As forums tell it should be possible to use GNUS for reading maildir created by Thunderbird. I did not find, however, any working implementations posted. And in my own experiments I could not make GNUS to list groups (folders in maildir) to subscribe to.

This is what I did:

  • Manually set up gmail account in Thunderbird and selected the option Message Store Type as File per message (maildir)
  • Checked Thunderbird's directory where it should store emails in maildir format. In my case it is /home/username/.thunderbird/some-id.default/ImapMail/imap.gmail.com which contains the following:

    drwxr-xr-x  4     4k 01-26 10:36 Archive
    drwx------  6     4k 01-26 10:49 [Gmail].sbd
    drwxr-xr-x  4     4k 01-26 10:36 INBOX
    -rw-rw-r--  1 196.7k 01-28 12:28 Archive.msf
    -rw-rw-r--  1   1.1k 01-26 10:30 Drafts.msf
    -rw-rw-r--  1   2.5k 01-26 11:00 [Gmail].msf
    -rw-rw-r--  1 973.4k 01-28 12:22 INBOX.msf
    -rw-r--r--  1     25 01-26 10:30 msgFilterRules.dat
    -rw-rw-r--  1   2.8k 01-27 12:28 Outbox.msf
    -rw-rw-r--  1   1.1k 01-26 10:30 Sent.msf
    -rw-rw-r--  1   1.2k 01-26 10:36 Templates.msf
    -rw-rw-r--  1   2.8k 01-26 10:59 Trash.msf
  • Then I set the following GNUS options:

    (setq gnus-select-method
         '(nnmaildir ""
             (directory "/home/username/.thunderbird/some-id.default/ImapMail/imap.gmail.com")
             (get-new-mail nil)))
    (setq mail-sources nil)
    (setq gnus-secondary-select-methods nil)
  • M-x gnus and press ^ (gnus-group-enter-server-mode)
  • Select {nnmaildir:} (opened) and press RET
  • ... and see nothing (there are no groups)
  • ... also nothing to subscribe to in *Groups* buffer when I press U (gnus-group-unsubscribe-group)
  • Tried to change permissions for imap.gmail.com/ (Thunderbird's maildir directory) with chmod -R +w+r+x imap.gmail.com/. Same results.

What is wrong? Why does not GNUS see the groups (mail directories)? How should I set up GNUS to read and edit Thunderbird mails?

(I am on ubuntu 16.04 LTS with Emacs 25.1.1 and Gnus v5.13)

1 Answer 1


You need to tell gnus to turn your Thunderbird account into a new group by running the command `gnus-group-make-doc-group'. Try this:

  1. M-x gnus (Return)

  2. G f (Return)

  3. Enter the full path to your mail box then hit return.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.