Switching away from mutt

After having used mutt for about a decade, I decided it's time I move away from it, for various reasons that I won't go into here.

I've been evaluating thunderbird^Wicedove now for a few weeks, but I can already see I won't keep using it forever, because I find too many issues with it:

  1. I can't tell the thing that I never ever ever want to write HTML-formatted emails. While there is an option "Compose messages in HTML format" in the "Account settings" dialog, that only seems to impact the behaviour of the client upon "new mail", not its reply behaviour, forcing me to go to Options->Format and switch it off.
  2. To make matters worse, the HTML editor and the plain-text editor are not the same dialog. That means it is not possible to switch on HTML formatting if it wasn't on originally (not a problem for me, but I can imagine it being a problem for others), but also that the fugly quoting style (vertical line next to the text) of the HTML editor is not removed when you switch from HTML to plain-text. Further on, it has issues when you want to remove white space, where it will remove entire quoting levels rather than just an empty line. This is horrible, horrible behaviour.
  3. While there is support for multiple email addresses connected to the same IMAP account, it does appear that there is no support for automatically choosing the right email address based on user-defined rules, such as "which mail folder are we currently in". Having to remember that I need to select the right mail address is tiresome and error-prone; e.g., when I'm in a Debian-related mail folder, I want my mail client to use my Debian mail address automatically. It appears the only way in which icedove can automatically select sender addresses is by checking the recipient list in the To: and Cc: headers for any of its configured mail addresses, and using that to decide what to put in the from: header.

Any one of the above would eventually be enough for me to grow tired of icedove and switch to something else; but the three combined mean that I'll be looking for something else fairly soon.

Suggestions are, of course, welcome.

Try claws-mail
claws-mail has an odd UI at times, but it probably fixes some of the issues. Still can't get away from mutt, though.
Comment by Philipp Kern (pkern@debian.org) Tue Apr 2 10:29:37 2013

I'm not sure how I did it, but I use Thunderbird with plain text mail only, and I never see the HTML composition window, unless I explicitly choose to, for example by shift-clicking 'reply'.

See http://kb.mozillazine.org/Plain_text_e-mail_%28Thunderbird%29 for tips.

Comment by Grendelman Tue Apr 2 10:53:14 2013
switching away from mutt and Linux desktop mail clients
There are only two other viable options, I'm afraid: claws-mail and kmail2. Both fullfill your requirements. Kmail is also the only Linux desktop mail client that implements rudimentary sieve support.
Comment by Jubal (miroslaw+b+grep.be@makabra.org) Tue Apr 2 10:55:11 2013
Kmail from KDE can do all the things you complained about in Icedove afaik.
Comment by alex Tue Apr 2 11:10:03 2013
Try sylpheed or claws mail. If I would switch away from mutt, I would choose one of those. Which one is more a matter of taste so I don't dig into this.
Comment by anon1 Tue Apr 2 11:17:39 2013
Alternative to thunderbird
I am using notmuch with its notmuch-emacs frontend since a few months and I am very happy with it. If you are willing to spend a day or two on configuration, it might turn out a good email client for you, too :-).
Comment by Michael Stapelberg Tue Apr 2 11:22:01 2013
April fool ? :)

Could you briefly describe what made you consider switching away from mutt ? I'd be interested to hear about limitations, as I'm probably suffering from tunnel vision on that topic: I've been using it for so long that I probably can't notice those shortcomings I've learnt to work around :)


Comment by Seb (seb@debian.org) Tue Apr 2 11:22:40 2013
extenal editor

External editor plugin [1] plus emacs might solve some of the problems. I never had issues with it remaining always as plain-text

[1] http://globs.org/articles.php?pg=2&lng=en

Comment by i Tue Apr 2 11:25:49 2013
Thunderbird add-on

This add-on might be helpful to you: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/thunderbird/addon/folder-account/

Comment by Martijn Tue Apr 2 11:26:38 2013


I think if you don't like icedove you should take a look at sylpheed/sylpheed-claws. It's highly customizable but still simplicistic.


Comment by sebrem (sebrem@yahoo.com) Tue Apr 2 11:28:58 2013
My experience with Thunderbird

I tried thunderbird a year ago and posted my bad experiences to the KMail developers list: http://comments.gmane.org/gmane.comp.kde.devel.pim/32987

Comment by Thomas Koch Tue Apr 2 11:44:21 2013
Plain text

If you install the Enigmail plugin (Debian package enigmail), at some stage of the Setup Wizard it offers to change settings meant to make it more GPG-friendly:

Disable loading IMAP parts on demand Disable flowed text View message body as plain text Use 8-bit encoding for message sending Do not compose HTML messages

That probably solves your problems with HTML composition and odd quoting.

Comment by Steven C. (steven@pyro.eu.org) Tue Apr 2 11:46:13 2013
Re: April fool ? :)

Personally, I switched from Mutt (to Claws-Mail, then to Thunderbird) because of the rudimentary multi-account support and the difficulty of noticing about new mail when you have a lot of IMAP folders. mutt-ng (a patched version with a side panel) is an improvement, but it's still not quite there.

