Installed Wed Nov  9 21:41:56 GMT 2005

Thanks Mark,

> I thought I would let you know what an improvement I obtained in my
> ability to handle the floods of email we all get, by moving from VM to
> thunderbird with IMAP.

I am glad to hear things are working well for you! I have tried Imap but
prefer my pine and Ved-based interface, which is partly like VM, but
sufficiently different to keep me satisfied for some time to come.

> Here are the top 3 benefits.
> * I can now do email from a variety of different computers; the laptop
> by my bed, my desktop at work, my desktop at home, etc, and I see the
> same context each time. There are no synchronisation problems.

Me too. From most places in the world, if I can connect at all, I can
use ssh in a plain text window to my desktop machine (or tinky or
wallace) then run either pine or my editor to process email (often
starting with pine to do rapid deletions and some sorting). On a slow
link that can support very much faster interaction than using a
graphical tool. (I can use the same mechanism to log in to my home
machine to read mail got by fetchmail in my absence).

I often stay connected remotely for hours on end, and it is just like
sitting in my office. The only disadvantage is that it is possible for
the imap server to be up and running when I can't log through because
other machines are down, or the subnet they are on is broken, but on
those (very rare) occasions I can use webmail (which I don't like).

> * I can easily find an email I know I got a while ago. (Of course VM
> also offers search facilities, but they are just not as well engineered.)

I suspect that my combination of leaving some things in $MAIL and other
things in multi-message files (not directories) sorted by month except
for a tiny subset of mail that goes into project mail files or personal
mail files, makes things much nicer than VM (which I believe is based on
mh which, by default, puts each message in a separate file, which I
could not stand).

Don't you have problems when you can't recall whether something is in
a mail file or in some other place? You then have to switch tools.

> * I can handle attachments and html mails easily. (Again, possible in VM
> if you are willing to struggle; no struggling required for thunderbird.)

Pine does all that easily, but I prefer to use my editor. So, after
struggling a few years ago I re-programmed my Ved-based mail front end
(all written in pop11) to handle attachments, and to convert html or
mime-encoded text to plain text. Of course, if you saw me do it you
might not like the interface, but it works for me. E.g. I can see the
'name' or 'filename' field in the attachment, then edit it (or insert
one if it is not there) and then give the command to save and decode the
attachment, and put it in the specified location).  I can then easily
launch a viewer (from the editor) if I want to.

The only thing it does not yet do automatically which I would like it to
do, though I am slightly nervous of doing it, is automatically deleting
html copies of plain text messages, without any intervention from me..
But it would be a trivial extension. (I guess imap keeps both?).

> It is inconceivable for me to go back. It's like when you buy a
> dishwasher and you think, how come I didn't get one 10 years ago?

I agree about dishwashers, but only a few days ago I was talking to
someone who was earnestly trying to persuade me to go back to washing by

I am not trying to persuade you to go back -- merely trying to explain
why I am not suffering as much as you thought I might be!

There is one advantage you get with Imap that you did not mention,
which is the *only* one I miss occasionally.

Namely, you can just click on an embedded link in an email message, and
the web page will come up (if your mail and browser tools talk to each

When reading mail remotely I have to select and paste the link (unless I
tunnel through and run firefox remotely, which I occasionally do, but I
find it too slow at present -- though my blueyonder connection speed is
about to go up to 10mb/s I believe).

I suspect there may be a way that a program running in an xterm window
can fill xterm's select buffer with some text, which would slightly
reduce the hassle -- all I'll then need to do is paste into a browser
window. When mail comes to my home machine (via fetchmail) the editor
can select a url and hand it to firefox without my using select and

However, the inconvenience of select and paste when working remotely
would not lead me to put up with a mouse and menu interface for
all mail operations.

(Incidentally, Microsoft seem to be be better than the Open Source
people at providing keyboard only options).

> I know that you may have (especially Aaron) special reasons which
> outweigh the advantages I wrote about. I understand! I guess they will
> have to be very very special, however.

My reasons are not very special apart from having a strong preference
for digital, ballistic, non-mouse-driven, non-graphical tools, except
for graphical operations like drawing pictures.

My tools probably are special, but others might not like them especially
if they have got used to WYSIWYG interfaces.. Catriona used my mail
tools for a long time, but I don't know if anyone else has recently.
Earlier versions were used by people at Sussex, but I suspect they gave
up before I provided the extensions to handle attachments and mimencoded
message bodies. Some of them still use it to send mail however.

I have no desire to convert people who have put years into getting used
to a different sort of interface.

> I thought I would miss being able to "grep" /var/mail/mdr. But I don't!

I tell people I use grep because it is quick to say and they can
understand it, but in reality I actually read the mail file into Ved and
use Ved's search facility, which is much better than grep, because it
actually takes me to the message and also shows me the context of the
found string. I can also mark a range and restrict the search to that.

(I think thunderbird only gives you a list of messages containing the
the string found.)

Moreover when a message has been found by the editor search I can
immediately give a command to produce a reply or Reply (to all), etc.
(about as fast as clicking on 'reply' in thunderbird)
whereas the output of grep would still leave you with a substantial
amount of work to do. In those circumstances I too would prefer a
different tool.

> The truth is that I had to resort to such a clumsy tool because I didn't
> have a better one. It's like trying to drive a nail using a brick, and
> then someone offers you a hammer.

My hammer would not have suited you so well because you'd have to go
through a substantial learning phase whereas thunderbird is mostly
usable immediately.

If you ever start regretting that you cannot program it to do what you
want, we could chat! (However, I believe it is more extendable than
mozilla mail was.)

Eg I can tell Ved to add up rows or columns of numbers in a mail
message, or to send a few lines of your message combined with the output
of a unix command, to someone etc., e.g. the first few lines of the
output of running 'who' on preston

   axx        pts/18       Nov  9 16:14 (acws-0112)
   pqr        pts/2        Nov  9 20:25 (
   stu        pts/1        Nov  9 20:23 (
   vwx        pts/42       Nov  9 16:08 (acws-0096)
    [See note at end]

I am sitting at home logged through to acws-0051 and I told ved to run
'rsh preston who' which it did, putting the output in another buffer. I
then copied back the first four lines. I can also ask Ved to paste in
frequently used urls that I want to send, e.g.

without touching my mouse.

Also if I type in a local url I can ask Ved to show me the file in
another buffer. Or if I am not sure a url I've typed into a message to
someone else is right I can ask ved to launch lynx to check it out.

Of course, most people don't want to do all these silly things.

And probably there are or will be thunderbird extensions that allow you
to do whichever of them you want to do.

Maybe I should learn to program thunderbird, to make it behave like Ved?


I've just copied this message, minus header to

in the same instance of ved. It took seconds rather than minutes.
NOTE: I've just realised I should mangle some of the output of who.