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[Closed] Clicking on URLs in Thunderbird causes problems with Firefox as default browser

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ratcatcher
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[Closed] Clicking on URLs in Thunderbird causes problems with Firefox as default browser

Although this problem has come about with Firefox 14.0, I'm reporting it as a TB bug for reasons that will become clear as you read on. I've also reported it as a bug to Mozilla.

I have two machines which both run Firefox (non-portable version) as default browser. Up to and including Firefox 13, if I clicked on a URL in an email in Thunderbird (portable) with Firefox already running on the machine, a new tab would open showing that URL, as expected.

Since the upgrade to Firefox 14, that no longer happens. Instead TB tries to open a new instance of Firefox and fails with a warning that it's already running.

I have tested this with URLs in other programmes (such as Pidgin portable) and everything still works as expected, so this seems to be specific to the way TB passes the URL.

Others have reported (in connection with the bug report I filed) that if the default browser is other than Mozilla, all works as expected.

I don't have a Thunderbird non-portable installation so I haven't been able to check to see if the issue is specific to the portable version.

John T. Haller
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Firefox Warning

The warning that Firefox is already running is generated by Firefox itself, not by Thunderbird. Thunderbird has no such warning regarding browsers included within it. All Thunderbird does by default is pass off to the OS to open a link. Unless you alter that, of course, as you can manually select the firefox.exe as your browser in TB.

I'd suggest setting IE as the default and then Firefox again to ensure it is set properly. And ensure you don't have multiple instances set up via a special command line or environment variable for Firefox as well as that will also cause this.

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ratcatcher
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Already done

I already tried setting IE as default, then setting it back to Firefox - no change.

I have no command line parameters and just a single profile.

The point is that clicking a link in other programmes opens a new tab in FF as expected - this issue is specific to TB.

In fact, I've since installed standard (non-portable) TB on another machine and links work fine from that so I'm pretty sure that the problem is specific not just to TB but to TB portable.

ratcatcher
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Oh, and ...

I realise that the warning that Firefox is already running is generated by Firefox itself, not by Thunderbird, but this warning is generated because TB is trying to start a fresh instance of FF rather than opening a new tab in the running instance.

John T. Haller
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No Changes

The thing is, we don't make any changes to the way Thunderbird handles links. It's just the defaults that Mozilla has setup. These should, in theory, be the same as the defaults as when you installed. Unless you or an extension you installed changed them, that is. Head into Options - Advanced - Config Editor and see if any of these have been messed with: http://kb.mozillazine.org/Default_browser#Setting_the_browser_that_opens...

Also, have you tried a fresh install to see if something got mucked up in your TBP profile in the past?

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ratcatcher
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No luck

I followed the mozillazine instructions (obviously I couldn't do the first bit as it related to the Linux directory structure).

I made the changes to the config keys and then clicked on a URL in an email message. I was presented with the option of using Firefox or choosing another application. I chose Firefox. It worked as expected.

I then clicked another URL and, as before, TB tried to start a new instance of FF and I the error message came up to tell me it was already running.

Downgraded to FF 13 again and all works as expected.

So the point is that although this is clearly a change in FF, it has broken something that worked before in TB portable. But other apps which call FF (including Pidgin portable) still work fine.

John T. Haller
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About Screen

If you open the Thunderbird about screen and click on Mozilla does that work or produce the same error? And, again, have you tried a fresh TBP install to rule out issues with your profile? Please do that before continuing. Also, what OS are you on?

Note that I can click a link in the about screen or in an email message within Thunderbird Portable 14.0 and it launches just fine in a locally-installed copy of Firefox 14.0.1, so this is not an overall problem in Thunderbird, Thunderbird Portable or Firefox. It's something specific to your setup of configuration that we need to figure out.

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ratcatcher
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Same error

Opening "about" and clicking on the Mozilla link produces the same error.

I use TB portable on two machines - one running Windows XP, the other Windows 7.

On each machine we run two different copies of TB portable. Both are 14.0 but one is for my email, the other for my wife's. So they are different profiles which makes it unlikely that both profiles are damaged in exactly the same way.

