Feature Request: disable single-key shortcuts



Mail Window Front End
8 years ago
4 months ago


(Reporter: jberkus, Unassigned)


Firefox Tracking Flags

(Not tracked)




8 years ago
Currently Thunderbird has several single-key shortcuts for doing things with messsage, such as archive "A", mark as junk "J", etc.  While I understand the utility of these for those who use them, for many of us they are an opportunity to accidentally archive or mark up mail because we mistake the active window.  Something I have done 100's of times now, and I suspect other users have too.

As such, I'd like a Preferences item which either allows me to turn off the single-key shortcuts, or force prepending another key to them, such as "ALT".


8 years ago
OS: Mac OS X → All
Hardware: x86 → All
Version: 3.1 → Trunk

Comment 1

5 years ago
Yes, this is so needed.

It would also be good to know what single key commands there are and what they do so as to be able to fix them when it happens. Like when your e-mail disappeared and you don't know what happened. Single key commands like archive should never exist.


5 years ago
Duplicate of this bug: 885763

Comment 3

5 years ago
I agree my report duplicates these old one.

Still, doesn't attaching it to a 3 years old unsolved report risk to help keeping untreated this bug highly dangerous to data ?

Comment 4

5 years ago
There wouldn't be any benefit in keeping separate bug reports open on the same issue, on the contrary. Duplicates are marked as such to keep all the relevant discussion in a single place.

Unfortunately, I don't think that this report will gain much traction in the future either. There was an attempt once in bug 476590 to reduce the risk of accidental archiving of messages by hitting the 'A' keyboard shortcut, which ended up with a "won't-fix" resolution (see the discussion there).

Personally, I sure support the proposal to make keyboard shortcuts configurable, and especially the single-key ones which are easy to hit accidentally.

Comment 5

5 years ago

BTW the attempt you mentionned as well as the discussion kept focus on "A" and only suggesting to change it to something else, or to improve undoing.
- there are plainty of other dangerous key (a,d,n,m,r,j...). And marking  posts or  threads as read can cause real issues as well when email deal with important issues.
- the best solution, which is also the easiest, is at least a flag to switch-off hot keys, or one-letter keys, or flag for each individual key, or to possibility edit hotkeys.
Some of these could be programmed in an afternoon, which is less than discussing about it.

- undo-ing is both an overcomplex and inappropriate solution.
  - Inappropriate because I should think of the whole sentence eaten by the msg window and how many msg operation it has generated.
   - overcomplex because un-marking as read the right messages or part of threads is probably way more complicated than undoing the creation of directories in archive (wich is not done, BTW).

Comment 6

5 years ago
I'll also point out that the only solution given for disabling the "a" shortcut was to disable archiving entirely.  This means that any user who doesn't want to archive stuff accidentally, but does want to use the archiving functionality in general, is screwed.

The same goes for the "j" key; the only way to disable it is to disable Thunderbird's antispam functionality entirely.

This is like being told that I can stop the car from backfiring by removing the engine.  True, but hardly satisfactory.

Comment 7

4 years ago
I add my vote here, please consider adding an option either to disable single key shortcuts or adding a modifier. I like firefox, I have found it to be a robust imap client for over a decade.  The single key shortcuts are by far the main annoyance for me.  

A scenario: I am touch-typing a message, but the keyboard focus happens to be on the main Thunderbird window.  Before I notice anything amiss, half a dozen messages are randomly distributed to the deleted, junk and archives folders, I am watching a thread and ignoring another and marked it fully read.  If you are unlucky you do not even realize that something has happened.  Something like this happens to me regularly.

Features are good, only the shortcuts are a problem.  Nevertheless, I want to emphasize that overall I am a happy  Thunderbird user.

Comment 8

4 years ago
I vote for disabling all single-letter keyboard shortcuts too (or at least, having a way of configuring them).  Barely a day goes by where I don't type a sentence into the Thunderbird window instead of the window I think I'm typing in.  As I type so fast, I've usually set off a volley of 10 commands before I realise I've done untold damage to my inbox, much of which is very difficult to put right.  It also makes me swear a lot...

