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Introductory remark for non-experts: I strongly recommend to keep or take the traditional system of seperation of mailing into a mailing agent and a mail client. This gives you more flexibility, power and security. And so it's not only a topic for administrators of mail distribution systems, but also for home LINUX users for example, because you need on every system such an agent.

As within the browsers overview, here text/console oriented solutions can be seperated from GUI based ones. --- The text versions will work on UNIX only, so far I know. I will present three of each kind here, and keep in mind, that under X less circumstances only the text based will work, and that every mail client has a special taste: you may like it or not, a very personal posture is often involved, more than in most or all other areas. Another question may be, if that client is available not only for Linux, but also for other systems --- I will indicate that too. And finally, if you need many features or not, is also dependent of your special situations and behaviour.

Text Based Mail Clients

BSD Mail

No, I'm not kidding you: for short, simple mails, to be read occasionally in a shell or on a console, this stoneage, all modern features lacking one is still sufficient, if the sender is complying to that old style easy mail usage. Even sending some short mails with it is feasible, but that is a thing more for hardcore UNIX folks of course... The best thing about it is, that it's available on all UNIX platforms, and that calling and exiting it is an ultra fast action with one or two keystrokes.


Another rather old, but still useful mail client. Some security holes has shown up in the past, and technically the next below (Mutt) is probably superior, but Pine is relatively easy to use and to configure, you have a (pico/nano editor resembling) easy context sensitive key shortcut menu always available and it has several features, which extend it's usefulness: base64 en- and decoding works perfect with all mails, it can display attached pictures and HTML with helpers you have configured for it, saving attachments and appending them and even PGP is supported with another software package (pgp4pine) as add-on. Either way, installing the last is not very easy, a general problem with PGP solutions so far. Pine is a general UNIX solution and usually included on the Linux and Solaris original CD sets.


This is the alternative to Pine. It's more difficult to set up than Pine, but faster and more clean internally, while also offering PGP encryption. It's smaller and has a better security record. Check out both, if you're unsure, and decide afterwards, I propose.

GUI oriented Mail Clients


This a not UNIX exclusive software (clients for Linux, Solaris, Mac OS X and the proprietary old Mac and Redmond gang OSs are available), which costs you about 40 US $ after a 30 days trial period for further use. You have to get used to the multi window environment at first, but get a better IMAP mail server support than with any other mail client in existence today, and also features, which are often included in groupware solutions only, like easy user defined mail redirections and more.


With an improved derivative of the dated Netscape 4.7x messenger Mozilla gives you an easy way, to use IMAP, POP and SMTP based communication with mail servers in a way, which may be similar to one you used already? Even without address book utilization Mozilla messenger remembers already typed in mail addresses and let you choose from a list; an easy and clean attachment management is present --- better than many others, the attachments are not smeared into the mail, when they are text containers only.


Still a beta version, GTK+ based and therefore primarily --- but not necessarily exclusively --- UNIX software, it reminds you surely with its calendar to a certain, buggy and of all products in existence being by far the most insecure email/groupware one. Either way, no weird ActiveX support is included (blame the Konqueror responsibles for supporting this dangerous, proprietary nonsense solely on Linux!), and the mentioned resemblance may help out some people not so familiar to UNIX/Linux platforms.

Final Hints

PGP is an ever more important topic. To prevent hostile groups like human rights violating governments --- a reality even within so-called democratic countries since 11. Sep 2001 even more and worse ---, dangerous companies like a special criminal union in Redmond or others from reading your personal or work related mails, you're strongly encouraged to use mail encryption. When I have it running, I will share my experiences with you, so far I have only begun the not too easy process to set it up. All above mentioned clients offer by the way routine en- and decryption with PGP, if it is set up before appropriately.

If you're in the sad situation, to be forced to use the highly proprietary, not native SMTP speaking Lotus mail solution (like I'm still doing), I can assure you, that it runs fine even with recent Notes clients (5.06 works well) using wine on Linux, if you have at least the wine release from July 2001; newer releases will maybe increase speed (which is already okay on not too slow machines) and probably support for seldom used features too. At least the IBM owned company intends to release with Lotus 6 a native Linux client too, while the Domino server solution is already available for a considerable time for all UNIX platforms, Linux included... But anyway, I will never like this proprietary Lotus internal only email and database communication on port 1352! (firewall administrators, be aware of that port, I know too well, why I underline this regarding firewalls!)


mail transport agents

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