Is there a way to disable those evil keyboard shortcuts in Thunderbird?

When I accidentally hit a, suddenly the message gets archived and a new Archives folder is created. Similarly other keys bring havoc to my workflow.

While googling, I have found many complains similar to mine, but no working solution offered. There used to be a KeyConfig addon, but this is incompatible with new versions of Thunderbird.

My Thunderbird version is Icedove 24.6.0, but the problem still exists in Thunderbird 31.

  • You could try disabling the individual keyboard short-cuts for each using the keyconfig extension. support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/920663 – slm Jul 10 '14 at 4:25
  • 1
    @slm - as I say in my question, the keyconfig addon is not compatible with new Thunderbird versions. – user1968963 Jul 10 '14 at 7:20
  • Hmmm. I have 24.5 and it works there. – slm Jul 10 '14 at 12:50
  • 1
    @intika - new bounty, in case you are interested. – 400 the Cat Jan 23 at 6:12
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    @intika - if you have a solution using userChrome.css, I would create new bounty. – 400 the Cat Jan 31 at 6:08

Without extension you can only disable some of it:

  • A can be disabled by disabling the Archive functionality in genereal, this has to be done in each Mail-Account under Copies and Folders->Keep messages archives in:
  • J can be disabled by disabling the Junk functionality, which is not a desired solution.

A better solution is the old-but-still-functioning keyconfig Add-On

To install this, you have to

  • right-click on the first word "keyconfig" in the old first forum post here from "April 30th, 2004"
  • install the keyconfig.xpi file in thunderbirds add-ons "as file"
  • open the settings for the extension "keyconfig 20110522", there you can disable (or change) all single-key-shortcut, you don't like (and also "Ctrl+Q" which is my favorite ;-)
  • The keyconfig.xpi extension is also available on the help article here. Simply drag-and-drop onto the add-ons manager (Tools->Add Ons) works for an install, at least on Windows. – stevesliva May 7 '15 at 17:20

The mentioned keyconfig 20110522 Add-On is not compatible with the latest Thunderbird releases (here v60.7.0).

I found dorando keyconfig which is a drop-in replacement. With it you can rebind nearly every keyboard shortcut.


You can disable the "a" problem by disabling email archives in general. This applies to all accounts.

Edit -> Preferences -> Advanced -> General -> Config Editor... mail.identity.default.archive_enabled -> false


do it yourself in low-level until addon gets developed.

all settings are located in this file /usr/lib/thunderbird/omni.ja (a kind of non-compressed .zip file).

follow below steps (it will disable all short-cuts!):

  1. close thunderbird app.
  2. switch to a root shell sudo -i (enter your own user's password)
  3. switch to cd /usr/lib/thunderbird/
  4. take a backup from file omni.ja: cp omni.ja backup_omni.ja
  5. create a temporary directory to unpack the file omni.ja: mkdir to_modify_omni
  6. unpack the file: unzip -q omni.ja -d to_modify_omni
  7. swtich to cd to_modify_omni/
  8. run below comamnd and do grep on two short-cuts as sample to see what it does:

    sed -e '/^\s*<!ENTITY [^\.]*Cmd\.key "/{  s:^\s*:<!-- :; s:$: -->: ;}' \
        -e '/^\s*<key id="key_[^"]*" key="&[^\.]*Cmd\.key;"[^/]*\/[^>]*>$/ { s:^\s*:<!-- :; s:$: -->: ; };' \
        -e ':a /^\s*<key id="key_[^"]*" key="&[^\.]*Cmd\.key.*;"$/ { N; s:\n: :; s:^\s*:<!-- :; s:$: -->: ;ta; };' \
    /usr/lib/thunderbird/to_modify_omni/chrome/en-US/locale/en-US/messenger/messengercompose/messengercompose.dtd \
    /usr/lib/thunderbird/to_modify_omni/chrome/messenger/content/messenger/messageWindow.xul \
    /usr/lib/thunderbird/to_modify_omni/chrome/en-US/locale/en-US/messenger/messenger.dtd \
    /usr/lib/thunderbird/to_modify_omni/chrome/messenger/content/messenger/messenger.xul \
    | grep -E 'markAllReadCmd.key|replyToAllMsgCmd.key'


    <!-- <key id="key_markAllRead" key="&markAllReadCmd.key;"        oncommand="goDoCommand('cmd_markAllRead');" modifiers="shift"/> -->
    <!-- <key id="key_replyall" key="&replyToAllMsgCmd.key;"                oncommand="goDoCommand('cmd_replyall')" modifiers="accel, shift"/> -->
    <!-- <!ENTITY replyToAllMsgCmd.key "r"> -->
    <!-- <!ENTITY markAllReadCmd.key "c"> -->
    <!-- <key id="key_markAllRead" key="&markAllReadCmd.key;"        oncommand="goDoCommand('cmd_markAllRead');" modifiers="shift"/> -->
    <!-- <key id="key_replyall" key="&replyToAllMsgCmd.key;"                oncommand="goDoCommand('cmd_replyall')" modifiers="accel, shift"/> -->

    it does find all the short-cut keys config lines and comment those in 4 files above (please note that the last part in the sed command joins those short-cut keys configs into single line that their lines wrapped into two lines; second part do the same as what last part does but those short-cuts that appeared in single line; and first part is for commenting !ENTITY config sections of them)

  9. OK, now run above sed command with -i option to have changes applied in file: sed -i -e ...

  10. remove orginal file: rm /usr/lib/thunderbird/omni.ja
  11. zip the modifed directory into same fileName as orginal one omni.ja
    please note that where we execute zip command

    # pwd
    # /usr/lib/thunderbird/to_modify_omni
    # zip -qr0XD /usr/lib/thunderbird/omni.ja *
  12. exit
  13. open thunderbird to test if changes took place or ?
  • can this be done through userChrome.css or userContent.css ? – Martin Vegter Jan 27 at 5:40
  • if you could provide a script to disable all shortcuts, that would be great. – Martin Vegter Jan 28 at 4:27
  • @MartinVegter Hi, I think I have done, please check and let me know it's working for you. – αғsнιη Jan 29 at 5:03
  • Not working for me with "a"/archive even though grep suggests all matching lines are commented out, e.g. grep -r "Cmd.key" /usr/lib/thunderbird | grep archive – Andrew Olney Feb 11 at 15:31

As the other answers mentioned, the Keyconfig extension is the simplest way to deal with this. The MenuWizard addon also has some shortcut editing functionality, but it's more limited and difficult to find commands to edit.

If third party addons make you twitchy, then as per this solution you can directly edit the keybindings in Thunderbird's DTD files.

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