Checking Local Spool Mail

One of the precautions I have taken with learning to avoid a snoopy ISP is not launching the Thunderbird mail client unless connected to a VPN. This helps avoid a snoopy ISP discovering where I have mail accounts.

One of the results of that decision is wanting to view local system spool mail in a graphical email client. I have been viewing local system spool mail since I started using Thunderbird. I can bypass my ISP snooping controls and launch Thunderbird without connecting to a VPN, but I do not want to do that because Thunderbird automatically checks online email accounts. I could disable the automatic checks, but that would not prevent me from inadvertently checking manually and disabling the automatic checks introduces more inconvenience.

Future versions of Thunderbird no longer support movemail anyway. An alternate solution was needed.

I can view local mail from a command line mail client such as mailx and do that often. I could venture into new territory learning something like mutt or alpine. There is one caveat in that for some years through weekly cron jobs I send myself speedtest plots in PDFs. While possible I prefer not to fiddle with command line clients to view attachments.

To avoid using Thunderbird and console based mail clients to only view local mail, I decided to install a different desktop mail client. I considered using a different Thunderbird profile to view local mail, but I foresaw myself inadvertently launching my normal profile. With a different desktop client altogether and one that is dedicated to only viewing local spool mail I would not need to worry about not being behind a VPN.

I looked at Sylpheed. I could not figure out how to configure only a local spool account. The opening dialog insisted on creating a new POP3 or IMAP account. The dialog could be canceled and eventually I figured out how to manually create an account. Like Thunderbird, Sylpheed seems designed to hassle users until creating an online account.

Next I tried Claws Mail. Originally a fork of Sylpheed, the software comes with more bells and whistles than Sylpheed. None of which I need or want. I compiled the software with most of those options disabled.

The opening dialog with Claws Mail was more forgiving than Sylpheed. Within a few seconds I had the ability to view my local spool mail.

Despite the common history, I found the configuration options between the two mail clients notably different.

Either I do not understand or I found a bug, but when I enabled Update all local folders after incorporation, Sylpheed would not list the newest mails in the mail pane despite the folder pane showing a new mail. Another odd quirk is when selecting mail with the mouse the mail opened in a separate window, but when I selected with the keyboard Enter key the mail opened in the third View pane. I think I finally resolved that quirk by enabling Separate message view in the View menu.

I could not figure out how to configure Claws Mail to automatically select the Inbox. This should have been straightforward, especially as I am checking only one account — the local spool mail. With Sylpheed this was not an issue.

Curiously, Sylpheed opened instantly while Claws Mail lagged a moment or so, also when closing. As I compiled Claws Mail with no plugins and most options disabled, I expected the tool to be faster. Sylpheed had more compact toolbar icons and while configuring the toolbar icon size in Claws Mail might be possible, I did not spend time looking. At that point I had decided to use Sylpheed.

An additional note about launching Sylpheed. The software does really open instantly. For so many years users have grown accustomed to sluggishly opening software that seeing this is rather remarkable. For me Thunderbird takes several seconds to launch, primarily because of the Lightning calendar. Disabling Lightning improves the launch time considerably but still does not approach instant launching like Sylpheed.

After some days I grew frustrated with a Sylpheed quirk. When I open an email with the mouse on double-click the mail opens centered on the screen. When I open an email by pressing the keyboard Enter key the mail opens in the upper left of the screen. This is irritating as Hell.

Sylpheed seems unfinished and raw, but for now I will continue using the software.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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