With the release of Thunderbird 78, Mozilla implemented support for OpenPGP, the most widely used email encryption standard, but the functionality is disabled by default so with this tutorial I will show you how to enable OpenPGP support.
Mozilla Thunderbird 78 is a major release of the most widely used open-source and multi-platform email client that brings numerous new features, an enhanced user interface, and dozens of other improvements for a modern email experience.
One of the highlights of the Thunderbird 78 release is the inclusion of OpenPGP functionality, which lets you send encrypted emails without having to rely on a third-party add-on like Enigmail or Autocrypt. That’s why Mozilla warns Enigmail users to not update to Thunderbird 78 at this time.
That’s also why the OpenPGP functionality is currently disable by default in Thunderbird 78, but also because it’s not yet finished. With this quick tip, I want to show you how to enable OpenPGP support if you upgraded to Thunderbird 78 and don’t use Enigmail.
Before enabling OpenPGP support, you should keep in mind that the functionality is still work in progress and it may not work as expected. Mozilla is working hard to offer us a stable OpenPGP implementation, but that takes time.
They already released the Thunderbird 78.0.1 update, which enables key revocation, adds the ability to backup secret keys and extend key expiration, as well as support for emails that contain long Armor Header lines or non-UTF-8 text. Thunderbird 78.0.1 is available for download from the official website.
How to enable OpenPGP support in Thunderbird 78
Back to our quick tip, you can enable OpenPGP support in Thunderbird 78 by opening the Config Editor tool from the bottom of the General settings page under Preferences. Click on the “I accept the risk!” button, then search for the mail.openpgp.enable preference and set its value to
true by double clicking it.
Close the Config Editor window and restart Thunderbird. Now you can access the new OpenPGP Key Management feature from the Tools menu. There, you’ll be able to import and export public keys or send them by email, imprort and backup secret keys, import key revocations, as well as to generate new key pair.
That’s it! Just remember not to use OpenPGP for any production uses. Also, if you had the Enigmail add-on installed after upgrading to Thunderbird 78, it will be updated to version 2.2.x to allow you to migrate your OpenPGP keys and settings to Thunderbird 78.
Once you finished set up your OpenPGP keys, you can enable it for an email account in account settings. Mozilla needs your help to improve the OpenPGP implementation, so if you find any bugs or want to request a feature, please do it here.