Thunderbird is an ugly beast that gorges memory and CPU, whose only merit is to be the least bad of the alternatives. Claws-Mail was my MUA for several years, but it's not multithreaded and its UI is a bit dated. I still miss Mutt for its simplicity and speed.

Comment by Xouba Tue Apr 2 13:33:17 2013
Thunderbird's HTML quotes

Oh, HTML quoting in Thunderbird. How I hate it. Either it's completely broken, or I'm very obtuse not to be able to understand it.

I think few people care for "good" quoting nowadays (we live in an universe of top-posters), specially those not in the IT field, so proper quoting is not severely missed by most Thunderbird users. Thus, developers don't really invest too much in fixing it.

Comment by Xouba Tue Apr 2 13:37:48 2013
You can force plain text on reply...
Edit -> Preferences -> Composition -> General -> Send Options -> Text format drop down select "Convert the message to plain text". There are rules for plain-text/html and for GPG encryption. I haven't seen similar for "From:" address selection. I use multiple accounts (real accounts) and thus it's not a problem for me. A correct one for each is selected.
Comment by xnox (xnox@debian.org) Tue Apr 2 15:16:20 2013
Re: kmail

I also suggest having a look at KMail, because it does do all of these things, among others. It's not necessary to run KDE4 to use KMail.

I also believe in full disclosure though, so here are some issues I know of:

  • KMail v1 is no longer being supported upstream, and KMail v2 is missing some functionality (I've heard tell that it's missing the ability to export mail) which is why it's not in Debian.

  • Wordwrap is "all-or-nothing" AFAICT; so if you want to include a long URL link, it'll get wordwrapped or you have to turn the wordwrap option off and do all any wordwrapping manually.

  • KMail v1 isn't aware of when your laptop just woke up from sleep mode, so if left open it will try to make remote mail connections before the network is up, causing these attempted connections to hang for a long time. These either need to be killed, or you need to remember to close KMail before putting your laptop to sleep.

  • If you want to integrate GPG functionality, it'll require configuring gpg.conf for 'use-agent', and configuring gpg-agent.conf to use the appropriate pinetry program (e.g. "pinentry-program /usr/bin/pinentry-qt4").

Good luck with whatever email client you choose. ;-) They each have their quirks.

Comment by ChrisK (chris-woutersblog@coredump.us) Tue Apr 2 15:28:23 2013
other mua

i really tried to leave mutt behind...still using it. It's a waste of time to try other MUA's ;-)

Comment by b8te-an Tue Apr 2 15:59:42 2013

Under Edit|Preferences, Composition: Button at 'Configure text format behavior: Send Options..' I set the listbox to: "Convert the message to plain text".

I have not seen the HTML-Editor of Thunderbird/Icedove in the last years.

Comment by mju Tue Apr 2 16:04:51 2013

luamail.. but only if you want high customization options and don't mind getting your hands dirty.. and maybe take over maintainership when you're at it B-)

Comment by dieter_be Tue Apr 2 16:05:19 2013

These pages have useful hints on how to avoid and disable these thunderbird annoyances: http://kb.mozillazine.org/Plain_text_e-mail_%28Thunderbird%29 http://kb.mozillazine.org/Quote_bars

Comment by Bas (bas@debian.og) Tue Apr 2 16:58:31 2013
use gnus

You really should look at gnus, its the last mua you ever need... :) Ask if you want a fairly big config to "steal" from...

Comment by Ganneff Wed Apr 3 18:16:42 2013
notmuch, geany
Hard to know, depending on what properties of mutt made you switch away, but notmuch might do what you want. Geany also looks interesting if you want something graphical inspired by both mutt and gmail/icedove/etc conversation-style clients.
Comment by Anonymous Wed Apr 3 18:47:45 2013
multiple accounts

there are few addons which fixes it: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/thunderbird/search/?q=identity&appver=&platform=

i've used "correct identity" some years ago but never tried the others.

Comment by osman Wed Apr 3 22:14:17 2013
Re: April fool ? :)

For years I had been using separate configs for different email accounts.

Recently I've spent a bit of time investigating and trying to fix that issue. I unified the configuration using both folder and account hooks (I'm not using side panel). It's not perfect but it works much better than before. I don't have problems noticing new mail either. None of the GUI email clients I've used comes even close to Mutt's level of configurability IMHO.

Comment by rjc Thu Apr 4 00:01:44 2013
Shift-clicking the reply button in TB/Icedove lets you reply in plain text.
Comment by Coucouf Thu Apr 4 00:23:41 2013
It’s a big beast, but you should really consider evolution. I’ve always seen it as the only decent GUI email program, and despite some shortcomings it is one order of magnitude more powerful.
Comment by Np237 Fri Apr 5 18:23:37 2013
Re: switching away from mutt and Linux desktop mail clients
Just to note, there's an addon for Thunderbird to add rudimentary Sieve support, which is sufficient for occasional editing: https://addons.mozilla.org/de/thunderbird/addon/sieve/
Comment by oliver Fri Apr 12 18:33:24 2013