aerc: vim-inspired email client

ClockworkCoder

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Just installed aerc, and it's an interesting project, especially the tight integration with git, and vim-style shortcuts.

Couple of deal-breakers for me is that it doesn't support maildir and is lacking in configuration options (Edit: I'm stupid, it does support maildir really easily, and there are loads of options, although I still haven't configured colours or mime-type specific open), but I have started using it and might be tempted to attempt contributing to it somehow.

https://aerc-mail.org/ (ignore the hyperbolic title)

aerc is an email client that runs in your terminal. It's highly efficient and extensible, perfect for the discerning hacker. Check out the screencast above to get an idea of how it's used.

Notice: aerc is a work in progress. All of the features below are working, but expect to find bugs.
Some of its more interesting features include:

  • Editing emails in an embedded terminal tmux-style, allowing you to check on incoming emails and reference other threads while you compose your replies
  • Render HTML emails with an interactive terminal web browser, highlight patches with diffs, and browse with an embedded less session
  • Vim-style keybindings and ex-command system, allowing for powerful automation at a single keystroke
  • First-class support for working with git & email
  • Open a new tab with a terminal emulator and a shell running for easy access to nearby git repos for parallel work
  • Support for multiple accounts, with support for IMAP, Maildir, SMTP, and sendmail transfer protocols
  • Asynchronous IMAP support ensures the UI never gets locked up by a flaky network, as mutt often does
  • Efficient network usage - aerc only downloads the information which is necessary to present the UI, making for a snappy and bandwidth-efficient experience
  • 100% free and open source software!
Has anyone else here tried it? What are your thoughts?

Personally, I've coming from mutt, and after spending a year getting it just right for my needs, I'm not about to stop using it, but I was able to get up and running with aerc in a few minutes, and it is fast and intuitive, so I feel there is potential...
 
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ClockworkCoder

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Is it like nmh?
I currently use nmh which is really nice.
Not really, it's closer to Mutt, albeit simplified and a little streamlined. What makes me interested is that it's had a stream of activity and has been moved from Python to Go.

I hadn't heard of nmh before, and appears to me multiple apps with single purposes, some of which may be of interest... which of the programs do you use and in what way? I use some automation with my email and use mbsync, msmtp and mu to parse and file attachments, extract receipt details, and add todos.
[doublepost=1565765332,1565765273][/doublepost]By the way, if you watch the short video, it shows you pretty much everything.
 

Dr. λ the Typer of Terms

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nmh is like a suite of small tools. It is made according to the principle of having many small programs and combining them. nmh is also non-monolithic so instead of starting nmh and then working in it one just uses the commands on the command line. e.g. when I type "scan unseen" in bash it gives me a list of all my unread e-mail. nmh programs (except for a few interactive ones like comp) are just regular commands for usage in bash.

I mostly use nmh because I enjoy the way that it works. And thanks to how nmh works it is also easy to add features like automatically scanning incoming e-mail for viruses or putting it in certain folders based on certain criteria. I also use nmh for when I need to automatically send e-mails for things like automatically soliciting for jobs.

nmh does come with a few downsizes:
- It's learning curve is very steep.
- It has pretty poor support for MIME out of the box. Some things like replying to MIME e-mails are implemented really poorly by default and need lot of customisation to work properly.
- It does not support IMAP.
- Despite nmh being non-monolithic most of it's commands expect you to have a nmh environment set up where all your e-mails are single files in one or more chosen folders and with a working .mh_profile present. This is used to maintain state so that one could e.g. browse through his e-mail by using the "next" command repeatedly. This makes many nmh commands unsuitable for usage outside of a working nmh environment.

Especially the last downside may be why nmh may be not very useful to you. Though for a proper introduction https://rand-mh.sourceforge.io/ contains a lot of information.

I like nmh a lot but I might try mutt sometimes too. From my experience mutt seems to be much more popular.
 

ClockworkCoder

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Mutt is fantastic, but also can take a long time to get set up properly. As with many of these kinds of apps, there aren't simple solve-all tutorials, as everyone's preferences (styling, mailboxes, shortcuts, macros) are likely to be very different. If you can stick with it, I personally think it's worthwhile.
 

ClockworkCoder

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Couple of deal-breakers for me is that it doesn't support maildir and is lacking in configuration options
Correction - it does support maildir, and there are loads of configuration options. Just needed to check the man pages :) The website doesn't give much information but the man pages are really quite thorough.
 

docbroke

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I saw the video of aerc in use and I liked it. Unfortunately I have moved from gmail to free version of protonmail, which doesn't support imap or pop. I have mutt configured for gmail which I no longer use, but I very well know the efforts needed to configure it. Configuring aerc looks like a piece of cake, that too delicious.
 

ClockworkCoder

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There's not much keeping me from using it full time, although Mutt is now nicely streamlined to my workflow, Aerc isn't far off being able to do the same but also relatively light-weight.

Looking on Reddit and the official website, it appears the author is very active in the open source community, and this is one project they are currently committed to working on full time. There has been also a huge amount of development in the past couple of months (including the aforementioned maildir support)
 

levi

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Full time? That's unusual in open source, unless it's something aligned to what their firm's trying to do, and the company happens to be enlightened in open sourcing things. Unless you mean he's committing all of his spare time to this, and in the rest of his waking time, he's earning money, or spending it.

Personally, I'm a user of claws-mail. It's a gtk2 graphical email app, but can be entirely keyboard driven and in terms of installed code is about a tenth of the size of thunderbird. It does has a lot of dependencies though, and I don't know how many of them are built into that thunderbird codebase, but they're for things like spam filtering (bogofilter) and the odd occasion when decoding the important information out of a html message is too much work (dillo), while still not loading images or running any scripts, and their size is counted in the kilobytes.
 

ClockworkCoder

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Full time? That's unusual in open source, unless it's something aligned to what their firm's trying to do
Apparently he makes enough money in funding and donations for his projects. Yes, it's unusual, but I'll let you do your own research if you're interested (check out his website and reddit threads on aerc)
 
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