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Rant - Emacs mail is not user friendly

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Rant - Emacs mail is not user friendly
Date: Sat, 15 Nov 2014 20:46:18 +0900

Kelly Dean writes:

 > Even the worst webmail service I've ever used was more
 > user-friendly than this,

Except that webmail doesn't provide access to configure the message
submission process the way feedmail does.  And even hackers mostly
don't use feedmail.

I understand your frustration, but I don't think the source is Emacs.
It's that Internet mail is insanely complicated (and powerful to
match).  You are trying to manually implement some of the complexity
that is normally hidden inside the MUA and MTA.  In particular, mail
queuing is about as complex as things get.  MUAs normally delegate
queuing to the MTA (that's how I handle disconnected operation on my
laptop, for example, and that's the *only* reason I run Postfix on my
laptop), and in that sense feedmail.el is a hack.

 > Yesterday I decided to try using Emacs for email. For sending
 > messages to my mail server, I'll use a separate program,

I'm sure you have good reason for doing that, but that is a very
unusual use case.  All Emacs MUAs are highly configurable so that they
can submit directly to servers (except maybe MH-E, which delegates
that function to MH IIRC), and much effort goes into getting that
right.  The idea of depending a on program that processes a shared
queue directory doesn't get the same attention (to say the least).

 > so I need Emacs just for composing messages, inserting headers
 > including autogenerated Date and Message-ID headers, encoding file
 > attachments, and moving completed messages from my drafts folder to
 > my outbound queue.

And you chose Emacs[sic] over which other MUAs capable of being
configured to do this?

By [sic] I mean that Emacs, in fact, is not an MUA.  Rather, it
supports at least 5 major ones written in Lisp, plus MH-E which is an
Emacs front-end to the MH family of text-based MUAs.  To understand
the operation of feedmail (or at least the description in the comments
in the library) and the baroque suite of interface/configuration
variables, it helps to be aware of that background.

One issue you seem to have misunderstood is that feedmail.el's queuing
feature does *not* seem to be designed for your use case, where the
queue will be processed by an external program.  Rather, I read the
notes to assume that feedmail.el intercepts the message by inserting
itself into the send-mail-function hook, then later *reads the queued
message into a buffer*, where it invokes the normal function on the
message in the queue at user request.  That is, the queue is intended
to be private to feedmail.  That mode of operation could contribute to
explaining several of the anomolies you observe (eg, the presence of
the header/body separator in the queued message).

Bottom line: I think the task you were trying to accomplish is far
more complex that you are admitting, and has little to do with "user
friendliness" of Emacs MUAs.


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