How to use Thunderbird to send and receive Exchange email replacing MS-Outlook

Thunderbird is a open source Mail client with tons of features. Out-of-box Thunderbird does not support MS-Exchange server – in simple it is not a Exchange client like Outlook. In most of the corporate networks, employees can access Email only using Outlook, Outlook Web Access (OWA) and Blackberry. They are all having Exchange support. Many of us get frustrated with Outlook some times and seeking for some Open source alternative like Thunderbird. Since Thunderbird does not support Exchange we need some gateway to do this stuff. There the DavMail comes into picture. Here is the capabilities of both the applications in brief, quoted from the respective web site.

New Thunderbird 3 is faster, flexible, and more secure. Thunderbird 3 changes the way you do email with tabbed email, and a new set of search tools helps you find your emails faster. Thunderbird is flexible to suit your personality, to give you the features you need, and to fit your work style. Change how Thunderbird looks or add as many features as you want.Mail Account Setup Wizard, One-click Address Book, Attachment Reminder, Activity Manager are some of the features which make your mailing life easier. Thunderbird’s security and privacy measures ensure that your communications and identity remain safe.

You can read more about the features here.


Basically DavMail act as a browser to get data form Outlook Web Access (OWA) feature of MS-Exchange server. The fetched data is transferred to thunderbird through distinct ports.

Ever wanted to get rid of Outlook ? DavMail is a POP / IMAP / SMTP/ Caldav / LDAP exchange gateway allowing users to use any mail/calendar client (e.g. Thunderbird with Lightning or Apple iCal) with an Exchange server, even from the internet or behind a firewall through Outlook Web Access. DavMail now includes an LDAP gateway to Exchange global address book and user personal contacts to allow recipient address completion in mail compose window and full calendar support with attendees free/busy display.

Apart from these two applications, we use Lightning also. Lightning is a Calendar and Tasks Extension (or add-on or plug-in) for Thunderbird mail client.


Thunderbird: You can install it from here. I am using version 3.0.4.
DavMail: You can install it from here.  My version is 3.6.5

I don’t have much to say on installation part on Thundbird and DavMail. It is usual Next.. Next.. Finish.

You need the following data before going ahead. Keep them in handy.

1. Your Outlook Web Access URL address, which you use to enter to check your works Mails.

2. Your works Domain name, Username and Password

3. If your workstation is behind a proxy, you should know Proxy server name or IP address, Port number, Username and Password for proxy.

In this post, where ever I mention letters in red, substitute them with your data listed above. Where ever you don’t follow my instructions, click the screenshot to enlarge it and get clarified.

DavMail Configuration

After installation, you can find the DavMail running at system tray. Right-click and select Settings. In Main tab enter your Outlook Web Access URL. Leave the rest as it is.

Go to Proxy tab, enter your proxy details if you are behind a proxy server. Otherwise leave it as it is.

The configuration has done the following stuff for us.

DavMail is running on our workstation itself. So our server is called localhost here afterwards. We have the following services running in our locahost in the ports mentioned.

1. POP Port: 1110 – To receive the emails from Exchange (we use this method in our case)

2. IMAP Port: 1143 – To receive the emails from Exchange (we are not going to use this in our case now)

3. SMTP Port: 1025 – To send the emails through Exchange

4. Caldav HTTP Port: 1080 – To synchronize the calendar with Exchange server

5. LDAP Port: 1389 – To fetch address book from Exchange server. Thunderbird will use this to auto-complete email addresses while we compose the message.

Account creation wizard

Run the Thunderbird after installation. First time running will kick start a wizard to create a account. Though it is capable of auto configuring for some email services like GMail, in our case we have to configure manually. But don’t worry it is damn simple, if you follow the instructions below referring the screenshots. Click the screenshots for bigger view.

