git base-devel

When both packages are set up, it is time to get the Trizen AUR helper working. Trizen will make setting up the Birdtray application via the AUR much quicker, as it handles all dependencies automatically. Using the git clone command, download the latest release of Trizen.

git clone https://aur.archlinux.org/trizen.git

Install the latest Trizen on your Arch Linux PC with the following commands.

cd trizen
makepkg -sri

Once the Trizen application is set up on your Linux PC, the Birdtray program can be installed. Using the trizen -S command, install Birdtray.

trizen -S birdtray

Flatpak

If you’re not an Arch Linux user, the easiest way to install the Birdtray program is via Flatpak, as there is no code to compile. All that is required is the latest Flatpak runtime.

To start the Flatpak setup of Birdtray, please follow our guide to get the Flatpak runtime working. Then, when the Flatpak runtime is working on your Linux PC, use the flatpak remote-add command to add the Flathub app store to your system.

flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo

After subscribing to the Flathub app store, it is time to install the latest Birdtray program. Using the flatpak install command, get it working.

flatpak install flatpak install flathub com.ulduzsoft.Birdtray

Source-code

If you’re not a fan of Flatpaks and don’t use Arch Linux, the source code for Birdtray is available for compilation. To get your hands on the source code, head over to Github and download the latest release.

When you’ve got the latest release downloaded, follow the compilation instructions here to get the program working. Keep in mind that you must have all dependencies set up on your system for the code to build successfully!

Desktop notifications in Thunderbird

Now that the Birdtray program is up and running on your Linux PC, open up the app on the Linux desktop. Then, when the application is open, follow the step-by-step instructions below to configure Thunderbird to run in the background via the system tray.

Step 1: As soon as the Birdtray application is open, you will see a Mozilla Thunderbird icon in the system tray on your Linux PC. Click on it to access the Birdtray settings.

Please note that if you are using Gnome Shell, you will not see Birdtray in the system tray without installing TopIcons Redux.

Step 2: Inside of the Birdtray settings, locate the “Monitoring” tab and click on it with the mouse. The “Monitoring” area controls how Birdtray keeps track of new emails in Thunderbird.

Step 3: Select the “Add” button in the “Monitoring” tab. The “Add” button will bring up a window that you can use to select your Thunderbird profile.

Once you’ve selected your Thunderbird profile in the “Selected Profile” menu, click on the “Next” button to move to the next page.

Step 4: Upon selecting your Thunderbird profile, Birdtray will list out various email folders in a list. Locate the email folders you would like to monitor with Birdtray, and check the boxes next to them. Then, click the “Finish” button.

Step 5: Find the “Hiding” tab and click on it with the mouse. Then, locate “Start Thunderbird when Birdtray starts.” Also, check the “and hide it” box.

After configuring Birdtray, close it and re-start it. Upon opening it, it will immediately begin monitoring email in Thunderbird and presenting alerts in the desktop system tray.

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