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Make Thunderbird’s Labels Stand Out

I’m a big fan of Thunderbrid, however one of the things that bugs me is that the labels don’t stand out enough. I feel as if they kind of blend into the background. I did a bit of research and figured out how to style the labels to stand out a bit more. Check it out:

TwisterMc's Labels

To update your labels in Thunderbird follow these simple steps.

Install Stylish in Thunderbird – Go to and download the Stylish extension. Open Thunderbird and go to Tools -> Extensions (v1.5) Tools -> Addons -> Extensions (v2) and click the install button. Browse to where you saved Stylish on your computer. Then restart Thunderbird. Note: If using Firefox, make sure to right click on the Stylish install link and choose Save Link As… because we don’t want to install it into Firefox.

Create a New Stylish Style – Open Thunderbird, click on the Stylish icon in the status bar, choose manage styles, click write and in the description field add TwisterMc’s Labels.

Get the CodeClick here and copy the code into the big Stylish input box. Make sure that the Enabled checkbox is checked and hit Save. Then close the Manage Styles window.

Refresh – In order for the labels to appear, close the main inbox window and re-open it, or just restart Thunderbird.

That’s it.

The new labels code has been tested in Thunderbird 1.5 and 2.0 on Mac and works great. It should work fine under Windows and Linux too. Let me know if you have any issues.

Ohh and for advanced users, you can add the labels code into userChrome.css if you’d like without installing Stylish.

What about the labels/tags that I created?

76 Responses

  1. TheRLG says:

    This did nothing for me on Windows, looks no different than normal.

  2. Thomas says:

    What version of Thunderbird? I tested it in XP v 1.5.10.

    Also, have you changed your label colors at all or are they the default ones?

  3. TheRLG says:

    Nevermind, I figured it out! thanks.

  4. Ryan says:

    Thanks! I’ve been wanting more out of Thunderbird’s labels for a long time.

  5. Michelle says:

    Thanks for this – I just followed the directions on my Mac and it works great!

  6. Maximus says:

    Not working for me…does it work with 98SE?

  7. dafi says:

    Finally!! Great hint.
    Expecially in TB 2.0 I use tags but I never loved the default colors.


  8. Paul Squires says:

    Fantastic, that looks much nicer than the default!

  9. Steve says:

    Does not work on Windows Vista Business with Thunderbird version (20070326). Anyone else having a problem?

  10. Maximus says:

    Being the dolt I am, I’ll change my name to minimus…I figured it out…it looks great…thanks

  11. Lee says:

    Hmmm. I must be doing something wrong. The script works for some but not all of my tagged messages, i.e., some have black type and colored background, while others have the old format- colored type and white background.

  12. Kevin says:

    I’m having the same trouble as Lee; only two out of eight of my tags show up in the new format…

  13. mike says:

    How do I make it work for my new tags? E.g., I created a tag for ’email lists’, but it doesn’t show up.

  14. CheGordito says:

    Similar problem to Lee and Kevin above – works for Tags that I didn’t edit but not tags I changed or new tags.

  15. Steve says:

    All of my tags are new I guess I am having the same problems as Lee and Kevin and CheGordito above.

  16. Thomas says:

    I’ll have to write up a tutorial on how to get custom tags/colors to work too. Right now, it only works with the default set of labels/tags.

  17. Big Cheez says:

    Awesome, thanks. Everything works for me on Thunderbird

  18. Rassi says:

    Same for me….some look great, some are unchanged. Need that tutorial, please….

  19. Lee says:


    Looking forward to the tutorial


  20. James Carlos says:

    looks good. worked for me on windows xp and tbird

  21. Thomas says:

    Here is the custom labels/tags tutorial: Custom Colors

  22. Lee says:

    Knowing very little about scripting, I modified the sample script to apply “green” for a “ToDo” tag that I created. However, when I apply it, I get a pink background rather than light green. Here’s the script as I modified it:

    treechildren::-moz-tree-cell(lc-33cc00) { border-bottom:1px solid #33cc00 !important;
    background-color: #CCFF99 !important;}
    treechildren::-moz-tree-cell-text(lc-33cc00) { color: #000 !important; }
    treechildren::-moz-tree-cell(lc-33cc00, selected) { background-color: #33cc00 !important; }
    treechildren::-moz-tree-cell-text(lc-33cc00, selected) { color: #FFF !important; }

    Color Cop tells me this pink color is #FFCCFF but that code is nowhere to be found anywhere in the script.

  23. Thomas says:

    Lee, any chance you have more than one label/tag assigned to your message?

  24. Lee says:

    Nope, just one.

  25. Nyal Williams says:

    Can’t figure it out. The directions are not in order; after following several of the steps there is an oh, yes, do this if thus and such obtains. Too late. I can’t read all of it, reorganize it, and hold it all in my head.

    Nobody edits anymore; it’s all stream of consciousness to some degree.

  26. Thomas says:

    Nyal, where are you having an issue? Everything is in order above.

  27. Nicolas says:

    So I installed but all the tags are still the same. No background color? Running XP Thunderbird 2.0

  28. Thomas says:

    Nicolas – Once you have Stylish installed, go here:

    That’ll automatically load all the labels. You may need to re-start Thunderbird after loading if they don’t automatically take effect.

  29. Russ says:

    I installed this in TB on WinXP. I see no icon in the status bar, so I can’t “click on the Stylish icon in the status bar…”. This even though TB’s Add-ons window does shoe Stylish as being installed. What am I doing wrong?

  30. Terry says:

    Thank you so much… to Thunderbird and making the tags stand out more was one of my few complaints. Have a Mac and it works great!

