My E-mail (client) Journey

E-mail can be a very difficult thing to deal with but is the only federated wide-used system out there so we are stuck with it for now. In this post I will review how I try to domesticate that beast.

My first e-mail

I created my first e-mail account in 2004. It was a MSN Hotmail account since at that time everyone was using MSN Hotmail to chat. 2004 was also the year that Google announced Gmail but I wasn’t cool enough to receive a invitation. I didn’t used too much my MSN Hotmail account because at the time I didn’t have internet at home.

Yahoo! Mail

2005 was the year that I first had internet at home and the time that I move from MSN Hotmail to Yahoo! Mail. I don’t remember why I migrate to Yahoo! Mail. I stayed with Yahoo! Mail until 2009 and during those years I only used e-mail to subscribe to online games.


In 2009, I started using Gmail and Google Office Suite. Gmail (graphical) interface was better than Yahoo! Mail and didn’t have big advertisements. In addition, you could enable many extensions and I discovered that you could use filters to automatically move new e-mails to folders, a very nice way to organise your inbox.


2009 was also the year that I first heard about Vim. Some of my friends were always telling me all the magic stuffs that you could do with Vim. In 2010, I decided to give Vim a try and spend some time using it. After a few months, I got in love with Vim and, as lovers, I want to do everything with Vim, including dealing with my pile of daily emails.

To be able to use Vim to compose my emails, I setup Mutt, “a text-based email client for Unix-like systems” as Wikipedia describe it, in 2011. As any Unix-like system application, Mutt “mostly” does only one thing very well, display one of your inboxes, and everything else is delegate to another application. Because of this Unix-like way to do things, I had to also setup fetchmail to retrieve my e-mails, procmail to filter my e-mails, msmtp to send my e-mails and abook as my address book. At the end, I was managing tons of dotfiles.

Did worth migrate from Gmail to Mutt? Yes, I had the feeling that my e-mail was domesticated. The side effect was that my inbox was offline since I was using fetchmail instead of offlineimap because synchronise large inboxes is challenge to offlineimap.


I used Mutt for a couple of years but in 2015 I needed to clock my working hours and after looking in many tools to do it I ended up with Org-mode. Org-mode works on top of Emacs and despite my love with Vim I started a affair with Emacs. At the end of 2015, I was configuring Gnus as my new e-mail client just because it works on top of Emacs.

I could keep my fetchmail + procmail + msmtp stack but to keep my e-mails in the cloud I replaced that stack with Gnus built-in imap support. For address book, I replaced abook with BBDB.

Was I happy using Gnus? No! In part, my unhappiness was because I didn’t have the time to polish my ~/.gnus. But the main reason why I was unsatisfied was that after I started using Gnus as feed reader as well it toke a long time to be ready to use and crash a lot of time when starting with a “wrong type argument” error.


After my disappointment with Gnus, I start looking for a new e-mail client in 2017. The ones that made my list where Evolution, KMail, Thunderbird and Nylas N1. Nylas N1 was shiny but the local setup was a nightmare (and now is dead), Thunderbird was getting a new home and KMail requires many KDE applications when my GNU/Linux distribution installation uses Gnome applications so I decided to give Evolution a try.

Because GUADEC 2017, the Gnome Conference, is this weekend I will write about my experience with Evolution in another post.