Post by Jeff Clough
Okay, so I'm seriously considering switching from Thunderbird to Emacs
(under Windows XP) for my mail and calendar needs, but I haven't used
Emacs for either of these purposes in so long I don't know if it's
feasible, nor am I certain which modes are "best". I'm hoping that
some of you can point me in the right direction. I'd "just do it" as
a test, but I'd rather not go through a crap ton of hassle and
problems only to hear later "You should not have used foo mode for
that, bar mode is what you want".
I just switched from Thunderbird to GNUS. It's taken me a month to get
truly happy with it (about 29 days longer than I wanted to spend) and I
still have some things left to do, but overall I'm glad I made the
To this end I made some compromises and changes to my assumptions in
order to work with how gnus actually worked. Also, my solution is very
linux specific, and not relevant, really to what you were asking about,
but I gotta write this up somewhere....
After fighting with postfix + dovecot, sieve, imap, gnus, and Maildir
formats for several days, I gave up, and switched to postfix, procmail
and mbox format, abandoning even the thought of imap.
I did several unusual things, few of which were GNUS specific, (although
gnus made me do it because I could not get maildir working) but perhaps
folks would find these alternatives interesting. I evaluated mh, gnus,
and mews and settled on gnus as being the closest in mindset for what I
wanted "(set bugs off (do what I am thinking))"
1) I adopted IPv6 for my email requirements, coupled with ca-cert
certificates for authentication. This gives me a static IP address and
real AAAA record in DNS so I can actually receive mail on my laptop's
tunnel, wherever I am, via my stably connected secondary mx host, and I
can send/receive mail directly to anyone running IPv6 on their mailhost
(I've only seen bsd.org and isc.org have that turned on), or via that
secondary mx exchanger.
The certs get rid of sasl which I always thought was a hassle anyway.
2) Instead of IMAP I am just opening emacs frames on other X displays,
against my already running emacs session. My server is my laptop, not
some far off imap server. It's cool to keep all my context - especially
including org-mode - available anywhere I walk in the house or around
3) For backups, rsync run out of cron. I'm not entirely convinced this
is acceptable so I bcc another account on another mail server on sent mail.
4) For RSS, r2e, which uses rss2email to correctly *text* format most
RSS feeds. I tried the in-gnus RSS reader, found that it interrupted my
workflow too much, and dropped it in favor of r2e.
5) For news, Leafnode. The local nntp cache makes a huge difference in
speed, and I can read news offline. I liked leafnode so much that I
subscribed to lkml again via gmane, and the various gnus.* groups.
6) To get text boxes from the web into emacs and back, mozdev.
7) For calendar, org-mode. I'm not going to talk about how much more I
love org mode the more time I spend in emacs. I could go on for pages
thing to start raving about if I did. I always found things like
evolution and exchange very lightweight for complex task
management. Thunderbird did it not at all.
8) chat - I dropped pidgin and adopted erc + bitlbee. Bitlbee now does
9) Pastebin on a keystroke from any buffer. Love it.
As you can tell, I *really* wanted to be able to receive mail directly
to my laptop again, and handle being offline, just like in the good ole
days. A lot of the above flowed from that. Writing web pages to parse
the output of "batch" and multiple clustered commands struck me as more
work than getting certs and ipv6 tunnels and email to work.
The net benefit to my life is that I just rid myself of several
applications and their relevant context switches. I would argue that I
went from about 10-15% emacs usage per day to about 75%. I'm able to do
things like customize my keyboard to handle my carpalness (like mapping
' to return) and not have my default keystrokes break other apps.
With Emacs' abbrev mode, im turns automatically into I'm, and with
auto-capitalize mode (which I put a fix in for on the wiki recently) I
almost never have to hit a shift key again. Big win. You couldn't get me
to switch back to any other mail client if you paid me.
I love green on black text everywhere.
I cleared out a lot of screen space by getting rid of menus, icons,
scrollbars, fringes and other stuff that get in the way. hide-mode-line
is cool, too.
Supercite is great. The gpg integration is great too.
rss2email has easily put 12 hours a week back into my life that I used
to spend waiting for blogs to load. I'm spending 4 hours of that on
netnews, which has been kind of fun in a retro sort of way.
My mail is as fast now as instant messaging. Switching in or out of mail
mode takes two keys, a split second, and no thought. There's no "Logging
into server... checking folders... sending mail..." step at all. For the
first couple weeks I kept running tail -f /var/log/mail.log just because
I was scared it wasn't working.
I tied mail and org mode notifications into a speech synth.
I can do just about any darn thing I want to with procmail, including
automagically create mailboxes for any mailing lists I might join. I
had wished thunderbird would do that for a long time.
And I can take my mail with me, to the beach, or the park, without having
to be online, and write voluminous emails like this one.
My only major open problem is somewhere in my maildir experiments my
sent mail folder stopped working. :(. I'll figure it out eventually.
I'm still in a losing fight with how GNUS splits windows on wide displays.
I still have the more prosaic problem of expiring the mailboxes (like
messages from cron and nagios) that I want to expire the way I want to
expire them. I like very much the concept of expiring - or at least,
automatically archiving, mail, much more than I like the idea of
continuing to have 20,000+ message mailboxes as I have in gmail. Yes, I
have read how to do it, but regular expressions scare me. I will try it
on some smaller test mailboxes first. So far, 2000+ message mbox
mailboxes have been acceptably fast on the hardware I use.
mbox format + archival actually makes sense to me, although I will take
a stab at Maildir again one of these days.