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Mahogany is a cross-platform (at least Windows and Linux) mail client based on wxWindows (and written in wxPython or C++??). It seems aimed a little bit more towards being an IMAP client (rather than a POP3 client). (I say that, because there are quite a few things that seem alien to me as a long time user of Netscape Navigator 3.0x as a POP3 client.)

Mahogany appealed to me for several reasons:

  • Cross platform -- it might let me provide a client for my wife on Windows and me on Linux, sharing a common set of mail folders. (There are some problems with this approach, including occasional duplicate and lost messages if we both update from the ISP around the same time or without synchronizing somehow (clicking on the inbox before getting the mail seems to help). Update: Last night for the first time my wife saw messages actually disappear which is a thing I was sure could and had happened, but she had never believed because she had not seen it "first hand".
  • It uses (any of several) standard mailbox formats, so that, for example, something like Pine or Elm or some other standard email client could use the same mail folders. (I guess Netscape does to, but they include an index file -- if you mess with the mail files with something other than Netscape, the index gets messed up and has to be rebuilt for Netscape to use (which happens automatically when you open a mailbox with netscape, or "empty the trash folder". And, it seems the index files are different between Netscape 3 and 4, and I'll bet also between Mozilla or Netscape 6 and Netscape 3 or 4.))
  • It can be a POP3 or IMAP client, or an MUA (Mail User Agent), by which I mean it can work directly in an environment with an MTA handling the mail transport, instead of getting the mail via POP3 (or IMAP) and sending the mail directly via SMTP (or IMAP).
  • It might be a wedge to get me started on the path to learning Python, after which I might help with Mahogany development. (Hmm, that was on the assumption that Mahogany is written in Python, an assumption which I am beginning to doubt -- maybe Mahogany is just written in C++ (or C?) and the wxWindows library.)
  • It has built-in filtering capabilities, which should let me automate the handling of some of my mail list mail.

I've spent a few hours over the last few days fooling around with Mahogany version 0.64.2 "Sparc" on Windows 95. I learned some things, which I want to record here, and think I found some shortcomings. (I'm not very familiar with how Mahogany should work in every case, and I am trying to set it up to use mail folders on another machine -- the shortcomings I think I've found could be real shortcomings or could be a result of my shortcomings, including possibly applying Mahogany in a situation it was not intended for. Also, perhaps some of these apparent shortcomings exist only in Windows, and not in Linux.)

Aside: This page is not nearly finished, but I'm being called to dinner. UPDATE: I'm back, but I should have made it clear before that this is unlikely to be a finished or complete "report" anytime soon -- I'm only nibbling at trying to use Mahogany at this point, and really should drop it and get back to my goal of installing a mail server. UPDATE: OK, this is sort of a rough draft. I'm going back to play with Mahogany some more with some of the "questions" discussed here in the back of my mind. Hopefully, as I resolve them, I'll come back here and update the page. I'll also mention it on the Mahogany users and developers list and invite them to review the page and correct and add to it as they see fit -- I'll have to think about how to phrase that, especially for anyone who is not familiar with the wiki way.

See AboutThesePages.


--++ Learnings

Configuration Stored in Windows Registry

Many configuration settings for Mahogany are stored in the Windows registry. (I would prefer to have them be in a configuration file for my convenience.)

The main keys (which I found by searching the registry for Mahogany) are stored at HKey_Current_User -> Software -> Mahogany Team. Then, under -> M -> Profiles you will find quite a few keys including these three which establish the directories which Mahogany uses:

  • FolderDir -- the mail folders are stored here -- if you want to keep mail folders in a common directory for several users or something similarly dumb, point to the directory with FolderDir.
  • GlobalDir -- stores the /help and /doc directories (with the help and documentation files).
  • UserDirectory -- stores user specific files, like user address books (default is autocollect.adb), and /cache and /composer directories.