I've been using Thunderbird since it came out, but this one feature is seriously making me think of switching to webmail (and I really don't like webmail, it just doesn't quite work for me).

Comment 9

4 years ago

Comment 10

4 years ago
This bug is a nuisance.  Not a week goes by where I start typing and just as Nick stated, a half dozen commands are trying to execute because of these single key shortcuts.  A toggle bit to enable/disable in the preferences would go a long way in resolving this.

Comment 11

4 years ago
I also accidentally use these shortcuts and find them very annoying. I think only power users wants to use them and therefore they should be optional.

Comment 12

4 years ago
I also use them accidentally because of another bug in Firefox which causes that typing of a message is sometimes switched into a command mode out of my control (just typing a message and although I haven't done anything, it starts to interpret my 'n' in word 'know' as a command).

So I also vote for possibility of disabling in about:config.

Comment 13

4 years ago
Comment hidden (abuse-reviewed)

Comment 15

4 years ago
Not at all. If the switching bug was resolved, I wouldn't mind it: I use 'n' with mailnews.nav_crosses_folders=0 and it's very time-saving. But I agree that it SHOULD be disabled by default, with the possibility of enabling it.

Comment 16

4 years ago
Is there a workaround available until this is implemented?

for example, maybe you can add some commands to your pref.js like

    user_pref("keyconfig.main.xxx_key__NAME", "!][][][FUNCTION");

or a setting in about:config?

discussions about this are going on here:


Comment 17

4 years ago
Please provide a way to configure these.  I am constantly accidentally moving mail to archive, junk, etc and I don't want to!  I have been very happy with Thunderbird since I switched to using Linux as my desktop.  This one issue is my main beef with Thunderbird.

Comment 18

4 years ago
Any progress? As I wrote at https://bugs.gentoo.org/show_bug.cgi?id=519222, these shortcuts are extremely dangerous. It's really frustrating that after almost 4 years there's no solution. Is it so hard?

We don't discuss about changing general behaviour, affecting multiple users, but just about possibility to change it in about:config. I strongly agree with Nick Lee in Comment 8 about looking for another mail client, which is not an easy decision. Can you please persuade us that Thunderbird is worthy its name?

Comment 19

4 years ago
[Keyconfig](http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?t=72994) is a plugin that allows you to configure keyboard shortcuts.

To install you have to right-click on the first word in the (very old) first forum post "keyconfig" in the linked forum from "April 30th, 2004" and install the .xpi file in thunderbirds add-ons "as file"

The link in that old post was updated when needed and still works (tested in Thunderbird 33)

Comment 20

4 years ago
Well, I meant solution supported and endorsed by Mozilla; but you're right, that's some way. As for the list of shortcuts, Wayne Sallee asked for, they're listed at https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/keyboard-shortcuts.

Comment 21

4 years ago
I have convinced some of my colleagues to start using Thunderbird and overall the response has been good, but they do keep losing messages when they accidentally type 'a', 'j' or 'k' into the message window.

If this keeps happening they are going to get fed up with Thunderbird and will be asking for a new mail client which would be a real shame as I find Thunderbird to be excellent otherwise.

Comment 22

4 years ago
Thanks  Jan Sever.

Wayne Sallee

(In reply to Jan Sever from comment #20)
> Well, I meant solution supported and endorsed by Mozilla; but you're right,
> that's some way. As for the list of shortcuts, Wayne Sallee asked for,
> they're listed at https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/keyboard-shortcuts.

Comment 23

4 years ago
There is now an extension to disable Ctrl+Q:


Maybe the same way you could create an extension to disable all single key shortcuts

Comment 24

4 years ago
That's not a "single-key" shortcut, though (and btw only works on Linux given that Windows doesn't use this shortcut for "Quit").

