I’ve tried a few of the different GUI clients out there, and I tend to find them to be almost as slow and bloated as Microsoft’s infamous Outlook. The main clients are Mozilla’s Thunderbird and Gnome’s Evolution.
In search of speedier email access, I decided to go searching for a command-line solution. My Conky tells me when I have new mail, and at that point I want to be able to quickly open a client, look at the email, and close it again, without having to wait for the client to load up and then pack itself away again after. I also don’t want to have to leave the client open all the time.
Since I use Gmail, the best solution is for me to find a client that can use the IMAP protocol. As far as I can tell, this comes down to two options: Mutt or Alpine, the successor to the old Pine client. I tried Mutt, but I found it difficult to configure, especially considering I want access to all of my accounts, not just one, or one pooled inbox accepting mail from all of them.
That leaves Alpine, and to be honest, I’m quite happy with that. Alpine seems to do everything I need it to do, with relative ease. If you’re using Ubuntu, you can download and install it from the repository. Otherwise, you can find the latest version here.
The following guide just gives a basic rundown of how to set up Alpine for multiple gmail accounts. It assumes you are not also using a local mail server. For more detail on working with Alpine, you should see this excellent in-depth reference website.
Retrieving your INBOX
The first thing to worry about is how to set up Alpine so you can read your Gmail.
- Once you’ve installed Alpine, run it by typing alpine at the command prompt. Then type go to Main>Setup>collectionLists>Add. In each case, you can get to the menu by just typing the letter I’ve highlighted in bold.
- Fill in the options like this:
Nickname : <choose a nickname>
Server : email@example.com
You can leave path and view blank.
- Press <ctrl-x> to save your settings, and then go back to the collectionList and choose to Add as many different accounts as you wish. Press ‘E’ to exit the collectionList menu
- There are a couple of configuration options you will want to change.
- Go to Main Menu>Configuration and scroll down until you find the [Advanced User Preferences] section. Mark Save will Not Delete toward the end of that section.
- Next go to Pruning Rule and choose don’t rename, don’t delete.
- Hit ‘E’ to Exit setup, and choose yes to keep the settings.
- To read your mails, go to the Main menu and choose ‘Folder List’. Hit ‘Enter’ to choose the folder you wish to look at, put in the password if necessary, and use ‘>’ and ‘<‘ to go back and forward between your folders to read your mails.
Sending mails through Gmail
To have the option of sending mails from different accounts, you need to use a feature called ‘Roles’.
- Choose Setup>Rules, and type ‘R’ to choose ‘Roles’. ‘Add’ a new role.
- Press ‘Enter’ to type in a nickname of your choice.
- Under Current Folder Type go down to Specific and choose that.
- Then go just below that to Folder List and press ‘T‘. You may need to input the password for your current folder. You can then navigate around the folder list and choose the folder that you want that Role to apply to. For example, if you’re looking at the inbox for account foo you want to send emails from foo. If you’re looking at account bar then that’s the account you want to send from too.
- Now scroll all the way down to the section titled ACTIONS BEGIN HERE. Set the Set From field to the relevant account, eg ‘Foo Bar <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Then set Use SMTP Server to the following:
- Finally set Compose Use = to ‘With confirmation’. Hit ‘E’ to exit and save changes. Add a new role for each gmail account.