Thinking about email

Posted on Tue 17 November 2009 by alex in geek

I saw a post on my feeds today discussing a new email client called notmuch which set me thinking about my own use of email.

I have three primary ways of accessing email at the moment. On my domain I run Mutt in a screen session. At work I have the GUI behemoth that is Evolution and most of my mailing list subscriptions run through a Gmail account I have set aside for the very purpose.

I'm quite happy with Mutt for my main personal email. As I don't use my personal email to subscribe to mailing lists the volume is low, it's fairly quick and snappy to write email (in an emacsclient naturally) and searching is only a "/" away. However it is intrinsically a folder based email client which works fine as I only have two folders: Inbox and Oldmail. I periodically (~annually) move email into Oldmail when Mutt starts to slow down on start-up.

The main bugbear is my work email. I mainly run evolution through inertia and 2 features:

  • It connects to the work Exchange server, although calendering doesn't really work properly as I can't Accept/Decline meeting invites.
  • The vFolder concept allows me to easily separate company emails from the bug tracker and CVS commits and the odd work related mailing list while still offering a quick eyeball indication of what pending emails there are.

Other than those features Evolution sucks balls in every other way. It takes an age to compose a new email, I have to shut it down every night to avoid swap death and it's certainly not keyboard operable.

The GMail account I have to live with as there isn't really anywhere else I can easily index and search the 4gb (and growing) of mailing lists I subscribe to. Of course it is accessible via IMAP so it would be nice if I could access it from the same client, especially as the web interface tends to munge in-line patches.

The obvious choice would be to look into one of the many many modes for handling email in emacs. However the plethora of choices is one that makes selecting one to try even harder. Some people at work have fetchmail tasks setup to mirror the email on the server which sounds a little clunky but I guess must work well enough. I don't think it would be practical for Gmail though, I usually just browse through various tags for mailing lists, including the very handy 'mythreads' which marks any email list thread I'm involved in.

I think the key feature I need will be something like Evolutions vFolders for the quick eyeball along with a decent way to interact with Gmail. Any suggestions?