Comment 25

3 years ago
Just added my vote here. Its pretty annoying if you have to search all your vanished mails everytime you accidently type into the wrong window (which happens often to me, sadly)

Comment 26

3 years ago

This is one of the most stupid, most dangerous and most annoying anti-personnel mines in Thunderbird.

Single-key shortcuts that make ANY kind of changes to ANY data are like allowing web-application to receive data modification requests via GET parameters (img href=/delete?user=admin) without any kind of verifications.

I have multiple times moved random messages to archive/junk/blackhole by starting typing and noticing that the wrong window is active. The worst thing is that the user does not see what happened, besides the mail client refreshing the window and throwing the previously active mail away.

This is one of those few features that makes me want to get another email client, while crying for mercy.

And no, I don't want to install some obsolete and random addon for fixing this. It should be the other way around: if you want these kind of features, you install that damn addon to change the app behaviour to more unstable state.

Comment 27

3 years ago
This feature is still annoying me, but I have found a way of making undoing the damage easier when you accidentally type in the Thunderbird window and watch in dismay as messages disappear:

- swear
- click on Tools menu
- click on Activity Manager
- sigh in relief as you see the list of recent actions on Inbox
- manually put it all right
- add your voice to this page in the hope that someday someone will disable these stupid single-key shortcuts by default

Comment 28

3 years ago
BTW, Keyconfig seems to be endorsed by Mozilla now as it's available on the same page they list what the shortcuts are: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/keyboard-shortcuts#w_customizing-keyboard-shortcuts

I completely agree that single-key shortcuts are an insanely stupid concept - especially for a program that was made to be typed into! Also, it's ludicrous that those responsible for maintaining Thunderbird's otherwise excellent reputation have failed to make an appropriate change for 4+ years. The change SHOULD be to have options to dis-/enable and edit. An add-on is a backwards approach. This should be standard. I don't understand how a major piece of software came to be released WITHOUT this option.


3 years ago
Duplicate of this bug: 1140122

Comment 30

3 years ago
I can't believe this is still an issue...  As it stands right now this feature is an annoyance and beyond. Someday is not good enough... this should be a simple fix so what's the hold-up?  I know the problem is not people clamoring for more of these retarded shortcuts...  I'm falling 'out of love' with you Thunderbird due to this simple yet disgusting problem and we've been together so long... Get this fixed, add options or an add-on or we're breaking up... That's right you heard me, a DIVORCE!

For goodness sakes help us PLEASE!

Comment 31

3 years ago
Maybe Thunderbird needs to be forked.

Wayne Sallee

Comment 32

3 years ago
Sure, go ahead. As long as you stay within MPL licensing specs, that's certainly permissible. Obviously, finding a satisfactory solution here or in bug 581545 would be more desirable.

Comment 33

3 years ago
(In reply to Wayne Sallee from comment #31)
> Maybe Thunderbird needs to be forked.
> Wayne Sallee
> Wayne@WayneSallee.com

Why? Is there any indication that Mozilla wouldn't accept a patch to fix this issue?

If no one's willing to work on fixing this problem, then forking isn't going to help.

Comment 34

3 years ago
Multi-core CPUs with GHz clock frequencies still aren't fast enough to reliably process key presses from a user. When you e.g. press Alt+Tab and expect focus to switch from Thunderbird to a different program, and start typing, suddenly Thunderbird is doing all sorts of crazy stuff in response to your typing because the Alt+Tab wasn't registered or processed yet when you started typing. Single-key shortcuts would be dangerous enough if computers were fast enough to process keyboard input, but until they are, the idea of single-key shortcuts is just plainly insane. Please fix this asap. Improved undo and other workarounds are workarounds and not fixes.

Comment 35

3 years ago
For some applications incompatible with clipboard (java, rdesktop) a classical way is to use a script reinjecting the clipboard into key events.

These last months I just have lost HUNDREDS of professional and personnal emails because the mouse slighlty entered the wrong thunderbird area during the pseudo-pasting.  ( + you can't undo "marking message/thread as read").

