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aerc mail: Reflections after the first years.


It has been nearly two years now since I switched from Sylpheed to aerc as my daily driver for email.

While Sylpheed still is an awesome email client my switch was triggered by more heavy usage of a laptop than before and the discovery of usability problems I thought long solved like:

  • very high resolution but applications either zoomed / scaled which results in less space than needed
  • unwieldy mouse handling (touch pads suck)
  • after disabling application zooming fonts and icons were barely readable

So I dipped my toe into the world of console based email clients because I used mutt on servers for years and thought that it might be a good fit. Resolution was not a problem because I disabled application zooming and simply increased the font size for my terminal emulator resulting in enough screen space combined with readable text. :-)

After testing and working a while with mutt and also neomutt I wasn’t quite happy because several things were cumbersome especially setting things up. So I checked out meli and aerc. While I like some ideas of the former I really was impressed by the latter. Setup was very easy and many things just worked out of the box even though it was just version 0.5.something.

To have the same experience / workflow across my machines I replaced good old Sylpheed also on my desktops with aerc. Configuration is mostly the same expect for some view columns stuff in respect to different screen space / resolutions.

Over time I even did some small contributions to aerc and rediscovered email as a medium for patch handling. This aligned well with me switching back to darcs for most of my stuff during that time. While git is okay, I never liked jumping through all the hoops of it to avoid messing up my repositories.

The most annoying thing with aerc was the “always online” philosophy backed into it which caused me some headaches while travelling with flaky internet connection. Therefore I started using mbsync to synchronise my email folders in the background to local maildir folders which can be used by aerc too.

Handling patches with it really is very nice and even if it is aimed at git I can simply define keyboard shortcuts to handle my darcs patches.

ag = :flag<Enter>:pipe -mb git am -3<Enter>
ad = :flag<Enter>:pipe -pb darcs apply<Enter>

This code from the binds.conf defines a “apply git” function which uses git am with a three way merge strategy and also a “apply darcs” function that simply uses darcs apply. So some simple keys pressed (given we’re in the correct working directory of course) applies patches and then I can review / test or whatever else I need to do.

So far I’m happy with aerc and the direction it takes. It is actively developed and the community has been very welcoming and helpful so far. Therefore I close with a big “Thank you!” to all people who contributed to this wonderful email client!