Tag Archives: courier-cone

Retro mail client Cone has some modern features

Cone harks back to the era when users read e-mail in a non-graphical application, without using menus, mouse, or buttons. Longtime Pine users will feel right at home with Cone; many keyboard commands are the same. However, Cone is not a Pine clone; developer Sam Varshavchik combined the general look and feel of Pine with modern advanced features.

Among the useful features Cone provides are keyboard shortcuts, Unicode support, and mail-handling macros, such as filters to move all messages with a specified subject into a separate folder.

Cone also lets you define external hooks for MIME attachments. That means you can highlight an “APPLICATION/MSWORD” attachment, press Enter, and see the attachment opened in OpenOffice.org (presuming that Cone runs in a gnome-terminal or kterm window).

Several other features provide modern security measures:

• Users can access external mail accounts through a Socks 5 proxy, and they can use an SSL certificate to log into IMAP or POP3 mail accounts instead of a traditional user ID and password.

• For SSL support Cone can be compiled against either OpenSSL or GnuTLS.

• You can encrypt multiple passwords for multiple mail accounts using a single master password, which gets supplied once per mail session to provide a Cone-specific “single sign-on” feature.

Given the robust feature set in version 0.83, which he released this month, Varshavchik says, “I consider to Cone to be feature-complete. I can’t think of anything major that’s missing, so Cone is in maintenance mode. Ongoing work is generally keeping the code from getting stale, making sure that Cone continues to be compilable by new versions of GCC, and squashing an occasional bug.

“I have a mailing list, but it gets very little traffic. I like to think that’s because most folks just install Cone, run it, and figure out intuitively how to use.”

Varshavchik admits that today, most folks use graphical desktop environments and graphical mail clients. “Graybeards who stubbornly resist evolutionary progress are probably using the Pine and Mutt mail clients. But I did not write Cone seeking fame and fortune. It was the proverbial itch I wanted to scratch, so I scratched it.”