Really I can't believe TB got totally stuck and autistics on so many basic key issues for so long years now.
It really feels like the project is now doomed. :-(   
But I'm trapped with all this suffering by lack of powerful cross-platform replacement compatible with intense use (but TB is no longer really working well with intense massive use).

Comment 36

3 years ago
Jesper wrote:
> Why? Is there any indication that Mozilla wouldn't accept a patch to fix this issue?

seems that it's no longer done for so many long-lasting issues. Hours of debating in these forums is just leading to nothing. :-(
> If no one's willing to work on fixing this problem, then forking isn't going to help.

not false. :-(
Please, we don't need any more "me too" or "I can't believe this hasn't been fixed!" comments. Those don't help development in any way. Thunderbird is developed 100% by volunteers now, and we can't possibly find the time to work on every feature request that's been reported (There are literally hundreds and hundreds of open bugs).

This is non-trivial to implement, and it may be quite some time before the core team has the means to fix it. However, we're always open to patches from anyone and would be glad to help out here or on IRC (#maildev @ irc.mozilla.org).

Comment 38

2 years ago
I am new to thunderbird.  I have been using it for a week.  I use windows, linux and MacOSX regularly so a cross-platform mail solution was appealing.

Please create a preference to disable all shortcut keys when browsing mail folders.

I consider any mail changing hotkeys a terrible idea for something with pop-up edit windows where mouse focus is not 100% obvious/reliable.   I googled my way here because I accidentally deleted an email (hopefully just one because I noticed this time and knew to look for a hole in my inbox).  Now I am here I am horrified to discover a whole mess of keys that accidentally hitting will cause damage to my inbox.  Undo is a poor fix because you have to notice.  No accidental changes to my inbox is primary for me -- above all other features.  I will reluctantly go back to squirrelmail, pine and/or terminals to avoid this.  If anyone can recommend a similar solution to thunderbird without this problem I'd appreciate it.

Comment 39

2 years ago
I have found the solution:  Dorando keyconfig

After a couple of weeks fishing emails out of trash I finally turned off one key delete, archive and all the other bugs.  Note that these hot key issues are so easy to be burned by.  You are searching or writing a message or even working (you thought) in another window but mouse focus somehow gets to the email list and BAM! -- any number of important emails quietly disappear.  Trlkly deserves a medal.

PLEASE make keyconfig a core feature.

Comment 40

2 years ago
Voted, because it also happend to me many times to press a key by accident and emails disappear and I don't even know what was the key involved. Most of the time, at least when I figure out that something happened, I  use CTRL-Z to restore the situation.

A single key shortcut is a very bad/dangerous idea (never seen in any other product I know) so could be nice to have an option (about:config is sufficient) to disable such "feature".

Comment 41

2 years ago
I stopped using Thunderbird due to this bug.

Comment 42

2 years ago
> This is non-trivial to implement, and it may be quite some time before the
> core team has the means to fix it. However, we're always open to patches
> from anyone and would be glad to help out here or on IRC (#maildev @
> irc.mozilla.org).

How on Earth can reading from about:config and simply not running the demented single-key handler that deletes e-mails, etc., be non-trivial?  If the code is that complicated that nobody can find the single-key handlers then the whole project is doomed.

I would look for it myself, but even getting the project to compile seems a massive headache.

Comment 43

2 years ago
It happened again! :-( :-( :-( :-( :-( :-(
I was typing the password in the foreground for the Mint Update and Thunderbird intercepted all the keys making a complete mess that CTRL+Z can't fix!!!

Please, someone remove this f* s* called "feature"!
It is more dangerous than a virus.

Comment 44

2 years ago
Sorry, but I also registered to add weight to this issue with another 'me too' comment.
It causes a lot of support-tickets in my IT.
PLEASE FIX THAT with an appropriate pref or other configuration.
Thank you very much. Thunderbird is great.

