[sf-lug] Suggestions for "traditional" *nix email client?

Asheesh Laroia asheesh at asheesh.org
Sat Sep 29 16:54:23 PDT 2007

On Thu, 27 Sep 2007, RBV wrote:

> Howdy:
> I currently use Thunderbird 2 under Ubuntu Linux (7.04 / Feisty) as my
> primary email client.  T'bird enables me, inter alia, to handle multiple POP
> and IMAP email accounts from a single program.
> Having said that, I'm curious about more traditional *nix programs for
> handling email such as elm (a.k.a. elmo?), mail (alias Mail), mutt, pine
> (not available, by the way, in Ubuntu's standard repositories), and so on.

Well, as I tend to end up saying every once in a short while, I love 
(al)pine.  I'll refer them as pine from here on out, even though you'll 
probably install alpine.

> Does anyone have any suggestions for which of these programs might be 
> the most educational and enjoyable alternative to Thunderbird?  Note 
> that I'd really want to continue managing multiple POP and IMAP accounts 
> from a single program instance?

You can do POP fetching with pine - see 
http://www.ii.com/internet/messaging/pine/pc/#mvMaildrop .

> Note, too, that if respondents can please augment their suggestions with a
> bit of "why" that will help me make a more informed decision.

Let me tell you a story.

In October 1999, I started using GNU/Linux most of the time on my personal 
computer that also ran Windows 98.  I loved email, and my system came 
preconfigured with a local SMTP server, so I configured fetchmail (which 
was very easy) to download all my remote POP accounts and deliver them to 
paulproteus at localhost.  Then I read my mail with Netscape Mail one day, 
and PINE the next, and Thunderbird the next.  I was sort of sad that I 
couldn't have it open in multiple programs at once, though.

Then I used Emacs RMAIL.  That was interesting, but I decided it wasn't 
for me.  Emacs did something I found very curious - it moved my mail into 
a file called RMAIL and I couldn't read my email wtih the other programs 

Then I decided to run a more substantial mail setup - use an IMAP server 
on my computer (yes, "run a mail server") and then tell every app it must 
go through that.  Then over the years, I benefited from features in my 
IMAP server like indexing and multiple simultaneous access from different 

So now I do that, and I can use offlineimap to store a local copy of that 
mail offline and read it offline with any mail client I wish that does 
IMAP.  Life is great!

Oh, and pine is the best IMAP client you'll ever find, it seems.  Mark 
Crispin, who wrote IMAP, is on the pine team.

So, try pine, and hopefully try PINE with a local IMAP server (hopefully 
Dovecot, which rules).  And keep asking me questions.  And if you stop 
using pine full-time, hopefully keep the IMAP server!

-- Asheesh.

hacker, n.:
 	A master byter.

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