I'm looking for the following features:

  • Has a track record of several years
  • GUI access to email messages/threads/groups
  • GUI access to calender and meetings.
  • Stores email messages as separate files in straightforward (Standard?) non-proprietary format
  • Stores calender requests as separate files
  • Stores email threads/groups/... in directories
  • Can search existing email for strings in various fields
  • Can merge email files (as above) from another instance.

In particular, I'd like to be able to access the mail messages with arbitrary ad hoc code (e.g, Perl scripts).

  • I think Thunderbird + Lightning will hit just about every point there, except storing messages as separate files (which would be very inefficient). Feb 4 '14 at 22:20
  • Hm, what defines “good”? I'm tempted to edit the question title, as your later post says GUI, and IMHO text clients are better… How about s/good/decent graphical/ ?
    – mirabilos
    Feb 4 '14 at 22:23
  • @IraBaxter, storing individual messages on disk is indeed trivial for a file system. But it'll be an utter bitch when you want to search your entire inbox for text... is there a reason you desire that requirement?
    – Moo-Juice
    Feb 4 '14 at 22:25
  • @Moo-Juice: the mail client should be perfectly happy to build its own index to make it fast. That's a cache, so I don't care about it. I want to build a variety of programs to access my mail message. I don't the mailer to make it hard to get at my mail messages by hiding them in a database (e.g., Exchange). I don't want it to concatenate 10K mail messages into a single file (as I beleive Emacs does).
    – Ira Baxter
    Feb 4 '14 at 22:34
  • 1
    @IraBaxter, so perhaps you need an email client that has an open API that you can code against, rather than explicitly require the messages me stored in some proprietary format on disk which, believe me, will put you in a dark room, real fast. There's a good reason why Email clients - be it Thunderbird, Outlook, or otherwise, store their messages in a database. Consider the Api viewpoint rather than the obvious XY problem you're going through.
    – Moo-Juice
    Feb 4 '14 at 22:37

Personally I like Mozilla Thunderbird.

  • It has a good track record of long term development (and is Open source)
  • You have a GUI so email messages/thread display is possible.
  • It doesn't have built in calendaring support but has a fairly mature extension - lightning
  • It stores email messages in the mbox format - which is well documented and easily accessibly via Perl/Python/whatever script you want. Not separately but as a mailbox. i.e. this is the biggest hurdle for matching your search - and I can't think of any that match that and are cross platform
  • Merging is possible though it's been a long time so the details may have changed since I last did any merging.
  • Search is great (even if you have 20k IMAP messages it still responds pretty quick.
  • It runs on pretty much any OS (I don't know if they have an Android/iOS app yet.)
  • Does Thunderbird have message threads?
    – dotVezz
    Feb 4 '14 at 22:25
  • yes - menubar->view->threads->[various options] Feb 4 '14 at 22:27
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    Thunderbird stores email in an SQL database. I wouldn't call its search great, with a few thousand emails I find it slow. And Lightning is not very reliable, it often reminds me of appointments a few minutes or up to a few hours after it's supposed to. Feb 4 '14 at 22:30
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    yes, I know that it violates that; however since it matches the other requirements I suggested it anyways. Feb 4 '14 at 22:40
  • 2
    You could run an IMAP server such as uw-imapd on localhost, tell it to use e.g. the mx or mh format (or maildir for those who patched it), and then register that as account in Icedove.
    – mirabilos
    Feb 4 '14 at 22:47

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