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Archive for July 2009

Getting Gnus to read mail over IMAP

I have struggled, off and on, to get Gnus, the Emacs mail reader, set up to read my email. Since I’m mostly coming from the world of GUI email clients, without any experience using a newsreader (not that I wouldn’t like to — I’ve just never had access to a news server), Gnus presented some conceptual hurdles.

Gnus treats mail like news, meaning you “subscribe” to various mailboxes, and once read, email is simply hidden unless you explicitly ask to see it. The idea is that the activities of reading mail and news are very similar — you want to see what’s new without having the old stuff around, sort or filter incoming messages, write responses, then get on with your day — so the protocol used to access them (NNTP vs. POP, for example) shouldn’t make a difference in how you do them. Gnus therefore unifies these activities in a common interface, and deals with different protocols and storage methods with different “virtual servers,” i.e., back-ends which find mail or news wherever they may be. To use Gnus, you must learn how to tell it the details of how to access your messages via one or more back-ends.

So, I went to try to find the right back-end for an IMAP mail account. This raises a further complication: unlike most of the mail back-ends, which assume mail is stored locally, IMAP stores messages on the server. This makes the IMAP back-end more like a news server back-end than a mail spool back-end.

After reading the manual section on IMAP, I had tried a variety of settings that didn’t quite seem to work: although I could connect to the server, and read my mail from the Server Buffer, I couldn’t seem to “subscribe” to any “groups”, or split my IMAP mail into these groups. Fortunately, this excellent article provided a complete, working IMAP example. I’m hoping to be a Gnus addict by the end of the summer.

UPDATE: I’ve been successfully using Gnus for a few months now. Here are some relevant bits from my .gnus file to get any new users started:

;; GMANE is about the only free news server I've seen.
;; I set it to my primary server so I can read a few Free software mailing lists.
(setq gnus-select-method
     '(nntp ""))
;; Mostly, though, I just want to read my mail.
;; This setup uses a standard SSL-based connection to read the mail for the accounts I have through
;; UC Berkeley:
(setq gnus-secondary-select-methods
      '((nnimap "calmail" ; primary email
		(nnimap-address "")
		(nnimap-server-port 993)
		(nnimap-authenticator login)
		(nnimap-expunge-on-close 'never)
		(nnimap-stream ssl))
	(nnimap "ocf" ; secondary account
		(nnimap-address "")
		(nnimap-server-port 993)
		(nnimap-authenticator login)
		(nnimap-expunge-on-close 'never)
		(nnimap-stream ssl))))

Written by whereofwecannotspeak

July 15, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Posted in Free Software, Geeky Shtuff

Tagged with , , ,