I've got cron jobs sending mail to my user at /var/mail. I know how to access that at the command line with the mail command. But, while a big command line fan, I do not like reading mail (even system mail) that way.

My mail client of choice is Thunderbird. Can I read /var/mail messages in Thunderbird? How?

I'm running Ubuntu 9.04 and Thunderbird (though I'm soon to upgraded to 10.04).


2 Answers 2


In Ubuntu 10.04, with Thunderbird 3, the option is accomplished by:

  1. Select Edit,   Account Settings

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  2. Choose Account Actions,   Add other account

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  3. Select Unix Spool (Movemail).

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The UI to access this menu is slightly different in Thunderbird 2, but I didn't have it handy.

In Thunderbird 2, do the following, adapted from the Gmail FAQ:

  1. Click the Tools menu, and select Account Settings..
  2. Click the Add Account... button to launch Account Wizard.
  3. Select Movemail from the list.
  • 1
    Well, now I feel foolish. (I'd tried some time ago and hope that the option in the wizard post-dates that, else I don't know how I missed it!) Thanks. It was also necessary to run sudo chmod 01777 /var/mail to get this to work, as without, thunderbird complained it couldn't write a ~.lock file.
    – vanden
    Aug 11, 2010 at 12:33
  • 2
    @vanden: You should find a lower permission that works or create a group that allows access. World writeable is dangerous. Aug 11, 2010 at 17:05
  • 1
    @Dennis: Thanks. I wasn't pleased by the permissions, either. They were suggested by the thunderbird interface. I tried removing world write access, but that prevented access to the mail. Having fetched the backlog, I've reverted.
    – vanden
    Aug 11, 2010 at 20:14

This isn't possible anymore. However, it should become possible if https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1802145#c0 is resolved.

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