Thunderbird Saving Multiple Drafts

Occasionally we get tickets from customers who use the Thunderbird mail client claiming that their client saves multiple versions of draft messages that never seem to go away once an email is sent. One may disappear, but others remain. This issue is not uncommon, but there's no official "fix" for it from Mozilla even though the issue has existed for years.

The issue stems from how and where Thunderbird, by default, stores draft messages. Ideally, you'd want your mail client to store a draft message to your account's Drafts folder. That way, the message is synced back to the server, and you can therefore retrieve your drafts regardless of where you are or where you move. For example, you start a message on your desktop, but are unable to finish it until later. Then, when you're ready, you complete the message via webmail, on your phone or tablet, etc. The idea is that the message syncs back to the server, and you can finish it anywhere, at any time.

Unfortunately, Thunderbird has an issue -- some may call it a bug, while others call it a feature -- where multiple versions of draft messages are saved within the account Drafts folder. It's just how Thuderbird seems to work, regardless of whether you've set up your account using IMAP or POP3. The only "fix" is to save drafts locally. That means that the drafts won't sync back to the mail server. This can cause a number of inconveniences, not the least of which is that the only way to continue working on a saved draft is to work on it within the same Thunderbird client where the message was first created. In addition, in Thunderbird, local folders appear at the very bottom of your folders list, so if you have a lot of folders, you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of your folders to open local drafts.

That said, if you DO store drafts locally, only ONE version of an email draft is saved, and you can send that email and it is removed from the local Drafts folder.

To implement this change, do the following:

  1. Open up the Thunderbird client
  2. Click on the hamburger icon to the right of the Search bar (in the upper, right corner of Thunderbird)
  3. Select Account Settings from the dropdown menu. (NOTE: If you don't see an Account Settings menu option, click on the Tools option: Account Settings should be in that menu.)
  4. Within Account Settings, click on Copies & Folders
  5. You should see Drafts and Templates, and under that, a Keep draft messages in: option
  6. Select the "Drafts" Folder on: option, and from the dropdown, select Local Folders
  7. Go ahead and close the Account Settings tab
  8. Exit Thunderbird

Moving forward, any drafts that are saved, either automatically or manually, are saved on that local machine. Once a draft is saved, you'll see a "Drafts" folder appear within your Local Folders. You can click on that folder and see the drafts that have been saved.

Granted, this is not an ideal solution. However, you can only work with the tools you're given, and this is how Mozilla has designed Thunderbird to work.