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The purpose would be to reduce "email notification distraction" in very simple way (e.g. for when I'm extra busy for a little while and do not want even the usual minor distractions). Shutting down the application seems like overkill, especially since it slows me down even more later when I do want to check if I received any email.

Ideally, it would be a toolbar button that toggles notification settings, with an added option to have it activate anytime I simply minimize the Thunderbird window (and restoring them when the window is re-shown). I have searched but have not been able to find an add-on that does anything similar, but since email is a well known source of distraction I thought I'd throw it out there to see if anyone has heard of such a thing, or knows if it would be easy to create such an add-on.

The settings I'm referring too are the Options > General > [Show and alert | Play a sound] check boxes. The little envelope icon in the system tray is less intrusive, but it could be optional to turn that off too. One of the keys would be for Thunderbird to quickly show any new notifications when they are turned back on.

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Did you have a chance to check Mozillazine knowledge base? Do any of the suggestions there work you? – ricbax Nov 1 '10 at 19:48
That's a nice set of useful links but I don't see anything that adds the functionality I'm looking for. I just want to temporarily disable notifications. An additional option I thought of would be to say, "Disable notifications for 'n' minutes/hours". It might sound like a laziness thing ("How hard is it to close Thunderbird and launch it again later?!") but what happens if I shut it down is that I forget all about checking mail when I really should be keeping an eye on it. If it's just minimized then it's still within sight but not interrupting me. – machinatus Nov 2 '10 at 13:16
Normally I like to know right away when I have a new message but there are times I need to shut that off for a little while. Doesn't sound like this is a much desired feature though, and I can learn to change my behaviour over time to get by without it. – machinatus Nov 2 '10 at 13:16
There is an even better workaround, that works, File->Offline->Work offline – rubo77 Oct 18 '14 at 23:04

There is an add-on that is not up to date righ now called Toolbar Buttons.

But in the description it links to a generator, where you can select the extra buttons, you would like to have available in your customize buttons list:

If you select only that button, you can downloaded an Addon with just a standard size Offline-Mode Button for Thunderbird

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