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2004-07-08 15:51:55.753437+00 by Dan Lyke 17 comments

Among the apps it looks like I'm never going to have time to write is an email client that does it right. I think I've finally outgrown vm[Wiki], I love that it's fast (mostly...), that (because it's a set of Emacs[Wiki] macros) it integrates into the keystrokes my fingers already know, and that it lets me use lots of different tools to do what I want with my mail.

I've thought about Gnus[Wiki], but me and Gnus[Wiki] never really got along. And as much as I like Emacs[Wiki], there are features that I want that just aren't implemented quickly under it (mostly related to MIME[Wiki] handling).

So I've been looking around. I love the idea and some of the concepts behind Opera's M2, so I've tried to configure that. But it's got a couple of show-stopper bugs (filter existing messages, then try to get your preview pane back...), depends on mousing far too much, and I'm having trouble making the filters and shared views work for me; I love the concept but the execution just seems klunky.

So does anyone have a favorite email system that has:

  • Fast consistent keyboard navigation
  • A graphical view of folder hierarchies (views rather than copies in this would be a plus)
  • Either has filters with all of the capabilities of procmail[Wiki], or lets me use procmail[Wiki] for my filtering.
  • Has a reasonable way to add plug-ins and functionality, this could be as easy as a "pipe this selection to..." option.
  • Plusses for an integrated "to do" list and calendar.

Paying money is okay as long as the architecture is open. I guess I need to look a little bit more at Aethera, but what else is out there?

[ related topics: Dan's Life Content Management Work, productivity and environment ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-08 16:34:45.162509+00 by: John Anderson

Chandler? (<http://www.osafoundation.org/Chandler_Compelling_Vision.htm>)

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-08 18:43:32.380694+00 by: Brian

I've been using Mew (http://www.mew.org), an emacs package that does the MIME stuff rather well. It doesn't meet most of the rest of your criteria, unfortunately. My biggest gripe is the lack of a "responded" flag: you have to manually put the message in a different folder when you're done with it.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-08 20:24:37.427657+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

Thanks for the tip on Aethera. I've been looking for a good/decent e-mail client for several years now, but I've been moving in the opposite direction. Rolling my own has been steadily moving its way up the priority ladder, as I can't seem to find anything I like.

I've been a PMMail ( Windows[Wiki] ) fanatic since the days when they were only an OS/2[Wiki] shareware app. But the original developers sold it off eventually (I think - it wasn't really clear what happened) and for the last ten years or so development has all but gone completely stagnant. Even so, I still believe it beats any of its competitors in several areas. Unfortunately, one of those areas is not displaying HTML. I continue to ask for plain-text e-mail from senders but fewer and fewer are listening.

Over the last five years or so I've tried Evolution (back before it belonged to Novell), Balsa ( Gnome[Wiki] ), The Bat ( Windows[Wiki] ), Mahogany (multi-platform) and Mozilla Mail - before it was split off to become Thunderbird. I even explored becoming a contributor to Columba ( Java[Wiki] ), but eventually decided the core developers wanted to take it in a direction different from mine.

All of them had one or more element(s) of design or point(s) of functionality that didn't meet my own "required" list. KMail ( KDE[Wiki] ) came the closest to making me happy, but I couldn't get past the minimalist address book. (I'm even more picky about my address book than I am about e-mail functionality.)

I've tossed an occasional glance at Chandler from time to time, but it hasn't sparked my interest because there are no screenshots. I'm a visual person, and design layout is very important to me in an app - especially one I use constantly throughout the day. The guy who makes CleverCactus Share ( Java[Wiki] ) had me excited about his initial project (which was like Chandler), but he appears to have opted to pursue file-sharing instead.

Not saying any of these meet your criteria, Dan, (my list is certainly different - and longer ;-), but there they are - for completeness, if nothing else.

Where I find myself at today is on the verge of doing one or both of two things: Beginning (and documenting) an elaborate shoot-out review (along with my "must have" criteria) of the current crop of clients, and/or throwing in the towel and rolling my own. If I go for the latter, I've been thinking to start by building a solid core set of objects for managing e-mail (and contact) data and then tossing it to the community to build interfaces on top of - alongside my own efforts, most likely.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-08 20:45:38.933091+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

Now that I've got all that off my chest... to answer the question:

PMMail has the most robust filtering I've seen (outside of procmail). It supports user hooks (external applictions, which get the message filename sent to them) as an action on the filtering and at startup/shutdown of the app. Keyboard navigation is there, but I don't often use it, so can't speak to how useful/practical it is. Yes, graphical folder tree - which mirrors the actual directory structure. No todo list or calendar, although they've made noises about building an integrated/companion PIM.

