SMBs

Connect the Thunderbird email client to your Exchange server

Looking for an Outlook replacement? If so, try using Thunderbird with the ExQuilla addon to get an email client connected with an Exchange 2007 or 2010 server.

Microsoft Exchange is one of the most widely used email servers in the business world. The problem many smaller businesses have with this is that, without Outlook, the only option is Exchange Webmail. This option is fine for some businesses, but for the ones that want an actual email client, it's been a challenge. That all changes now.

The ability to connect the Thunderbird email client to an Exchange server is finally possible. Thanks to Zendesk's ExQuilla Thunderbird addon, you can connect Thunderbird to your Exchange 2007 or 2010 server through Exchange Web Services (EWS). The setup just requires the installation of an addon and some knowledge about your server.

I will walk you through the installation of the addon as well as the setup of your Exchange account. I assume you already have Thunderbird installed and running, you have an Exchange account, and your Exchange server is either 2007 or 2010 and uses EWS.

Installing the plugin

  1. Open Thunderbird.
  2. Go to Tools | Addons.
  3. In the search field, type Exchange.
  4. Click the ExQuilla addon.
  5. Click Install.
  6. Click Restart within Thunderbird.

The addon should be installed. All that is left is to configure a new EWS account within the addon.

If you install the addon through the Thunderbird Extension Manager, you will most likely wind up with an out of date version of ExQuilla that will not work. If this is the case, install it with these steps:

  1. Download the latest version of ExQuilla for your platform (Windows, Linux, or Mac).
  2. Open Thunderbird.
  3. Go to Tools | Addons.
  4. Click the Tools drop-down and select Install From File.
  5. Navigate to where you saved the file and select it.
  6. Click the Install button (Figure A).
  7. After the install completes, restart Thunderbird by clicking Restart Now.

Figure A

After the countdown, you should be able to click Install. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Setting up the account

Before you set up the account in Thunderbird, you must find out your EWS address -- it will be something like https://YOUR_DOMAIN/EWS/Exchange.asmx. After you enter that into your browser, you should be prompted for your credentials. The credentials necessary should be in the form of DOMAIN\username and your Active Directory password. Once you successfully authenticate here, you can move on to setting up the account in Thunderbird.

1. Go to Tools | ExQuilla for Microsoft Exchange and then select Add Microsoft Exchange Account.

2. In the first window of the wizard, enter your email address and password, leave Login With Email Address checked (Figure B), and click Next. Figure B

If the email authentication method fails, go back and use the Domain\Username method.
3. In the Exchange address setup dialog (Figure C), if your Exchange server is configured for auto discover, you should be able to click the Do Auto Discover button, and ExQuilla will locate the server address; if your Exchange server isn't set up for auto discover, you'll have to manually enter the address. Click the Manual button, enter the URL to the server in the Microsoft Exchange EWS URL field, and click Next. Figure C

Enter Your Name and keep the two check boxes at the bottom checked.

4. The window you will be presented lists the setup you just created. Click Finish, and the wizard will be complete. ExQuilla will begin to pull down your Exchange email into a newly created account. This new account should include all of your current emails, as well as your archives and subfolders in your Inbox folder hierarchy.

Conclusion

Although it's not a 100% feature-for-feature replacement, for anyone who can't afford Microsoft Office or just wants an alternative to Microsoft Outlook, using Thunderbird with the ExQuilla addon is a fantastic way to get an email client connected with an Exchange 2007 or 2010 server. You'll find Thunderbird works faster and more reliably than Outlook and is not as prone to the PST issues that can often haunt Outlook.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

11 comments
ubuntu12
ubuntu12

Its works only for 1 month. Exquila is not opensource

vedia
vedia

Thank you! With this article I start to use my favorite mail client again !

dan_movie
dan_movie

sorry about the double post, did not think the 1st one had gone thru.  :)

dan_movie
dan_movie

Great info, just what I was looking for.

Can anyone tell me if using TB will eliminate the "winmail.dat" mystery file that colleagues are sometimes receiving since I switched to Exchange 2010 server (from 2007). I tried all the fixes I could find with no success. I do not want to "send using plain text", I like having the ability to write in colored font and hi-lited text in emails. So I am now looking to use something else than Outlook. Thanks, Dan

dan_movie
dan_movie

This is great info, just what I was looking for. 

Can someone tell me if using TB will eliminate the "winmail.dat" file that some of the people I have been in contact with are now getting since I switched servers from 2007 to 2010. I have tried every fix to get rid of it with no success I am now hoping that not using Outlook will solve this. I want to keep the ability to change font color and hi-lited text in my emails, I don't want to send as just plain text. Thanks, Dan.

tanyagarg
tanyagarg

Keep up the superb work , Article really helped a lot. I was searching the video tutorials for the same from last two days but now i don't need any video tutorial for same.

armandozg
armandozg

Thanks Jack I was using evolution for some years as my client for corporate email, but always something worked wrong, some times calendar, GAL did not load, freezes, suddenly the program close, etc. So I gave a try to thunderbird and it is working like a charm. I also added it the "exchange calendar and task provider" plugin which works with lightning plugin and I have now a very complete email client for exchange. I had problems with the server setup, because autodiscover got another server URL, but evolution helped me with this issue providing the correct EWS server to use. So I entered manually to exquilla the EWS URL discovered by evolution and it worked perfectly. I'm connected to the corporate lync server with pidgin so I have a complete corporate environment using open source. thanks a lot

ivoyhip
ivoyhip

I want to use thunder bird on my home computer to check my company email at the Exchange server. My home computer does not join any Windows domain. I do not want to use VPN on my home computer. I can setup a public IP address for the Exchange server, so that my home computer can connect to the Exchange server. Is it possible to use thunder bird in this case?

weezleheadjr
weezleheadjr

@dan_movie winmail.dat appears when emailing a Mac end user from an Exchange environment. This is the nature of the beast. The only way to fix this is by selecting plain-text when sending, buying a Mac, or opening the email with a Windows PC.

nedvis
nedvis

yes, ivoyhip, Thunderbird will certainly work in your scenario. Thunderbird will , thanks to the ExQuilla addon , connect to your corporate MS Exchange server via https protocol as it would when you use MS Outlook WEB Access client. Once connection is established and your Thunderbird mail client user is authorized to use Exchange service , Thunderbird will read Web Services Description Language ( wsdl ) data file and finally pull your messages off the server. So, definitelly, your computer does not even have to be domain member, and it does not have to be even Windows based PC. And sure enough you do not need VPN connection for mail retreival with Thunderbird mail client . Good Luck.