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I’m in mutt heaven

Lee Phillips — April 9, 2012

The Problem

I use mutt to read email. This is a terminal-based (curses) program. It is the most efficient tool ever created for handling mail. I usually keep the most recent two to three thousand messages in my inbox and navigate it effortlessly. I’ve tried graphical MUAs like Apple Mail, and regularly use the buggy work-in-progress that comes with the iPhone, and they resemble badly designed children’s toys by comparison.

There has been only one serious source of dissatisfaction with mutt: those emails from Mom, etc., with a bunch of family photographs and inline html that I can’t see; those news bulletins from eager businesses with “click here” where there is nowhere to click — email, in other words, from people who don’t really understand email, but which we must deal with somehow.

HTML attachments are no problem — a couple of keystrokes open them in my web browser — but we’re not talking about that. The problem is the mixed-up mess of fragments of markup and attached images created by people using graphical email clients, who assume that you’re going to see on your screen just what they see on their screen.

The Solution

The solution to this problem is called muttils. It is a collection of useful utilities that can enhance your mutt experience. The one that changed my life is called viewhtmlmsg. I put the line
macro pager G “<pipe-message>viewhtmlmsg<enter>”
in my .muttrc file and now Mom’s emails pop up in all their multicolored glory in my browser when I hit G.

Muttils was created (a while back, but it was new to me) by Christian Ebert, who is a nice guy who also works with a creative group that makes movies that you can watch online free of charge. I enjoyed their film Same Time Same Place, partly because it evoked memories of my old neighborhoods.

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