Comment 45

a year ago
I've updated the official Thunderbird help docs to point to the working version of the Dorando Keyconfig addon, as well as Menu Wizard, and to mention disabling single-key shortcuts with them. Hopefully that will help a little.

Another thing that would help is to get Dorando Keyconfig fully reviewed. Currently it's "preliminarily reviewed / marked as experimental", which means it's not possible to search for it in the Thunderbird addon manager. Well, you can search for it, but you won't find it... If anyone can help out with that process, please head over to https://github.com/trlkly/dorando-keyconfig

On the other hand, Menu Wizard does show up if you search Addons Manager for "keyboard shortcuts", yet we still have people unaware that there's a work-around. Menu Wizard has its own issues though.

Maybe someone could make a simple modified version of Dorando Keyconfig with no UI, that just disables all the single-key shortcuts? Unfortunately I'm not able to do that myself. Barring someone stepping up to add the feature to Thunderbird itself, I'd suggest shipping such an addon with it.

I would have stopped using Thunderbird years ago, if it wasn't for keyconfig. I think the single-key shortcuts should be considered a power-user option, disabled by default. I'd classify being unable to disable them as a critical/dataloss bug.

Comment 46

a year ago
It's keen of you, but counting on addons to solve these kind of problems is not the best idea. For instance after each Thunderbird release addons are desactivated for a while.

Comment 47

a year ago
Remark: I put this post 6 years ago, together with some others about as bad bugs (e.g. the html editor, and more).
It so sad to see that nothing has changed since:  Thunderbird seems to no longer be able not even to evolve but to simply solve its very bad problems. :-(


a year ago
Duplicate of this bug: 851504

Comment 49

a year ago
I just archived 766 messages from my inbox accidentally, just by pressing some wrong keys in a row (probably Ctrl+A and then A?).

I love "J" for "Junk" and have used it a lot, but from a good UX point of view I really don't think single-key shortcuts should exist by default. Perhaps if Thunderbird ever got to support shortcut reassignment, they should be allowed, but I don't think such potentially destructive behaviour should be in by default.

Comment 50

a year ago
By the way, for those who aren't using Archiving feature at all – you can disable it per account in account settings → Copies & Folders.

Comment 51

a year ago
Great tip Rimas !
Just make sure and get anything that is in the archive folder before you do this, as the contents will be deleted!

After changing the settings, restart Thunderbird.

Now test it by pressing the (a) on an unimportant e-mail.

Wayne Sallee

Comment 52

a year ago
It will come first the era of the robots than a fix to TB shortcuts... but at least I'll put a robot to manage with the dangerous keys. :-)

Comment 53

a year ago
If you want to have this changed, you can donate to this issue at https://www.bountysource.com/issues/3496829-feature-request-disable-single-key-shortcuts

Comment 54

a year ago
I added a Request to change all Single click buttons with one click in the dorando-keyconfig addon at https://github.com/trlkly/dorando-keyconfig/issues/12

Comment 55

5 months ago
Beware that Dorando Keyconfig stopped working in Thunderbird 57 beta. Single-key shortcuts will be re-enabled, so be careful where you're typing, or you could accidentally change things or delete e-mails, as happened to me. I think this underscores the need for a built-in setting to disable these shortcuts.

There's a preliminary fix for Keyconfig (unsigned) at the Github repository, see https://github.com/trlkly/dorando-keyconfig/issues/18 - I hope it can be added to addons.mozilla.org soon.

Unfortunately, the current Thunderbird 58 beta broke even the fixed version of Keyconfig (and many other addons). See bug 1414398. I think that should be fixed in the next release of Thunderbird 58 beta, at which point the fixed version of Keyconfig should work again.

Comment 56

4 months ago
Fyi, a new version of Dorando Keyconfig is now available on AMO, thanks to Jonathan Kamens. Also, it's no longer "experimental", so you can find it easily with a search from within Thunderbird. It's working in all versions of Thunderbird - at least until support for non-restartless addons is dropped, which apparently will happen soon...
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