Thursday, July 16, 2009

pine, mutt, elm, and mousetraps

The web hosting provider for tedpavlic.com recently upgraded their UNIX boxes to a 64-bit platform, and the websites I host with them had to be moved over. There were a few small hiccups (primarily due to 32-bit apps I built that needed to be re-built), but most of the issues afterwards had to deal with apps that I asked them to install on the old machine that I then had to ask them to install again on the new machine. One of those apps was (al)pine, which is the console-based e-mail client that I use. They installed pine for me, but the guy in charge was curious. Here's a response to a question he had about my request. It's my justification for using pine (and throwing away the mouse).
But I must ask, for the few odd requests I get for pine, I am curious as to if you actually use it on a day to day basis or just for testing. I remember using it back in the day (good ol'e ISDN!), but it seems a bit redundant and quaint now that we have webmail and Thunderbird and such.
Gosh – pine is far more powerful than either of those. For example:

*) Does webmail support IMAP tags? Pine does. Thunderbird just started, and it's support is still limited.

*) When managing large folders of mail, it's often much easier to query and process the messages with pine. I can quickly select a batch of messages, invert the selection, view the selection as its own folder, etc. etc. I have much more efficacy in pine.

*) If I'm at a remote computer, it's much more convenient for me to ssh into gemini and run pine than to use webmail (which is slow and clunky) or setup Thunderbird for my one time use.

*) If I'm at a remote computer *with* pine, if I run THAT pine and point it at gemini's IMAP server, pine will use the pine configuration (and address book) that is stored in a special IMAP folder. Hence, pine is much more portable than Thunderbird.

*) With very few exceptions, I'm much happier with console-mode (or near-console-mode) apps. Similarly, I use vim on every machine I have. Not only does it give me a uniform editing environment wherever I am, but with the addons packaged with any standard vim installation, vim will download, edit, and upload networked files automatically for me without much extra work on my part.

*) Oh, and don't forget that once upon a time you could only get pico with pine. Now, IIRC, nano comes separately.

My officemate uses mutt, and I used to be a major elm fan because it integrated better with vim. I shifted to pine because it's just so very powerful.

Have you heard of Vimperator? It's an add-on for Firefox that makes it act like Vim. The same people also brought out Muttator – it's an addon for Thunderbird that makes it act like mutt.

So there are lots of us out there that are dissatisfied with the GUI. Console-mode developers don't put a lot of time into perfecting the shading of the chrome. Instead, they add features, and they make the apps fast.

(note: applications like Quicksilver, Spotlight, and Microsoft's latest knock-off are bringing people back to the keyboard. People would rather *type* the app they want to launch rather than clicking through folders. Eventually, people will realize where the mouse belongs – dead in a trap stuck in the garbage out in the garage)

Thanks. :) –
Ted

1 comment:

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