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I'd like to use Thunderbird as strictly a frontend interface for Gmail. I don't want any offline availability or anything like that. Is there a way to setup Thunderbird to not store any of the email data locally?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

You want to use GMail's IMAP setting.

UPDATE: Assuming TB3

ImapMail – Mail Synch and Cache

Assuming you are using IMAP with your mail accounts, you will have an ImapMail folder, caching email and headers for your Imap accounts. If you take a look into this directory you’ll find sub-folders for each of your accounts. If you have “Message Synchronization” activated (which, I believe, is the default), you should have a local cache of all your mail in this folder.

If you’d prefer to disable this feature to regain disk space, you can do the following:

  1. Delete the contents of the ImapMail/mail.domain.tld/ folder (where mail.domain.tld is your mail server(s)).
  2. Disable “Message Synchronization” in Edit > Account Settings > Synchronization and Storage
  3. I would suggest leaving the remaining settings at their defaults. This post doesn’t cover them.

Resource: Disable Thunderbird 3 Bloat!

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Does this answer the question? I see a lot of talk about connecting to Gmail, but that was not my question. How do I keep Thunderbird from storing the emails locally? –  Homer Nov 3 '10 at 15:18
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@Homer - IMAP as a technology does not store email locally –  ricbax Nov 3 '10 at 15:20
    
@ricbax - Hmm, well Thunderbird does. Under my \Data\profile\ImapMail\imap.googlemail.com folder, I have 16MB of plain text files with my emails in them. Each file is named after my Gmail tags, and the file contains the raw source of each email under the tag. –  Homer Nov 3 '10 at 15:32
    
@Homer - You absolutely correct. This is because of a default setting that caches email and headers in TB. See the update in my post, it is based on Linux but should be similar in another OS. –  ricbax Nov 3 '10 at 16:47
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That worked, mostly. It still saves the headers in the .msf files, but that is much better than saving everything. –  Homer Nov 3 '10 at 18:44

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