The question pretty much says it all. When I do a ⌘+tab, the icon for Thunderbird shows me how many unread messages I have in my inbox.
It's pretty distracting if I'm not looking to check my email.
Can I disable it?
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At the moment, it is not possible to disable displaying the number. However, I filed a feature request to disable entirely the mail count on the badge in the dock and task switcher on Mac OS X. If you want this implemented, vote for this request: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=920413
I had a workaround: I created a new folder and set up a filter that moved all incoming mail to this new folder. Thunderbird checks whether there is anything new in your inbox but since there is nothing, nothing is displayed.
Recently this filtering started to destroy my emails. So I had to disable it again. I am not sure whether this is an IMAP issue of our server or what it is.
In any case the solution may be useful for others.
Adding a configuration switch to thunderbird would be great. I voted for the bug (just two votes ... =:-()
An extension available from Mozilla called Keyconfig can help you out with this problem. I've been able to disable shortcuts completely with this Keyconfig extension:
The Keyconfig extension ... allows you to configure keyboard shortcuts. It works with Firefox, Thunderbird, and (probably) Mozilla Suite/SeaMonkey. Shortcuts defined via a key can be changed.