1. Enter your Name, Email ID and password given by your works IT support team and click Continue.

2. Now the thundrbird will try to auto-configure the account. You just stop it by clicking Stop button.

3. You should have a plain configuration screen with some default values. Click Manual Setup button.

4. Select Server Settings from left pane under your account. Enter the following:

1. Server Name: localhost

2. User Name: domainname\username

3. Port: 1110

Also ensure that Connection Security is None (connection between Thunderbird and DavMail)

5. Select Composition & Addressing in left pane under your account. Select Use a different LDAP server. Click Edit Directories.

Now you will be shown a LDAP server configuration box. Click Add button to add our local LDAP server.

Enter the following values in the input boxes.

1. Name: Exchange

2. Hostname: localhost

3. Base DN: ou=people

4. Port number: 1389

5. Bind DN: domainname\username

Clicking OK and again OK in the LDAP servers configuration box will bring you to Composition & Addressing pane again. Select Exchange under Use a different LDAP server. This Exchange is the one which we have created just now.

6. Select Outgoing Server (SMTP) from left pane. You should see your new account at right pane. Set it as Default if not by click Set as Default. Then click Edit button to configure manually.

Enter the following:

1. Server Name: localhost

2. Port: 1025

3. Select User name and Password

4. User name: domainname\username

Also ensure that Connection Security is None (connection between Thunderbird and DavMail)

Now we are about to finish. Just click OK in this Account Settings box to exit. Now you will be shown main Thunderbird screen.

Now we have to configure Auto-completion of address while composing a message. This can be done by following the main menu.

1. Tools -> Options -> Composition -> Addressing -> Address Auto completion

2. Select Local Address book

3. Select Directory Server and select Exchange. Click OK to finish.

Now you are done with Email configuration.

Lightning installation

Follow the steps given below to install the Lightning extension which provides Calendar and Tasks functionalities to Thunderbird.

1. Thunderbird main menu -> Tools -> Add-ons -> Type Lightning in Search All Add-ons text box and Enter. It will search and get Lightning extension summary. Click Add to Thunderbird button to start installing.

2. After a few seconds Install now button will be enabled. Click it to install.
3. Click Restart Thunderbird to make lightning alive.


Installation is done. Now let’s configure calendar to get service from DavMail.

Calendar configuration

1. Thunderbird main menu -> File -> New -> Calendar

2. Select On the Network and click OK.

3. Select Format as CalDav. Enter location as “http://localhost:1080/users/”. Refer the screenshot for more clarification. Click Next.

4. Enter some nick name for your calendar and Click Next and Finish.

Good job! Now you are done with all configuration to replace your Outlook with Thunderbird. Just start using it to carry out your work. Thunderbird’s lightning fast search will help you to find anything except God 🙂

Here are some screenshots of how it looks like when you use it day to day.

Adding new task in Thunderbird

Adding new event in Thunderbird

Mail view of Thunderbird

Calendar view of Thunderbird

Task view of Thunderbird

Event and Task Reminder

Hope you enjoyed this post! Have a nice time with Thunderbird and DavMail!

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  1. I wish I’d found this MONTHS ago. Thank you for good instructions, good detail.
    August 16, 2013 on Windows 7 with Thunderbird 17.0.8

  2. This page was SUPER helpful. I just got back into Linux after many years. In less than an hour, all of my e-mail accounts were set up. One thing you might want to note…Ubuntu 11.10 distributed Thunderbird 7. People need to upgrade to 8 to use Lightning.


  3. I tried all the steps above and being asked for password.
    When I put the password in it says that username & Password incorrect. while I have used it on another tab on OWA and it works.
    I have noticed that the username is domainusername@localhost. I thinks the extra is causing the problem.
    any suggestions?

  4. Hi! My name is Kareem. I have a question. I am using a MAC. The instructions above works perfectly well when I’m outside the office, however, when I’m back in the office I’m having to make several changes again. Is it possible to use one setting to work inside and outside the office without any headaches? Your help is much appreciated.

  5. thanks a lot.. i was looking for setting up for exchange server 2010.. this tutorial has all the instructions and it works.

    again thanks a lot..

