My ideal email client

Submitted by dag on Sat, 2008/03/01 - 04:23

Since 10 years I am praying for a much more convenient email program, one that understands my relation with incoming mail and incoming folders. Let me explain...

I get lots of mails from different sources. Some are addressing me, others have me in Cc:. Some are from mailinglist that are very important to me (because I am responsible for answering), others I just want to follow up if I have some time. My email-client however treats all these mails the same way.

This is really not Alpine's fault, in fact, none of the email clients do what I desire. What I want is a "virtual view" (yes, think Evolution) but one that is smart about the emails it lists. Let me give some examples:

  1. I may want to chose that emails addressed to my personal address in To: or Bcc: requires an answer from me, unless I delete it from this "virtual view"
  2. Mails that have my personal email address in Cc: may have a different policy. One where I read it and do not answer would remove it from this "virtual view" as well, if I so desire and configure it. But if I want to keep it explicitely, I need to say so. (Opposite behaviour than 1.

For some of the mailinglists I may want a similar behaviour as 1. For others 2 and yet others should not be in my "virtual view".

The end-result would be that my "virtual view" shows me only a list of emails that desire my attention (either need to be read, or need to be answered). With the ones that require an answer on top.

If my email client would have this functionality, I wouldn't be loosing emails out of my sight whenever I get large volumes of email, as now frequently happens :-/

Alpine does show me (with flags) what mails were send to me personally and which ones I have answered. But my inbox is not "virtual" and full of email that takes too many key-presses to move individually, blocking my view to the important emails I really should be answering first.

Oh yes, and it needs to be console-based !

Currently, I hate the fact that my email client assumes that recent mail is more important than anything else and I am too weak to teach it to behave better. Can you help me, please ?

Something involving Mutt and

Something involving Mutt and Mairix?

I do something similar involving Evolution virtual folders.

I would suggest using the read/unread flag as the simplest way of recording whether the message needs to be read or replied to.

The other option is to unsubscribe from some of your lists. ;-)

Tags, labels, smart folders

I guess you need a mail client that supports tags/labels and smart folders. I don't know of any CLI mail clients that support that however, but if you lose the CLI requirement I think you might be able to get what you're looking for.

Alpine supports keywords

I think what you need is indeed supported by alpine keywords (labels).

I have created filters that set the keyword based on the from, to, cc or alias addresses etc. Then I zoom in based on the keywords.

I even save all my mails in ONE folder. But before doing so, I change the keywords appropriately, sometimes more than one keywords. That way, I can easily get multiple virtual views of all the messages.

My gripes about email are different from yours

Your desire changes would help some of my needs, but not all.

I want email software that allows me to attach notes to messages, like "First half of info required to implement feature Foo for project Bar", "John's take on feature Foo".

It would be a bit better if the "Subject" matched the content, but that's way too much to hope for, especially with replies in a group setting.

CLI would be great.
Works on IMAP would be really important in an environment where my desktop's OS is a volatile characteristic.


A suggestion

Do you know SUP?. Is a mail client write in ruby that tries to be a clone of GMail for the terminal.


Shift your wish to the server rather than the client

I've also been dreaming of this and finally have decided that the solution will happen at the server. Over the years there have been a number of IMAP service providers who've tried to provide this service (single message appears in multiple IMAP mailboxes), but most of the implementations have sucked. Currently there is only one IMAP service provider that does this reasonably well: Gmail. Unfortunately they don't offer backups *& restores* and other services that are essential to me in an IMAP service provider. My suggestion is to lobby IMAP server developers to provide this functionality. I think this is being considered for Dovecot IMAP. Lots of discussion about IMAP server development takes place in gmane.mail.imap.*

mutt limit command

It seems like you might be able to accomplish what you want with a bunch of mutt macros around the "limit" and "order" commands.

I'm not sure you'll be able to do everything you want, but it can do a lot.

I don't know of a way to get a view into multiple mailboxes, but otherwise it seems quite possible. Mutt's filtering/selecting is pretty darn fast so it might even work OK to just have everything in a single huge mail folder.

That will be limited because unfortunately mutt doesn't support any truly good mail folder formats (mbox, mmdf, MH, Maildir), but you might use it as an imap client to an imap server that has a good mailbox backend. You could do this with UW IMAP and mix folders; the imap server process doesnt' have to live on a different machine.

If you do this please blog about it more.


Just use Gmail, it'll mail you happy. If you need to download your mail, just connect via IMAP and download it all.