Unfortunately, the showstopper will probably be that it's a Windows[Wiki] -only app. There've been lots of requests to port it to Linux[Wiki], but they haven't been able to see a way to recoup their time investment in such a venture. Oh yeah, it's not open.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-09 17:06:43.465549+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, Shawn, I even enforced PMMail on all the Windows[Wiki] users I supported until the lack of HTML[Wiki] display started generating excess complaints.

I guess having seen what M2 does, I also now want something that's smarter about users, I'm now in love with the idea of "I don't remember on which mailing list (or even NNTP or RSS feed) he said it, but about two weeks ago, Mike mentioned...".

Damn it, where have all the applications gone? There's good progress to be made in these things.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-09 17:19:03.119497+00 by: Shawn

My involvement in Flutterby has me beginning to reach that point too. Never worried about it until I felt I needed to maintain attribution ;-)

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-09 20:11:19.979853+00 by: meuon

After talking to some commercial users (including Nancy), I think that a really good e-mail client and calendering system for 1 to XX users, that does not need an exchange or dedicated server.. (a file share would be all), that could also sync to PIM's like Palm's and such might make a good commercial product. At COL, we used a web based system called 'ioffice' that was a nice stopgap for this, getting people to use it was another matter..

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-11 01:38:31.732904+00 by: Shawn

I haven't played with it much yet, but Aethera (link was kind of hidden at the bottom of the initial post) claims to both provide collaberative calendars, etc. and have PDA integration in the works.

#Comment Re: Aethera made: 2004-07-12 01:36:31.333355+00 by: John Anderson

So, anybody have anything positive or negative to say about Aethera at this point? I'm wondering if it's worth jumping through the hoops to install it...

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-12 17:19:00.784733+00 by: Shawn

I was planning to experiment with it this weekend (it's installed), but power was out for several hours Sun. morning and Internet still isn't back. Hopefully I'll have a review later this week.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-13 12:18:42.749168+00 by: meuon

I'll be trying Aethera tonight.. Sync with my Zaurus? As well as Nancy's Palm? Linux and Winders..

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-13 14:01:51.037653+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

Well, it doesn't look good. I can't even get it to retrieve my mail - keeps saying host not found. I run my mail through a local server that filters it for spam. No idea if this is the problem, but I've confirmed the proxy is working just fine. Can't find any kind of log, so I have no idea where the break down is. Haven't found any forums either, although there is a bug database (registration required) for their entire product line.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-14 00:50:37.28967+00 by: meuon

Well.. Aethera looks like a 'work in progress'.. and my Courier mail server refuses it's SMTP connects saying simply: "your mail software violates RFC 821" Sniffing shows that Aethera only supports SMTP not ESMTP. I set it to talk to Sendmail on localhost (my desktop) and it worked fine. It did not like some MIME E-mail either, still playing.. I want to turn off it attempting to load URL's of images in spam and such dreck. I like Plain Text! It sure is FAST though.. Got lots of playing around to do.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-14 05:31:09.196099+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

Work in progress indeed. There are many small interface conveniences missing that I've grown quite used to having at my fingertips, but all those aside there are immediately two glaring issues that will keep me from using it. (I'll admit these are probably not standard gripes, since so many clients seem to do it this way, but they're pretty major pet peeves of mine.)

  1. There is no way to disable the Preview Pane. I can drag the separator bar down to the bottom, effectively hiding it, but it comes right back when the app restarts. Do people really prefer the preview pane? I can't stand it.
  2. All my accounts dump into the same Inbox. Again, I positively despise this model. One of the things I've loved about the basic PMMail design is the way each account is self-contained and isolated - each with it's own Inbox, Deleted Items, Sent Items, signatures, filters, etc. (Yes, I can probably set up filters to manage all this, but I shouldn't have to.)

As for my earlier problems, I can point my professional account at localhost and tunnel it to the ISP without problem. For my personal account, it works fine if I specify the ISP server, but if I try to set it to another local machine (where my filter proxy is running) Aethera refuses to connect.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-14 11:14:16.281573+00 by: meuon

"Preview Pane" - That's what I was trying to turn off as well.. I'm back to Pine.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-14 20:09:52.558164+00 by: flushy

I'm using Thunderbird, and I've converted the entire office to it as well.

Partly for two reasons: (1) To get people off Eudora as soon as possible. (2) because Thunderbird runs on both Windows and Linux. We're moving to a linux on the desktop shop.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-07-15 05:41:49.874175+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

Thanks flushy. So far I'm impressed. Thunderbird definately has the look and feel I like, so it's graduated to a serious test run.

Dan; M2 looks interesting, but I'm balking at installing an entire browser just to use the e-mail client.