Offline browsing of email boxes

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Can anyone recommend a good tool for offline browsing of mbox or Maildir files? Or perhaps a filter for converting such data to HTML?

My problem is that I have enormous amounts of correspondence in old mbox or maildir data from particular periods of time, using particular mail clients, etc. In many cases, the client and even the mail accounts for this correspondence is defunct. I don't even want to keep it on my "live" machine anymore, I'd rather just write it out to a CD.

In principle, of course, I can backup the mail directories to a CD.

But how can I read them? Most mail clients are designed to work as MUAs, so you need to set up accounts and reference external servers, etc. Alternatively, I can just open an mbox file in gvim -- but this is a terrible interface and hard to read, let alone search.

I'd like to find a "client" which is just a "browser" of mbox/maildir files. Then I could just set it up as a "helper app" in Mozilla, or else use it independently.

I can imagine writing such a tool, but I'd rather not reinvent the wheel. Surely somebody has done this before?

Ryan Cartwright's picture

mutt (curses based) will let you open a local file/directory using -f as will other shell type clients (mail/nail etc.) - although not al support maildir, mutt certainly does.

I use it on small servers where (although I admin them) I don't have a local mail account.


Andrew Min's picture

Mutt's great for that.

Andrew Min

Terry Hancock's picture

Okay, Mutt's a possibility. I'll definitely consider it.

But frankly, opening the messages up in a text terminal sort of blows the convenience and readability I wanted. I love the CLI for what it's good for, but there's a lot to be said about the human-factors design in a GUI or for effective formatting of text.

When you spawn a terminal-based program from a browser, the effect is kind of jarring and lacks readability.

Is there any GTK or other graphical tool that could do it?

I've been searching the "apt-cache" archive for Debian packages, but nothing stands out.

If this really doesn't exist, I'm going to have to consider making one -- Python has fine mail format reading libraries and a GTK binding, so it wouldn't be outrageously hard to create. I just find it hard to believe it hasn't been done already.