Also, if in TB I go to Tools -> Options -> Attachments -> Incoming and change http and https to use Google Chrome portable (which I have installed on my stick), everything works as expected: Chrome starts up if it's not already running, or a new tab is opened in an already running copy.

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Fresh Install

Please, again, do a completely fresh install of TBP and click on Mozilla within Help, About. If that fails, then it is something to do with the way Firefox is registered on both machines, or the antivirus/antimalware on the machines or something similar.

It works perfectly fine on my Windows 7 box and no one else is reporting issues, so something specific to your setup is broken. The only way to determine that is to exhaust every possibility. Realistically, it's not a TBP issue at all, so a bug should be filed in bugzilla once we've exhausted everything here.

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ratcatcher
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Fresh install WAD

OK, I did a fresh install. I didn't bother configuring any email accounts.

I clicked on the Mozilla link in "About" and everything worked as expected.

So, yes, it does seem to be something to do with the configuration of these two copies of TB.

ratcatcher
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More experimenting

I've done some more testing - copying my existing profile over to the new test installation and I discovered something interesting:

My profile works fine with the new installation but when I copy my ThunderbirdPortable.ini file across to the TB base directory, the problem comes back.

By a process of elimination I've pretty much proved that the problem is caused by:

AllowMultipleInstances=true

I have this line because (as I said before) we sometimes run two copies of TB at the same time. I've no idea why it should affect the behaviour of links in Firefox, though.

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Internal Issue

It's likely an internal issues with either Thunderbird or Firefox. The -no-remote commandline switch (which AllowMultipleInstances uses) is really only made for developers doing specific things. It breaks things like full portability (non-personal stuff will be left behind) and the ability to launch one app from another. I thought it only affected Firefox when you had it set for Firefox. Perhaps Thunderbird passes it along via an environment variable (that's now no-remote used to work) or perhaps something else is amiss. Either way, it's not something we can fix on our end, so I'm going to close this bug.

You could try filing a bug report on bugzilla, but I'm unsure if it's something they'd be interested in researching further. If it did start with version 14, then it could indeed be a real bug. Does it happen with Thunderbird 13 launcher Firefox 14?

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ratcatcher
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Need to run multiples

Is there any other way to allow multiple copies of Thunderbird portable to run? There must be other people who share a computer and need to be able to run multiple separate instances of TB?

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Not Really

It's not designed to be run multiple copies pointing at different profiles. That's the only way they give you to do it. The only other thing you can do is to run it in a VM.

Or you could always just log in separately. Thunderbird, I think both local and portable, allows you to run separate copies under separate user accounts. As every modern version of Windows supports user switching without logging out, this would be your best option.

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ratcatcher
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Pity

That's a shame - and a significant shortcoming of TB. Of course it's not going to be developed further, AIUI, so that's unlikely to change.

Switching users is a real pain in the rear for us. Anne and I use the same desktop, programmes and data - with the exception of email, of course. So there's no other reason for us to use separate logins.

For the time being I've come up with a bit of a fudge which might be of interest to anyone else with a similar problem:

We both use Firefox but I also have Google Chrome portable installed on my USB stick so I've done the following:

1. Remove the "AllowMultipleInstances=true" from Anne's TB (in fact I've just renamed ThunderbirdPortable.ini as there are no other custom parameters there).

2. In my TB, under Tools -> Options -> Attachments -> Incoming I've set http and https to invoke Google Chrome Portable. My ThunderbirdPortable.ini still has the "AllowMultipleInstances=true" line.

As long as we start Anne's TB first, I can then start mine as a second instance.

Because Anne's doesn't have the multiple instances parameter, URLs in hers will interact with FF as expected.

URLs in my TB now open (or open a new tab in) Google Chrome Portable instead, thereby sidestepping the problem.

Not elegant, but practical.

ratcatcher
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Why is it closed?

Not sure why this has been closed. The problem hasn't been resolved, as far as I'm aware.

John T. Haller
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No Multiple

You can't use it with -no-remote. There is no workaround. That's why it is closed.

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ratcatcher
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I'm not trying to use it with

I'm not trying to use it with -no-remote - just multiple instances.

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Same Thing

That's what multiple instances is. It's the -no-remote switch.

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