This week is our first Geek Week at W3C. The idea is to have a week where we improve our skills, collaborate with each other on prototypes and fun projects that help W3C, and to come up for air from our everyday duties. I’m working on a few projects, some small and some larger.
One of my projects is to make a plugin for Thunderbird, my email client of choice, which exposes the Archived-At email message header field, normally hidden, as a hyperlink. This is useful for W3C work because we often discuss specific email messages during teleconferences (“telcons”), and we want to share links to (or otherwise find or browse to) the message in W3C’s email archives. It’s also handy when you are composing messages and want to drop in links referring to other emails. (I do way too much of both of these.)
I’ve made extensions for Firefox before, but never for Thunderbird, so this was an interesting project for me.
One of the cool (and I think unusual) things that W3C does is to attach an email header field to each message, providing a link back to the place in our archives where the message is stored. This is defined in RFC 5064. These links are very useful, but most email clients don’t do anything with them… you can only see them when you view all the headers, and then you have to hunt for them among the gobbledygook.
I’m in the process of migrating to my new Macbook Air 13″ (hooray!). This is my second Mac (I was a Windows guy before), and I thought I’d take the opportunity to rebuild my setup from scratch, rather than importing my old settings, so I could do some optimizing.
This means that I’m installing and configuring a lot of software (including some updated versions that wouldn’t run on my old Snow Leopard OS), like Thunderbird. Over the years, I’d installed several plugins for Thunderbird, some of which no longer worked. One of those exposed the message headers, but it was a pain to use. I was also able to expose the header by changing the “mailnews.customHeaders” preference in Thunderbird, but that still didn’t give me what I wanted… I had to copy the header manually,
> bookends and all, and paste it in the browser bar, edit out the delimiters… clumsy. I raised a bug on it a couple years ago, but never got the gumption to do anything about it.
Until now, that is. Now I’ve made an extension to do the grunt work for me (laziness being the true mother of invention). My new extension, Archived Link, exposes the Archived-At email header as a hyperlink, and when you click it, it opens in in your default browser; it also copies it into your clipboard (an option you can change in the preferences).
I cobbled the plugin together from scraps I found around the Web. I borrowed heavily from the framework of the first plugin I found that added a line to the email header message pane, Andrew Van Tassel‘s cool MailHops Thunderbird Plugin.
I also got timely and friendly help from Jonathan Protzenko (protz) and Jim Porter (squib) on Mozilla’s #maildev IRC channel, for which I’m very grateful.
If this seems like something useful to you, please download the Archived Link extension and install it in Thunderbird. Let me know what you think.
Update 1: Screencap
Just to make it more clear what this extension does, I decided to add a screencap: