Configuration utilities for administrators

From MozillaZine Knowledge Base

This article was written for Thunderbird but also applies to Mozilla Suite / SeaMonkey (though some menu sequences may differ).

Many of the tools used by system administrators to automate configuring and deploying Netscape for multiple users don't work with Thunderbird. This bug report talks about how A Brief Guide to Mozilla Preferences doesn't seem to work anymore. The -install-global-extension command line argument doesn't work in Thunderbird 3.1 and later as support for it was dropped in Gecko. Some tools to consider:

  • Thunderbird 3.1 (and later) supports Autoconfiguration (not the same as "AutoConfig" below) in the account setup wizard. It tries to automate the creation of the mail account based on just the real name, email address and password. The data can come from a central database maintained by Mozilla for big mail providers or a configuration file that it "discovers" in your domain, so you can set it up yourself. This doesn't let you configure global settings or install add-ons like the other tools, its just a way to make it easier to add a pre-configured mail account. You can submit data for the central database at the Mozilla ISP database site. Thunderbird:autoconfiguration explains exactly how it decides which mechanism to use to get configuration information. It seems to have the only documentation on where to put a local configuration file. Currently there isn't any support for custom fields in the config files. See this bug report to track any progress.
  • Mozilla AutoConfig (aka Mission Control) is a centralized auto-configuration of Mozilla Suite, Firefox, Thunderbird, and Netscape 4.X. It uses general.config.filename and general.config.vendor preferences in the all.js file in the greprefs subdirectory of the program directory. The <vendor>.cfg file can either contain the customized javascript to autoconfigure the application or it can direct the client to query a web server and download the preferences. Current versions of Thunderbird ( as of this writing) and Firefox appear to fully support autoconfig. Autoconfig is extremely powerful and flexible since the javascript configure files can read environmental variables and make LDAP queries to retrieve user specific information for configuration. Through the lockPref and defaultPref functionality, administrators can also lock down configurations as needed.
  • Automatic Mozilla Configurator is a Mozilla project to customize and deploy Mozilla Suite, Firefox and Thunderbird for users whose home directory is on a file share. One of its main goals is to be able to lock preferences using a mozilla.cfg file that contains encoded javascript commands. That feature is not available for Thunderbird.
  • Mozptch is a Mozilla project for configuring Mozilla Suite, Firefox and Thunderbird. It runs under Windows and Linux, can be run interactively or non-interactively and uses a ini-style configuration file. The project still exists but its been replaced by opsi (open pc server integration). It is not Mozilla specific, also supports inventories and license management, and supposedly has a easier to use it script system. This wiki page seems to have opsi script files (setup.ins, uninstall.ins, delsub.ins) that were tested using Thunderbird 9.0.
  • Automx runs on your server and handles requests for a mail account profile. All your users need to provide is their real name, mail address and password. It is a Python application that supports several backends, including LDAP and SQL. It supports Outlook 2007+, MS Mobiles, Thunderbird 3.0+, KMail, Evolution and Kontact email clients.
  • Zettaserve has free .MSI packages for Thunderbird and Firefox. FrontMotion has ones for both Firefox and a Firefox Community Edition that has the ability to lockdown settings through Active Directory using Administrative Templates. They don't have the latest versions, but seem to upgrade often enough that its not obsolete. The Open Source MSI repository sounds promising but it only has obsolete versions.



Misc. Information

You can disable the Import wizard in Thunderbird from starting when there is no profile by adding


to a file called "override.ini" in the program directory (C:\Program Files\Mozilla Thunderbird). [2]

You can flag bad configurations in the auto-setup database used by the account wizard or submit a new configuration for review at Mozilla's ISP database site.

Several configuration files in the profile have been moved into a omni.jar file to improve performance by reducing the the amount of I/O needed to load the application.

Ability to customize vanilla Thunderbird with a group of settings (through distribution.ini) is a (resolved fixed) bug report requesting that Thunderbird support the ability to customize settings using a distribution.ini file like Firefox does. This blog post discusses how to do that.

Thunderbird/BYOB discusses plans to create an equivalent of Build Your Own Browser (BYOB) for Thunderbird. However, that effort seems dead.

See also

External links

A series of blog postings on Mozilla AutoConfig: