Knowing the most useful keyboard and mouse shortcuts for your e-mail client can cut down on writing time and increase productivity. But for shortcuts to make your job easier, you'll need to commit them to memory. Printing out this document and keeping it where you can glance at the shortcuts while you read e-mail with Mozilla Thunderbird will keep you using them until the shortcuts become automatic.
This blog post is also available in PDF form as a TechRepublic download.
Fifty years ago, electronic communication skills weren't a vital part of a resume. Today, the ability to clearly and concisely communicate via text is crucial to almost any job — and most job listings request proficiency in communications and computer skills.
While the ability to clearly communicate via text is mainly a function of the individual's critical thinking and writing abilities, the ability to communicate quickly is an obvious added bonus. Many professionals, particularly in IT fields, find that they spend a lot of work time responding to e-mail. One guy I know spends the first three hours of each work day on e-mail correspondence!
A note about command keys
Mac users will find that they will need to use the [Cmd] key in place of the [Ctrl] key, and Return instead of [Enter]. It is also important to note that Mac OS reserves the function keys (F1 through F12) for its own purposes, so function key shortcuts will likely not work on Macs.
Send and receive
|[F5][Ctrl][T]||Send and receive all messages for all e-mail accounts|
|[Ctrl][Shift][T]||Get new messages for all e-mail accounts|
|[Esc]||Stop current action|
|[Ctrl][M]||Write new e-mail message|
|[Ctrl][Enter]||Send current message now|
|[Ctrl][Shift][Enter]||Send current message later|
Out of this batch, the F5 (send and receive all messages for all e-mail accounts) and [Ctrl] + [Shift] + T (get new messages for all e-mail accounts) are generally the most useful shortcuts. Going back and forth from keyboard to mouse slows you down, and using the keyboard to download e-mail messages is a sure time-saver.
|[Ctrl][F]||Find in current message (open a search window at the bottom of the current e-mail message)|
|[Ctrl][O]||Open e-mail message in new window|
|[Ctrl][W]||Close current open e-mail message window|
|[Ctrl][P]||Print currently selected e-mail message|
|[F]||Go to next message (from any Thunderbird screen)|
|[N]||Go to next unread e-mail message (from any Thunderbird screen)|
|[B]||Go to previous e-mail message (from any Thunderbird screen)|
|[P]||Go to previous unread e-mail message (from any Thunderbird screen)|
The message- scrolling keyboard shortcuts are your best bet here. If you respond to a lot of e-mail messages, it will be easier on your wrists to do all your scrolling via the keyboard, so there is less wrist rotation.
Responding to and writing new e-mail messages
|[Ctrl][L]||Forward selected message|
|[Ctrl][E]||Edit current message as a new message|
|[Ctrl][R]||Reply to message sender|
|[Ctrl][Shift][R]||Reply to All (replies to message sender and all other recipients)|
The reply and forward shortcuts are likely to be the most used of this group.
Tagging and marking shortcuts
|[M]||Mark message as read or unread (toggle)|
|[R]||Mark thread as read|
|[J]||Mark message as Junk|
|[Shift][J]||Mark message as Not Junk|
|||Add or remove "Important" tag (toggle)|
|||Add or remove "Work" tag (toggle)|
|||Add or remove "Personal" tag (toggle)|
|||Add or remove "To Do" tag (toggle)|
|||Add or remove "Later" tag (toggle)|
|||Remove all tags from selected message|
For those who are more keyboard-oriented in their computer use, the marking and tagging shortcuts are a real time-saver. Once you have these committed to memory, you will be able to sort your e-mail messages in a highly efficient manner. Every boss knows — workers who can efficiently sort e-mail have critical thinking skills.
|[Ctrl][A]||Select all text in open e-mail message|
|[Ctrl][C]||Copy selected text|
|[Ctrl][X]||Cut selected text|
|[Ctrl][V]||Paste selection from clipboard|
|[Del]||Delete selected text and formatting|
|[Ctrl][Z]||Undo previous action|
|[Ctrl][Y]||Redo previous Undo|
The composition shortcuts are pretty standard to most e-mail clients and word processors. Knowing these by heart will surely speed up all of your computer work.
This is a pared-down list of the most useful and commonly needed keyboard shortcuts for Mozilla's Thunderbird. If you frequently perform tagging, formatting, or other actions and you find yourself stopping typing and moving your hands from the keyboard to the mouse to accomplish them, consider downloading and installing shortcut expansions for Thunderbird. Expansions such as "Keyconfig" allow you to create your own keyboard shortcuts, making Thunderbird one of the most customizable and utilitarian e-mail client software options available.
Nicole Bremer Nash is Director of Content and Social Media for HuTerra, where she uses SEO and social media to promote charitable organizations in their community-building and fundraising efforts. She enjoys volunteering, arts and crafts, and conducting science experiments at home. Nicole has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Transylvania University, and has experience in copywriting for education, print, business, and the web. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter via @HuTerra.