  31. Russ says:

    Following up on my post of Jan 15th re no icon in the status bar… I eventually found the icon in the Customize Toolbar dialog (right-click toolbar) and dragged it to the toolbar. (I gather from posts I’ve seen elsewhere that Stylish puts an icon in the status bar when installed in Firefox.)

  32. Chuck says:

    THANK YOU so much for posting this. I have spent hours trying to figure out how to do this. I owe you a beer!

  33. Hello together,

    i’ve a question about the coloring of lightning 0.8pre or lightning 0.7. I know that a could change colors from the calendar-items by editing the userchrome.css. But Did everyone knows a list of all posible css tags? I haven’t found a description about this.


    Marcus Radisch

  34. Thomas says:

    Sorry Marcus, I don’t know much about coloring lightning.

  35. Christian says:

    Is it possible to something like this with unread e-mails? i’m trying to make the unread emails stand out a bit more..

  36. Jest says:

    Thanks, wonderful

  37. Ukali says:

    This add-on is great!

    The advice at really helped a novice like me learn how to customize Thunderbird.


  38. Mike says:

    Fantastic. Really helps to categorise emails and make them stand out.

    Many thanks



  39. Lech Karol Pawłaszek says:

    ­čśë TB3 should color labels like that by default! Thanks Thomas.

  40. Mark says:

    I can’t use this…I get an error saying Stylish is not compatible with TBird Any ideas? Running Vista Basic on a T500 lenovo

  41. Victor says:

    Same problem here. I can’t install Stylish. I got the incompatibility message saying that Stylish 1.0.5 will only work with Thunderbird 3. My computer is a Linovo T61.

  42. jnjoblon says:

    Wow, this is great!
    I had the Stylish incompatibility too but i just switched to 3.0b4 and all is good.
    I have wanted to do this for so long (YAY!!), I can’t believe Mozilla does not do this themselves, would be so easy to make the change and would make such a visual improvement.
    Anyway, thank you so much for this tut.
    So cool!

  43. Mike says:

    Many thanks for updating for 3.0b4.
    Looks great.
    The only way to prioritise!

  44. ernestro says:

    many thanks, awesome!
    but how can i change the color of overdue tasks in my to-do/task list (i’m using lightning)?? Now, only the text is red, but i also want them to stand out the same way as with marked emails!
    thanks in advance!

  45. Jared says:

    Guys… I figured out why custom tags/labels often don’t work. The hex color is CASE-SENSITIVE. You MUST have the hex in UPPERCASE. “ffff00” will not work, but “FFFF00” will.

  46. Rebekah says:

    I was really glad to find this! I’ve been wanting a way to tag/flag/highlight emails to categorize them according to the next thing that needs attention.

    Problem is, now that’s it’s installed the number key shortcuts don’t work at all. You know, when you hit “1” Thunderbird tags the message as “Important”, “2” for “To Do” and “0” to “Remove all tags”. It would sure help if this still worked.

    Anyone know a fix?

    Thanks in advance!

    (Using Thunderbird Ver. 3.0.2)

  47. Rebekah says:

    Hey, just thought I’d come back and say it was an incompatibility with a Thunderbird add-on call KeySnail. I just disabled this and the number shortcuts for tagging work perfectly now.

    Thanks again! Great add-on!

  48. Mark says:

    Works fine with Thunderbird 3.0.4 on Ubuntu 10.04 (Netbook Remix). Great stuff. Many thanks.

  49. Mike says:

    Essential add-on.

    Just hanging out now for an update to Stylish for Tbird 3.1



  50. Pali Madra says:

    I’m using Thunderbird 3.06 and the stylish extension does not work and gives a error that the stylish version is not compatable. I have tried the other versions of stylish including 1.05 and now the Thunderbird is wanting me to update to 3.1. I’m not doing that for sure.

  51. deltafalcon says:

    Worked for me on Windows 7 x64, with Thunderbird 3.1.7 and Stylish 1.1b3 (other versions of Stylish won’t work, Thunderbird complains they’re incompatible).

  52. Paul Notredame says:

    Exactly what i needed. Thank you very very much!

  53. david says:

    Works GREAT with Postbox! I had to modify the addon and the steps are just a tiny bit different, but went beautifully and was immediately visible. THANKs so much. This really adds some much needed color to Postbox which is otherwise a great client.
    david kirk

  54. chiaroscuro says:

    Thanks so much for this. I was looking for a way to make the Tbird tags bold, when I found this – much better. It actually makes the tags useful when scrolling through a long list of emails. This should be standard on the program. Good job!

    Tbird 10.0.2 – Stylish 1.2.6 – Windows 64 and 32

  55. Piermario says:

    Thank you soooo much for this suggestion! This is a function that I was badly missing.
    It works fine with TB 15.

  56. Antlers says:


    Thanks so much for this. This has been bugging me for YEARS!!

  57. greg says:

    I used to do this another way around ( and had not upgraded from 2.0.24 because it did not work on TB 3+.
    I am so happy to finally discover this method, that still works in TB 17.

    Thanks a lot Twister MC, 5 years after your good tweak !

  58. Daniel says:


  59. Dominik says:

    As by May 2015: Is this still working in TB 31.7.0 under OS X.8.5? Thanks for your reply.

  60. B00N says:

    Still working with Thunderbird 38.4.0 on OSX. THX!

  61. harl windwolf says:

    This CSS snippet is literally necessary to make any use of Thunderbird’s labels.
    The default colouring simply isn’t really pre-eminent enough and only the sender gets coloured when the mail is not selected. This particular CSS changes that so the colours really stand out whether the mail is selected or not. – Cheers!

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