Multiple Identities in Thunderbird

Album Cover: First Impressions of Earth

"Don't be a coconut. God is trying to talk to you."
The Strokes / Ask Me Anything

Posted on July 03, 2005 6:50 PM in Computers
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

One of the things I've put off for too long is setting up multiple identities in Thunderbird. Essentially, multiple identities allow you to respond differently to emails you receive at the same email account. This probably most directly applies to situations where you have a catchall account that receives email to multiple email addresses (a situation typical of those who own their own domain). However, it also applies when you receive email at the same email address from various, distinct destinations. Such is the case with me, as I receive email from this blog and my Coldplay site at the same email address.

To figure out how to set up multiple identities, I looked at the MozillaZine Knowledge Base and found all the information I needed. That's where the straightforwardness came to a halt, though, unfortunately.

The problem with the way the Thunderbird team has implemented multiple identities is that it is based off of the assumption that they will be uniquely identified by email address. As the case I've identified clearly shows, this is not always true.

The main reason I wanted to set up multiple identities is so that I can have different email signatures depending on where the email I'm replying to has come from. Right now, with the default configuration, I have to type my signature, complete with name, site name and web address whenever I reply to Coldplay-related email (which unfortunately comes more frequently than blog-related email).

Because Thunderbird assumes identities will be unique based on email address, the process of updating preferences for an identity isn't intuitive, nor is the process of choosing an identity from the drop-down From: box when replying to an email. Imagine being faced with the decision between and when replying to an email.

Another unfortunate side-effect of this (or perhaps an unrelated bug?) is that changing the signature placement preference doesn't seem to stick. So if I choose to have my signature appear above the quoted email I am replying to and hit OK, my preference is ignored and the default setting of appearing below the quoted text remains set.

Needless to say, it only took a few minutes of running into these types of issues before I wrote off multiple identities and decided to stick with the time-consuming option that I've become so unfortunately accustomed to.

If anyone has had any degree of success in a similar situation, I'd love to hear about it.


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