Sharing Address Lists in Thunderbird and Mozilla E-mail

Many times we have a need to share an address list with others. For example, both my departments administrative coordinator and I need to regularly contact senior majors, so I have a mailing list named "seniors" that I use in the "To" field. We do not want to have to each enter all the addresses in our own e-mail program. Fortunately, that is not necessary.

This document describes how to share address lists using the closely related Mozilla and Thunderbird e-mail programs. The exact directions will be given for Thunderbird 1.5, but Mozilla works in almost exactly the same way.

Background: Address Books vs. Address Lists

Thunderbird and Mozilla support both address books and address lists. A "list" is just a mailing list. Type in one name in the "To" field or other address field of your message, and the message will go to everyone on the list. An "address book" is just a collection of addresses and lists. You can think of it as a folder of addresses and address lists.

Why bring up address books when address lists are what we want to share? Thunderbird and Mozilla do not allow the sharing of a single list from an address book. You can only share an entire address book.

But, that's OK. All we need to do is to put each list in its own address book. If you have several lists that you always want to share collectively, then you can certainly put all these in the same address book. The key point is that you can share a whole address book with someone else, but not any subset of the address book.

Creating an address book

From Thunderbird, choose Tools > Address Book. (This means the Address Book item in the Tools menu strip.) Tools>Address Book
In the Address Book window, choose File > New > Address Book. File>New>Address Book
Enter the name you want to use for the new address book. New Address Book

Creating a list

Next we want to create a list within this new address book.

Click on the New List icon. New List

For "List Name," enter the name you want to give the list.

Next, enter the e-mail addresses that make up the list.

Click OK.

Mailing List
Click on the "+" to the left of your address book's name to show the lists within it. In this example, we see that "My Example Book" contains the list "Seniors." Expand List
Double-clicking on "Seniors" will let me add more names or delete names.  

You may repeat this process to add more lists to the address book. Remember that you can only share entire address books, such as "My Example book." You cannot pick and choose individual lists to share. So, if you want to share a list by itself, put it in its own address book.

Sharing your Address Book (Exporting)

To make an address book and all its lists available to someone else, you first need to "export" the book.

While still in the Address Book window (see Creating and Address Book), click on the address book you want to export. Click on Address Book
Choose Tools > Export... Tools > Export
Enter the name and location where you want the *.ldif file stored.  
You may now send this file to whomever you want. You can send it as an e-mail attachment, burn it to CD, save it on a floppy, etc.  

Importing an address book

To use this list, the recipient needs to import it. Assume you are the recipient for the following instructions.

If the file was an e-mail attachment, first right click on the attachment name and save it to your hard drive. Make note of the location.  
From Thunderbird, open the Address Book window by choosing Tools > Address Book. Tools > Address Book
From the Address Book window, choose Tools > Import... Tools > Import
Choose Address Books and Next. Address Books > Next
Choose Text File and Next. Text File > Next
Navigate to the directory holding your file, and select it, and click on Open. After getting a message of successful import, click Finish. Choose File
You now have a new address book containing the list. Address Book and List

You may now use the new list, in this case "Seniors" whenever you are sending e-mail.

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