Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Thunderbird and Mac OS X address book

Update: This guide was written in 2007 and refers to Thunderbird 2.0. Thunderbird 3.1 is available which includes support for the Mac OS X Address Book without needing any additional configuration. The information below is retained for reference.

It’s now possible to integrate the Mac OS X address book with Thunderbird. Thunderbird has its own address book that it uses on all platforms, but OS X’s address book integrates with lots of other programs and so having it work with Thunderbird is very helpful.

The feature is on the Thunderbird trunk and will make it into Thunderbird 3.0, which is due out in 2008. But you can get it now in Thunderbird 2.0 if you’re willing to jump through a few small hoops. The instructions are on the MozillaZine forums – basically, you will need to download a custom unofficial build of Thunderbird with the feature enabled, and then add three lines to your configuration file.

Once this is done, an ‘OSX’ folder will appear in the Thunderbird Address Book, which will have your contacts in it and your contact groups. You’ll also find that when typing email addresses in the Compose Message window, Thunderbird will auto-complete addresses from your address book.

It’s not full integration yet – the access to your OS X address book is currently read-only, so you can’t update your contacts from within Thunderbird. But it’s not a one-time import, so if you add new addresses to the OS X address book, they will be reflected in Thunderbird.
Judging by the comments on the tracking bug, some people have been waiting for this feature for a very long time. Though we have a little while to wait before it officially ships, the fact it’s now possible is great news for many people.


  1. Cool! Can’t wait for Thunderbird 3. Hopefully it shows the level of improvement that Firefox 3 is showing over v2.
    I wish that Mozilla would make their own standalone address book program. Using Apple’s address book, I’ve come to realise how much sense that makes; contacts aren’t just for mail.

  2. There is a simple way: install Thunderbird 3 Alpha (it’s got the feature included yet!) and just activate it.
    We now can sync our iPhone’s addressbook to the Mac and have available in Thunderbird – imho the best mail application by far. And finally this is the last step to say good bye to that weird MacOS onboard You may find a very detailed set of instructions over there at incomplete-news:
    Enjoy 🙂