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How to Train Thunderbird to Open Attachments


This document will cover the following attachment-related topics:

How to initially associate the correct application with a given attachment:

Note: These instructions assume that if your PC has a word processing application installed that it is Microsoft Word.  If you are using a word processing application other than Microsoft Word, you will need to adapt these instructions to your specific application.

Microsoft Word opens Word files but Microsoft Word Viewer does too.  Sometimes, Thunderbird may offer the “wrong” application to open Word files (or other Office files) the first time you attempt to open a specific file type.  This section will walk you through how to associate the correct application to launch with a given attachment based upon what’s specifically installed on your PC.  The instructions here will go over Microsoft Word and Excel attachments.

Microsoft Word:
The first time you click on a Microsoft Word attachment in Thunderbird, you’ll get a screen that asks, What should Thunderbird do with this file?  Thunderbird will attempt to help you by offering what it thinks you would like to use to open the file.

If Word is not installed on the PC, Thunderbird will offer you the option to choose “Microsoft Office Word Viewer”.  However, even if Word is installed on the PC, Thunderbird may offer you (incorrectly) the option to open the attachment with the Viewer instead of Word.  What to do?  How do you know if Thunderbird is offering you the “best” choice?

Open with Word Viewer


Before proceeding, move Thunderbird’s What should Thunderbird do with this file? pop up window to the upper left hand corner of the screen.

Determine whether the Viewer or Word should be selected in the “Open with” box:
Before you continue, you will need to know if Microsoft Word is installed on this particular PC.  To determine if Word is installed, click on Start and Programs.  Depending upon the version of Word installed, it will be listed directly as “Microsoft Word” or under “Microsoft Office”

If Word is NOT listed in the Programs list:

  1. If Word is not listed in the Programs list, then Word is not installed on this PC.  If Word is not installed on this PC, then Thunderbird’s Open With field will automatically be configured so that Word documents will be opened by the “Microsoft Office Word Viewer”. 
  2. To accept this configuration, click the OK button.

If Word IS listed in the Programs list:

If Word is in the Program list and Thunderbird is offering to open files with the Viewer, you will need to correct Thunderbird’s “mistake”.  The end goal here is to locate a file on your hard drive called "winword.exe”

  1. Click the down arrow associated with the Open with field
  2. Select the Other listing

    Select Other Listing from Open With Field

  3. Focus on the Look in field of the Choose Helper Application window that now appears.
  4. Click on the drop down arrow associated with the Look in field.
  5. Click on Local Disk (C:)
  6. Double click on Program Files
  7. Double click on Microsoft Office.  What you see here will be different on every PC; it will depend upon what versions of Office and Viewers are installed.
  8. Locate all folders called Officexx (where “xx” represents a number).  The file of interest, “winword.exe” will reside in one of the Officexx folders, but which one?

    Find the Correct Office Folder

  9. Starting with the first Officexx folder, double click it and see if it contains a file called “winword.exe”.  If it does, double click “winword.exe” and you’ll be returned to Thunderbird’s Open With screen.  If it doesn’t, click the Up One Level icon in the Choose Helper Application menu bar and select the next Officexx entry.

    Up One Level Icon

  10. Repeat this process until you’ve located “winword.exe” and have double clicked it.
  11. Thunderbird’s What should Thunderbird do with this file? window should now have “WINWORD.EXE” in the Open with field

    Open with Word

  12. Click the OK button.

Verify your work:

  1. Double click on the same Word attachment.
  2. Verify that Word opens the attachment

If Word does not open the attachment, retrace the path to “winword.exe” via the drop down box associated with the Open with field and try again or call the Help Desk.

If the verification step was a success:

If the verification step was a success, you can “tell” Thunderbird not to bother you with this prompt any more.

  1. Within Thunderbird, open a Word attachment.
  2. When the What should Thunderbird do with this file? Screen appears, place a check mark beside Do this automatically for files like this from now on.
  3. Click the OK button.

Microsoft Excel:

Training Thunderbird to open Excel attachments is very similar to training Thunderbird to open Word attachments.  Follow the same instruction set for Excel as you did for Word except the file of interest will be “excel.exe” (not winword.exe).