Importing and searching mbox files into Thunderbird

I’ve known for a while that Mozilla Thunderbird uses the mbox format. I was recently looking at the JPilot mailing list archive and once again was presented with a search-less archive and thought I’d search it with TB. It just plain works.

Most mailing lists managed with mailman have this kind of archive page where they propose to download the full raw archive. I just did that and a big jpilot.mbox showed up in my home dir (BTW, I’m using Linux but this applies to other platforms as well). You can create a new mail account or just use Local Folders if they’re unused. Once you create a new account, find it in your profile directory. This first screenshot shows what was in my Local Folder directory after overwriting the Inbox file there with the jpilot.mbox file:

Home directory screenshot

Notice how it’s a 13 Mb file!

I just reloaded TB and sure enough, all 4352 messages from the very first to the very last are there!

TB screenshot with mailing list archive imported.

Now that is a good reason to use the nice and fast search capabilities in TB 🙂

Update: Based on an interesting suggestion by John Clizbe, I tried this succesfully to continue having a full, up-to-date searchable archive: once you’ve done what I described before, subscribe to the mailing list and user the filters in Thunderbird to move the new messages to the existing archive’s folder.


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