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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If you install the addon through the Thunderbird Extension Manager, you will most likely wind up with an out of date version of ExQuilla that will not work.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.

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