GUI Mailtools for linux

A Summary of What's Out There

The mailers reviewed where exmh, XFmail, Netscape, and Tkrat . UMT and TkMail have not been carefully investigated, so are considered on the "to-do" list until further notice. All of the mailers investigated are pretty good. In terms of usability for the beginner, XFMail soundly licks the competition. It is easy to use and feature-rich. Advanced users may prefer TkRat or exmh, though neither of these are substantially more feature rich than xfmail. Exmh is probably the most customisable of the packages, but the lack of on-board SMTP support is a problem. TkRat is very good. Netscape has the basic features but was not as easy to use as XFMail.

Table: Feature Summary

Mailer: EXMH XFMAIL TKRat TkMail UMT Netscape
Version 2.0zeta4 1.2 1.1 2.0 1.0B4 4.03
Library used Tcl/Tk Xforms Tcl/Tk Tcl/Tk Interview Motif
On board Nested Folders Yes Yes Yes No No No
Mime support Yes Yes Yes Yes ? Yes
(GUI )Filtering Rules No Yes No No Yes Yes
Free? Yes XForms Yes Yes Yes Motif, and restrictions
SMTP support? No Yes Yes ? ? Yes
Pop support ? No Yes No No ? Yes
IMAP support > No Yes No No ? Yes
MH Folder support Yes Yes No No ? ?
Elm folder support No Yes No Yes ? ?
Brief reviews:


XFMail 1.2 is a highly configurable and user friendly email client. It's versatility is among it's virtues: it has native IMAP support , pop support and SMTP support. It can read mail folders from mh or from the mbox format. In other words, it can basically read all of your mail folders regardless of what other mail tools you use. Everything you could imagine is configurable from the GUI. Nice work.

Feature list, stolen from the application home-page:

Very easy to use user interface. 
  Program is fully configurable via the user interface. No need to change configuration files. 

  Ability to retrieve mail both from POP/IMAP and spool file. 
  Smart POP features 
  Supports MH and elm-style local mailboxes 
  Mail could be sent using unix sendmail or directly via SMTP gateway. 
  Internal address book. 
  Support for faces and picons. 
  Full MIME support. 
  Support for IMAP4 remote folders 
  Multiple address books with mailing list support 
  Flexible message filtering rules (incoming and outgoing) 
  Multiple signatures with attachment rules 
  Multi-lingual support 
  PGP support (including PGP/MIME and PGP keyserver support) 
  Nested folders 
  Internal spell-checker 
  Configurable internal editor 
  USENET posting 
  On-line help 
  also there many other little nice features, just grab it and take a look!


TkRat is my favourite mailer. It contains several features, and includes support for SMTP delivery , a must for the home user who lacks a FQDN. It's also one of the few packages that is truly free. Most of the features are easy to configure through the GUI. The only conspicuous omission is the fact that one can't set up mail filtering without using procmail.

Another point on the "down side" is that you need to use an alternative program to retrieve mail from a pop3 server.

The nicest feature of TkRat is the user interface. Tear off menus, and facilities for selecting and moving groups of messages. In terms of user interfaces, this is probably the nicest that I tried, but it lacks some of the features of XFMail.


Exmh is a nice package and has several handy features, but is not optimised for a home computer. In particular, SMTP support is missing. Also, some functions, such as mail filtering aren't feaible unless you want to get under the hood and tinker with mh config files Even the more standard procmail filtering program will cause problems since the folder format that procmail uses (mbox) is different to the format used by exmh. Exmh is a powerful and effective email client for use on a network. The underlying MH structure is great for customization-happy types. Exmh is great for MH users who want a gui from time to time, and also it's a decent mail client for a unix network. But the lack of support for basics such as SMTP delivery make it unsuited to the home user.


While Netscape can be used as a mail reader, it is probably more suited to use as an add on tool for it's newsreader. The interface is notably harder to use than that on something like XFMail. While there is an advantage in having the mail reader integrated with the browser, there's a trade-off, the result of which you are simoultaneously faced with browser controls and controls for the mailer , and it's not that clear which is which. In conclusion, Netscape provides a good migration path to windows users who are already very familiar with the program, but otherwise, XFMail wins a decisive victory in usability, and configurability.


Haven't been able to check this out carefully. I couldn't get it to compile and there is currently no RedHat 5 RPM for it. All claims are guesses based on screenshots and the website


Similarly, I couldn't get this to compile. Claims based on browsing their mail list, plus looking at screenshots and application's feature list.