  6. Has anyway had issues with DavMail popping up a message box requesting a One Time (token) password?. I have done everything in this article (and every variation around it) but I can’t get pass this popup box. i’ve tried my password, my RSA key login number, etc. Nothing seems to work!
    I know the OWA account I am trying to access can be done as I can do it on my Acer A500 tablet (Androind 3.?).
    I am running a macbook with 10.7 (Lion)

  7. Can someone PLEASE post images on how to use this guide for the newest version? It’s a bit different and I’m not sure how to use it…

    Thanks in advance.

  8. Yay! Now I can get calendar items and email into Thunderbird! Thanks for spending your time creating this guide. It was very helpful, and now I don’t have to spend more time on my part to install Outlook.

  9. Excellent guide – thank you.

    Just a note with regard to the comments that say you no longer need DavMail any more – this is only the case if your company allow you to connect via imap/pop3/smtp. My company only allows webmail access outside of the office.

  10. Much appreciated, it works like a charm 🙂 Would like to know if someone has worked out the following:

    – Shared Calendars
    – Exchange Subfolders (for instance, those created in Outlook under Inbox, which are sadly not being imported with TB and DavMail).

    Thanks again and cheers.

    1. Hi Eduardo,
      If we select incoming as POP, those sub-folders are not coming. I selected incoming as IMAP and it worked like charm.

      ALso made the following changes
      > Go to Tools/Options/Advanced/Config Editor:
      Set boolean mail.check_all_imap_folders_for_new to true.

  11. Furkin fantastic.

    Thanks heaps for posting this. Did not want to give Micro$haft another hefty sum of my paycheque.

    Again, thanks heaps.

    Now to go give a donation to DavMail

  12. Connected and finally sync’d T-Bird to OWA account. Can now drop Outlook. DavMail wasn’t needed. (Also switched to a gmail calendar instead of keeping Outlook Cal.)
    Using T-Bird 3.1.9 and Win 7 Ultimate.
    IT Services helped with Server Settings (name, port, security) and Outgoing Server (SMTP) name.
    Finishing touches (resolving synchronization delay) came from this blogspot post.
    “4. Go to Tools/Options/Advanced/Config Editor:
    Set boolean mail.check_all_imap_folders_for_new to true.
    Set boolean mail.imap.expunge_after_delete to true.”
    Move down the list each item, right click, select Toggle. It’ll switch the item from false to true.

  13. Looked everywhere, did not get anything to work. your stuff worked like a champ with very few minor changes. One question and this might be too far-fetched, is there anyway I can get lightning add-on to display shared calendars also?

    thanks bro

  14. Excellent information, it all worked perfectly … at the beginning gave me errors, but it was my problem, because it does not put the domain … Thank you very much, I can again enjoy my beloved thunderbird

  15. Thank you very much!

    I have been searching for a while to get this to work. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Tutorial was perfect and screen shots were spot on. This works in Win 7 64-bit on Exchange 2003 for sure!

    Thanks again!!

  16. Configuration seemed to go as planned. One exception: in the Tools -> Options -> Composition -> Addressing -> Address Auto completion step, my SMTP server does not show the Security and Authorization box. It has “Connection Security” which is None and the “Authentication method” which is “password, transmitted insecurely” below which is “User Name:” which I have entered domain\user name.

    When I check mail, Thunderbird says “An error occurred with the POP3 mail server. Mail server localhost responded:

    At the same time, DavMail pops up with: DavMail Gateway id is null.

    Boy I hope this can work!!

    Thunderbird 3.1.7 / Lightning 1.0b2
    Many plug ins
    Windows 7 Ultimate 64
    Windows firewall enabled with all DavMail ports allowed in a new rule.
    AVG free edition 2011

  17. WOW!! Thank you so much, this was perfect. I’ve been looking everywhere for a solution like this. With this little tidbit of information I have completely severed my needs for Microsoft!! Yeah!!

    Thanks also for your thorough and complete explanation. Very good tutorial.

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