Searching your email

As many of you may know, I’m really quite facinated by my email system. By system I mean the suite of tools that bring email sent to me to my eyes. I’ve written before on my setup (note: that is out of date now) and its migration across systems. As you can see, I’m a fan of Mutt.

I do have a confession. For the last few months (since mid-December ’10) I was using Thunderbird 3.3a2. Why? Why throw away all that time and effort setting up Mutt/Offlineimap/Imapfilter to be as effecient as possible and just go with TBird? Search across accounts.

Yes, search.

Ever since I started using Mutt I found myself sometimes popping into my gmail account to search for a specific message (if it was sent to that account, of course. My personal account is not hosted by gmail, just my work account). I felt bad about it each time. “Why can’t I just do this in Mutt?” I would ask myself. I tried various email searching systems but none of the quite worked exactly how it should/I wanted.

Then came Notmuch.

Notmuch promised to be exactly what I wanted. A text-based, threaded, and search-oriented mail reader. Perfect! Except, due to some limitations at the beginning (basically, you can’t move messages without making Notmuch angry) I never could use it full time.

But the Notmuch developers fixed that! I didn’t know that though. I missed that announcement. Where was it? Why wasn’t it being shouted on the roof tops? NOTMUCH CAN NOW SYNC WITH IMAP CHANGES!

Oh well.

This whole time I’ve been using Thunderbird (mostly) without issue and loving the ability I had to search across all 3 of my email accounts which something that even GMail, the master of search, could never do for me.

So what brought me back to Mutt from Thunderbird 3.3? Search. You see, just like Lucas I saw Zack post about how a long flight gave him the time to integrate Notmuch and Mutt.

Now, thanks to notmuch, I can do a quick search across all 3 of my mail accounts and even recreate threads from just a single message. Simply amazing.

Do you like Mutt and wish you had top-notch search? Give mutt+notmuch a try!

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  1. Just wondering if you’ve ever looked at sup – ? It’s a command line client written in ruby that maintains a full text index using xapian. It does multiple labels very well, and conversation view is the default. It also has a very powerful system of hooks that call out to user supplied ruby to auto-label messages, customise settings and much more.

    To be fair it is also a young project and has plenty of rough edges and a few limitations – one of the main ones being that is doesn’t play well with others, by which I mean that if you want to access your mail with another client, say using IMAP, then you’ll have some issues, though some people have found ways to work around them.

    I’ve found the ruby code to be very well structured and easy to hack on, so if it does interest you then it’s pretty easy to start smoothing off some of the rough edges.

    Ultimately it may well not be for you, but if you are fascinated by email systems you should at least have a look at sup as it takes a bit of a different approach that is really interesting and gives some great strengths.

  2. @Hamish
    Yeah, I looked at sup and thought it looked really promising! But until it works with outside changes smoothly, it can’t really be an option for me. :(