Goodbye Mutt / The Importance Of Community

By | 2007/05/17

Many of you know I’ve been trying to learn the mutt mail client and I have really put some time into it.  For quite a long time I’ve subscribed to the ‘all mail clients suck’ school of thought and mutt brought me close to finding a way out… but during my transition has turned me off.  Why?  The community I’ve dealt with so far has been disagreeable.

I’m back in the market for a mail client.  Maybe I’ll go back to Evolution.  Maybe I’ll wait for Thunderbird 2 to come down the pipe (I didn’t love 1.5).  Maybe I’ll try claws.. or..?

I’ll worry about that later but I wanted to share some of my observations on the importance of community.

Ubuntu has found it’s success, I think, almost completely due to it’s focus on community.  Every time I talk to a new user or even older Linux users they mention how great the community has been in taking them in and being patient with their growth.  I know it was a big aspect of why I stayed with Ubuntu in the beginning.  Despite some dumb questions on the Ubuntu Forums the community was patient and welcoming.

The US Teams Project is doing so well in a short time because we have people that understand this.  They understand the importance of welcoming in new users, not making them feel dumb, and being patient with funny questions.  Yes, even questions that may have been answered time and time again.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have answered duplicate questions on the Ubuntu Forums.  If a user is humble enough to ask for help can you be patient enough to take the time to help?

I’ll cut things short here but I hope you all remember how important your interactions with other community users are.  Community building has drawn me into the Ubuntu and Linux community.. and now turned me away from the mutt community.

15 thoughts on “Goodbye Mutt / The Importance Of Community

  1. Hans Fugal

    There is no mutt community. Sure, there’s a group of mutt fanatics and a group of mutt developers (those two groups overlap some), but there’s no community of normal mutt users. That’s because normal mutt users learn how to use mutt and then move on with life.

    The best place to get support for mutt, and many many other open source programs is linux users groups (like PLUG) and IRC chat rooms (like #utah).

    Can developers almost always stand to be a bit nicer? Yes. But when was the last time you got a chance to ask the developers of MS Outlook how to overcome some problem? Word? You don’t even know who they are or how to contact them? Odd.

    Single-purpose programs that people use every day all day don’t tend to build up communities because people have better things to do than keep track of a different community for every program they use. The community that should be helping you with mutt is the LUG, IRC, or even Ubuntu community.

    PLUG has been rather boring lately. I for one would have loved to answer a good mutt question or two.

  2. Graeme

    You could try Kmail, It has a lot of useful configuration option. The only problem I have had is that “accept forever” for SSL certs – it has the same effect as accept for session.

    If you can be bothered to try both, I for one would like to see a comparison of Kmail to Claws.

    Opera is nice for reading, but not writing, and, of course, is proprietary.

    I am very much in the “all email clients suck” camp as well. Perhaps the solution is a local IMAP server so switching becomes easy. Perhaps even local webmail. I know it can be done but it is too much hassle.

  3. Alan Pope

    Isn’t this “cutting off ones nose to spite ones face”?

    Mutt is a fantastic mail reader, and just because someone else acts dumb shouldn’t mean you forefit the benefit of using it.

    Of course it’s your decision, and I understand how having a community behind a product is important, but it’s not the be-all end-all of the tool.

    I guess I just can’t live without mutt myself 😉

  4. Dan

    Why wait for TB2 to come down the pipe? Installing it outside of the package system is actually really simple (not much more difficult than installing a package, actually– I just threw the tar in my opt directory and it worked right away, without interfering with normal package flow/dependencies). I actually finally settled on a Gmail/Evo combo a couple of weeks ago, but I was using TB2 since it was beta with no problem.

  5. James

    I really feel your pain on the mail client front. I’ve recently switched from using MacOS X as my main desktop to using Ubuntu. And none of the mail clients quite get everything right. They’re either fast for POP, but slow for IMAP. Good for regex filtering, but don’t render HTML. etc. etc. I’ve come to the decision of usng 3(!) separate email clients all the time. Evolution for my work email (and work contacts, etc). Sylpheed claws for the automated reporting emails I get that need lots of regex filtering. Thunderbird for personal emails that are quite often HTML (and for newsgroups, which it does pretty well).

    I’m glad it’s all on a nice and quick Core2 Duo, or I’d probably be struggling.

  6. MattW

    Best I’ve managed so far is Evolution, and that’s largely because I’m fed up of trying any alternatives. The GNOME integration tips it for me, but the actual mail handling is horrendous, and I hate the single shell for Mail, Calendar, Contacts etc. These are different functions and should be in different apps!

    Fortunately there are lightweight apps coming down the pipe which are EDS based for some of these things, but not for mail. Why do all mail clients suck? Probably because all mail servers are broken too. I’ve never yet met two mail servers which entirely agreed on their implementation of IMAP.

  7. Marius Gedminas

    Sylpheed is nice and GNOMEy. Claws is more featureful but feels more KDEish (focus on features rather than aesthetics). I do not understand how anyone can bear to use Evolution (it’s been too slow and too crash-prone every time I tried to give it a chance).

    I’ve never encountered a Mutt community. I learned Mutt by reading the manual from cover to cover, a few times, back when I was younger and had plenty of spare time. I probably wouldn’t be able to do that now (e.g. instead of learning irssi I keep using xchat-gnome).

  8. Simon Brown

    I’ll just put in a quick plug for Balsa ( which is in my opinion the best GNOME mail client. It just a simple fast MUA. It also will quite happily coexist with mutt

  9. Carl

    Well… I’m really sorry to hear that. I was relying on you to give me a great howto for mutt :D.

    I guess I will have to learn it by myself. I made the move from gui to command line for a few task like calendar (pal), task (simple text file), editor (vim). The only corner that I need to setup now is email. Most of the clients suck so much that I ended up using only web interface, which is also bad :(.

    And let me share a thing about the community, Ubuntu’s one is so big now that it is almost a problem. If you post on the forum or on irc, the signal vs noise ratio is so bad that I almost always have to find the solution by myself :|…

  10. Bob Wagner

    I’d second kmail – then, it’s not ideal in gnome

  11. Ropetin

    I would urge you to try Mutt again. I personally moved to it about 2 years ago, when I totally dumped my Windows boxes, except for Windows only tasks. I tried to love Evolution, I really did, but there were only so many crashes a man could stand in a day (I’m looking at you Task List…)

    I agree that the ‘community’ around Mutt, if it even exists, is a little bit combative and terse. However, the community isn’t the same as the tool. Mutt is the most powerful, easy to use and fast email client I have ever used. My fingers have got so used to the commands in Mutt that I customize any other program I can to match them.

    I learned how to configure Mutt by using the man pages, and copying some .muttrc files posted online. There are some great examples out there, just Google for .muttrc, and see what comes up. It’s complex at first, but once it’s configured, it’s done. You can use the same config file on different machines with no worries. Not that you really will need to configure it on multiple machines, just SSH into your ’email machine’ and enjoy!

    For those occasions when I just HAVE to have a GUI email client, my choice is Kmail. Yes it crashes as much as Evolution used to, but at least it’s in a predictable pattern so I can help avoid it.

    Of course, the fact that I run my own IMAP server (pulling emails from multiple POP accounts) helps avoid losing or duplicating emails.

  12. anonymous

    Mutt fails in Imap. There are not many options.

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