The following works in just about every GUI I've ever used.
Click on one item to select it. Hold down shift and click on another item. All items between the two will be selected.
Holding down control whilst clicking will allow a single item to be selected and deselected.
Control+shift+home or Control+shift+end will select from the current item to the top or bottom of the list. Try also with the cursor keys and page up, page down and so on.
Use sorting on different columns (date, to, from, subject) to collect related items so that they can be selected as a contiguous block.
<control>+a will select all.
Having made a selection, you can move/copy/delete the selected items and so forth in a single further action.
How to sort.
The columns in Thunderbird's Thread Pane, like many list displays on your computer, have labels at the tops of the columns which are in fact buttons.
Clicking on one of these buttons will cause the display to sort by that column. The column last used to sort will usually have some symbol, like the 'V' in my picture, showing that it is the currently active column, and also the direction of sorting. If you click it again, it will re-sort in reverse order.
Pretty much all the above applies to any listing you see in your computer, especially the file lists you see in the "My Computer" window and its equivalents. Disclaimer: I use Linux Mint LMDE by choice and Windows 7 by necessity. I don't use a Mac, and I don't use any Windows version later than 7, so I can't talk about how these other systems work.
If you find that Thunderbird has stopped sorting, try a sort on a different column, then come back to the column you really want to sort on.
Sorting like this, by clicking on column header buttons, is fine when the column you want to sort by is displayed. If you can't see a column in Thunderbird, this little button:
will let you decide which columns are displayed. Alternatively, you can right-click any of the column heading buttons to see the column selection menu. You can drag columns left and right by dragging their buttons, and you can alter the widths of the columns by grabbing and dragging their side edges with the mouse.
You can do even more via the menu: View|Sort by will reveal all the possible sort options, so you can in fact sort by data which are not actually displayed. Grouped by sort is particularly useful. If you, for example, sort by date, then use View|Sort by|Grouped by sort, Thunderbird will display your messages grouped by Today, Last Week, Two Weeks Ago, Older Mail. Sorting by Sender or Subject can offer similar groupings but related to who sent it or what was said. View|Sort by|Threaded will link messages and their replies, so that strict chronological order is overruled by logical order. Having newer messages displayed before older messages may be disconcerting at first, but these tools are all provided to help you. I frequently switch between sorting by date, grouped by sort and threaded as each view has its strengths depending on what you are looking for. If you know roughly when someone sent something, sorting by date may be useful. If you're more interested in what they said, then Threaded will associate the message with others in the same conversation.
Another useful and powerful tool to help locate messages is the QuickFilter. Apart from the "preset" buttons for Unread, Starred, Contact, Tag and Attachment. you can also search for text by typing it into the box at the right, then selecting between the contexts offered: Sender, Recipients, Subject and Body (the buttons to choose these appear when you type in some search text). The purpose of QuickFilter is to show only the messages which meet the filter criteria, so if you have displayed all the messages from a particular sender by using the QuickFilter, you can now use <ctrl>+a to select them all and delete them with a single keystroke. By default, Quickfilter settings are not persistent (or "sticky") and will clear when you switch to another filter mode or to another folder. If you make The QuickFilter sticky by use of the "pin" button, try to remember that you have done so, as it can be quite alarming to switch to another window and find all your messages have vanished from sight!
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