A Followup on Leaving Gmail

In my post about Chen Bin's guide to using Gnus with Gmail, I mentioned that in my own quest to move my email operations to Emacs, I was looking at three packages: mew, mu4e, and gnus. In the comments, I got a couple more recommendations. David recommended Wanderlust as a mature and full featured solution. Sam recommended that I look at Notmuch. Both useful additions to my list and I'm glad to have them even though they complicate my decision making.

Sam also provided a link to a post by the invaluable Christopher Wellons that compares Notmuch and mu4e. Wellons' post is interesting because it's principally about moving off of Gmail and onto his own server that he would access using an Emacs-based email client. I found this particularly interesting because that's my end goal: no email middlemen that offer the NSA and others easy access to my email.

If you're OK with Gmail but would just like to compose messages in Emacs, Artur Malabarba has got you covered with his gmail-message-mode that lets you hot key from your browser to Emacs when you want to compose an email. Malabarba's got it working with Chrome, Firefox, and Conkeror. He uses Markdown to compose messages but it could probably be patched to use Org-mode fairly easily. In any event if you're interested in integrating Gmail and Emacs, give Malabarba's post a look.

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  • Wanderlust is a great email client, although it is painful to get up and running. I used it for a very long time until I got a new computer at work. When I tried to set up Wanderlust I couldn't get it working and started looking at other options. I've settled on mu4e and have used it since its original announcement. It feels very similar to Wanderlust, with the biggest difference being it was really easy to set up and maintain.

    Best of luck moving from Gmail as well. I'd love to do this at some point as well, so I look forward to following along on your progress.

  • Sebastian Christ

    Moving off of Gmail and use your own servers is unfortunately not enough to lock out the NSA. You would also have to stop sending emails to people with Gmail addresses.

    Benjamin Maki Hill wrote am interesting post about this topic on his blog: http://mako.cc/copyrighteous/google-has-most-of-my-email-because-it-has-all-of-yours

  • Tom

    I wholeheartedly recommend mu4e. It takes some configuration if you have multiple addresses, but after that it's a joy to use. I have been using it since its announcement as well and have no desire to switch.

  • Sam Ask

    I have tried quite extensively both mu4e and notmuch, and at the moment I am still using both.

    At the end, I like mu4e better aesthetics and notmuch speed. I am not sure why, but notmuch is much, much faster than mu4e. If one needs to search and list a few hundreds results, notmuch is basically instantaneous, while mu4e may require a few seconds. Just try them both, it is easy to check that.

  • Jonathan

    I've been wanting to move to mu4e (and have on occasion for a few tests) however I've ended up with Gnus for the moment for two reasons:

    1) Mailing list subscriptions. I don't have to have them sent to email every time (Although at the same time, sending to email allows for proper replication between computers, so probably not a good reason)

    2) Convenience on a Windows Machine. I managed to get mu to compile in Cygwin at one point, however I was still receiving errors when trying to perform searches/manage the maildir. I can't remember which packages need to be installed in Cygwin to allow for proper compilation (in addition to manual compilation of Xapian and a few other libs). Gnus on the other hand works on Windows, the only challenge is/was correcting nnmaildir.el to allow for Windows-style maildir suffixes (!2, from offlineimap rather than :2,). I almost have it working (it works, however unread message counts show up wrong when viewing folder lists).

    Assuming mu and mu4e can handle !2, in maildirs, and I can find a successful way to compile/Windows binary for it, I would switch to it for my email, however since I need to use Windows machines at times, mu4e isn't a current option.

  • David

    There is a very important difference in comparing mu4e with Wanderlust, in that mu4e only works with email stored locally on disk, where as Wanderlust also supports both just reading mail off from a server, or downloading it to store locally in disk.

    Since I'm working from many computers (home & work), mu4e is not an option for me, as I understand it, since I want access to all email from both computers.

    • Jonathan

      You can use it on both machines since mu4e uses the maildir format for all offline storage. Using Offlineimap or equivalent software to download the email to your computer (saving it as maildir) will allow you to view and edit your emails, an additional sync afterwards will propagate those changes back to the mail server, so that all other machines will be able to obtain those changes (including web client and smartphones).

      The benefit of working off the imap connection is that it is a live connection, you don't need disk space to maintain the emails, however it also means a slower loading (potentially) because there is no local copy to work off of, and a large folder will require a larger amount of retrieval (even if just headers) to be displayed, and that each session.

  • Abe

    So, what have you chosen after all? Although your particular use-case is probably kinda boring for me (just single own email, huh - I got dozen accounts to manage) but still would be nice to read your write-up.

    • jcs

      I'm still pondering the matter. The discussion over at the Google+ Emacs community on Perry Metzger's Editor of a Lifetime talk suggests that there's not really a good answer.

      My particular requirements are several (but less than a dozen, happily) accounts that I want to access on several machines including a couple of iOS devices.