Neil Turner's Blog

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Growl and Thunderbird

Please note: Since this guide was written in November 2005, a proper Growl Notification Extension for Thunderbird and Firefox has been released, which means you will no longer need to follow the instructions below to enable Growl notifications in Thunderbird. This page is kept for reference only – please use the extension instead.
Growl with Thunderbird
If you use Thunderbird on a Mac, here’s how to get Growl to notify you of new messages. It’s unfortunately not very straightforward and involves several steps, but here goes:

1. You will need:

We’ll assume that you already have Thunderbird and Growl installed.

2. Installing Yamb

Download Yamb and install it – I saved it to the desktop, then opened the Extensions dialog in Thunderbird and copied it across. You’ll now need to restart Thunderbird for Yamb to become active. Yamb, incidentally, is a framework extension for external notification apps – it’ll work with a variety of apps on Windows, Mac and Linux, but here we’re concentrating on Growl on Mac OS X.

3. Install GrowlNotify

Copy the GrowlNotify folder out of the package and put it somewhere – its location isn’t really important and you can delete it when you’ve finished. You’ll now need to open Terminal and cd to the GrowlNotify folder that you saved. You’ll now need to become root – type su, press enter and then type the administrator password. Now, to install GrowlNotify, type ./, followed by enter. Now type exit and enter to logout as root.

GrowlNotify is now installed to /usr/local/bin/ . You may want to add this folder to your system path if you want to use it for other things in future but we don’t need to do this right now.

4. Install the growlNotify Yamb script

Save this somewhere where you can access it – mine’s in my home folder – and then open a terminal and type chmod u+x growlNotify to give the script execute permissions.

5. Configure Yamb

Yamb will have told Thunderbird to check for new messages every 10 seconds instead of 10 minutes, which you may not want. Therefore, you should probably go into Account Settings and adjust the times (they’re under Server Settings). I usually have it at 300 or 600 seconds – 5 and 10 minutes respectively.

Next, open the Extensions dialog, highlight Yamb and select Preferences. Browse for the script that you saved and select it. Then, just to make sure everything’s okay, click Test to see if you get a test message.

And that’s it! It’s a bit long-winded and hopefully someone will make an extension that handles all of this more easily, but it’s possible.


  1. This looks great – shame not for Windows users. Also, my MacOSx86 doesn’t like my network card 🙁

  2. Many thanks – works great!

    Had to upgrade to Thunderbird v1.5.

    Cheers, Dave

  3. Hi, I’m Yamb author.
    You should update your page, Yamb ONLY works with Thunderbird 1.5 (and betas…)
    the 1.0.x version has a bug which prevents launching an external process.
    I’m going to add a link on your page if you don’t mind.

  4. How would I modify this shell script to add more lines of data to the Growl bubbles that show up? YAMB can toss out up to 7 different data fields, but your script only utilizes 2: subject and sender. I’d like to see file size and such as well.

  5. Globs website is down. anyone have another link for download or when is the site coming back?

  6. Sites down can someone email me all the files you need please

  7. thx! it is exactly what i am looking for!
    and yamb author thx too.

  8. Hi Volks!
    I have rewritten the shell script in Perl, because I wanted a formated output of the message size.
    Float output seems not to be possible in shell scripts, so I’ve done it in Perl.
    Perl in general gives you a few more possibilities.
    Feel free to change it.

  9. i made a small AppleScript to show the user-icons form the Address Book.
    Download GrowlNotify.scpt
    To install, simply enter “osascript /PATHTOSCRIPT/growlNotify.scpt” in Yamb

  10. Thanks so much for this helpful walkthrough. Worked very well!

  11. To answer Joseph Guendert’s question above, you just need to add more parameters to the list in the shell script and alter the call to growlnotify. To add file size and the destination account name, for example, you’d need to add parameters 4 and 7 to the list as well. My script looks like this:
    $GROWLNOTIFY -a “$APP” -t “Subject: $SUBJECT” -m “From: $SENDER
    Size: $FILESIZE”

  12. in “terminal”, once i enter my admin password, it outputs “su: Sorry”
    i am sure it is the right password. do you have any clue as to waht is happening?

  13. First let me say that I came across this page last November and found it quite helpful. You should be commended on posting such a useful resource.
    I was hoping some generous reader might be able to help me with the following difficulty. The latest versions of Thunderbird continue to check for mail when the program window itself is closed (in the sense that I’ve closed the TB window entirely but the program is still running, as evidenced by the little marker below the TB icon in the dock). TB issues one of those little number markers on the TB dock icon when new mail arrives.
    Is there a way for YAMB and Growl to provide their usual e-mail alerts when TB is like this? (I tried it and it didn’t seem to work.) Thanks for your help!

  14. I’m on thunderbird and can’t get the YAMB extension to show up. I install it, and the extensions dialog says “YAMB will be installed when TB is restarted”; so I restart thunderbird. When I open the extensions dialog again, YAMB is not in the list of installed extensions; only the TalkBack extension is visible.
    This is pretty frustrating. I’m on an intel iMac, os x 10.4.8, thunderbird version (20060909).

  15. This is great! Thank you so much.

  16. I just got this to work. I had to go through a few hoops though, but I’m glad now. If you’re having problems, try this:
    When you install growlNotify, make sure not to get any errors like “directory does not exist”. Even if it said it installed, it may have failed. On my system, three dirs. were missing. /usr/local/bin, /usr/local/man, and /usr/local/man/man1. Once I created them and ran it again, it worked. To create them do the follwing:
    Since these are in hidden folders, you need to be root to make new dirs. in them. As an admin, open the terminal and type sudo -i, enter the admin password, this make a root shell. Then do cd /usr/local ; mkdir bin ; cd /usr/local ; mkdir man ;cd /usr/local/man; mkdir man1 . Do that and growlNotify should install fine.

  17. Andreas,
    This happened to me too at home, but not at work. I realized I saved Yamb with Mozilla at work and with Safari at home. Safari downloads the script with a “zip” extention but Mozilla does not. I downloaded the file at home with Mozilla and it installed just fine into TB. Try downloading with Mozilla and see what you get.

  18. Hi
    great help, this also work well on Thunderbird2a

  19. Works with TB 2.0b1, too. The growl new message notifier extension–the one that you can download from the Mozilla site–does not, although it worked fine with 1.5. Until then, this method works just fine with 2.0 beta.

  20. Odd, it’s not working for me. If I execute the script in the terminal, I see the growl window w/ the TB icon and blank subject:/from: fields. But when a msg comes in from TB, it doesn’t activate it. Any thoughts on why? Yamb extension is working, and linking to the correct file.

  21. Bonjour,
    I just installed the trick and it’s magic.
    Congratulations !

  22. great howto, thanks