Some Things I Found Different

(Trying to avoid saying "everything" wink )

  • Has three panes (like Netscape), but:
    • the "folder tree pane" is a full height pane on the left, instead of a pane in the upper left corner -- I think I will learn to tolerate this well enough -- I go through cycles in deciding which I prefer. With filters, I expect to spend less time going through the inbox picking emails and deciding which folder to move them to for semipermanent retention, thus, although I really would like this arrangement in NN 3.0x, it does not seem to be as necessary (for me) in Mahogany. But, all is not lost, because you can open an individual mail folder in a window that does not include the folder tree pane, so you can view messages (and the folder) in full width. (Or at least, I'm able to open that separate window sometimes. And I noticed a post on one of the mailing lists where Vadim Zeitlein (sp?) or Vaclav _ said they were working on the alternate pane arranagement.

  • Mail accounts show up as folders, so if you have multiple mail accounts, you will have a folder for each. (So you may have folders named like <MyISP_POP>, <MyISP_NNTP>, <MyISP_IMAP> -- if you choose names like that. wink ) (IIUC, to check the mail in an account, open the folder. There is also a button to check for mail in all open folders (accounts).)

  • You can set different preferences for each folder. In fact there is a hierarchy of preferences. On the Edit -> Preferencs pop up you can set global preferences that apply to all folder unless they are overridden at a lower level. You can right click on any folder to change the preferences specifically for any folder. If a folder has subfolders, you can set preferences for all the subfolders by setting the preferences for the parent, but they can be overridden by setting preferences for each individual subfolder.

    For that reason, after a few false starts, I've reinstalled Mahogany and am now trying to methodically set my preferences "from the top down" (i.e., setting the global preferences first, and only overriding them later if necessary).

  • Using Edit -> Modules you can choose to load up to six modules, including Calendar, Filtering Capabilities (this was checked by default), three viewers (HTML, Default, and Text only) and the default editor. Only problem is, except for the Calendar, I saw no differences in behavior after selecting these modules (and after restarting Mahogany, as the message says you must) -- maybe these modules are installed by default even though they are not checked?

Aside: I skimmed through the documentation that I could find (mainly a "manual") a few times, but as is often the case, my eyes glaze over and I leave with the impression that the documentation was not very good. After I finish jotting down my perceived problems, I'll go back and review the documentation again. If it can answer some of my questions, I'll have to admit that it's better than I thought it was.

Some Nice things, Not Already Mentioned

  • Navigation
    • After having selected an email to read in the folder pane, the PageUp and PageDown keys work instantly and only in the message pane, and the selected email remains highlighted as you scroll up and down to read it. Thus, if you want to delete it after reading to the end, just press the delete key -- you don't have to reselect the email in the folder pane. At the same time, the Up and Down arrow keys remain active in the folder pane -- if you want to switch messages after having scrolled all or partway through a message, just use the Up or Down arrow keys. (Maybe most email clients work this way nowadays, but NN 3.0x did not, which was a PITA.)

  • Choice of Viewers: By default, there is a drop down box (?) on the horizontal bar between the folder and message panes that let's you choose (for viewing):
    • HTML Message Viewer
    • Default Message Viewer
    • Text Only Message Viewer

Having that choice is nice, even if you choose to delete that drop down box and tentatively stick with one view. (You can always get the drop down box back by a change on the last page (miscellaneous) of the preferences.)

Some Perceived Shortcomings

  • The default editor is not very capable (or I don't know how to use it, or both). For example, I don't know how to cause a paragraph to reformat.

  • The default editor sometimes seems very clunky and slow -- not always, so there must be something else going on. The insertion point is a fairly broad "|". At times, as I type, I see two of them, sort of like before and after where I'm typing. Haven't seen an editor behave like that in a long time.

  • A nice feature (or so I thought) was the ability to declare an external editor (on the Helpers tab of Edit -> Preferences) -- it can either be invoked on demand or set to always be invoked. There are some problems:
    • There may be no other way to do this, but when you invoke the external editor, it opens in a new window instead of "seamlessly" invoking itself in Mahogany's composition window.
    • The invocation only occurs when you move the cursor down into the body of the email and start typing, so there is an interruption to your thought process at that point.
    • <forgetting one (at least)>

    • The last problem (that I'll mention for now) is probably not (fully) under Mahogany's control. I learned more about email today. I prefer what I call soft wrapping -- wrapping to the width of a window or something similar that is not made permanent by the insertion of <end of line markers> (like <cr><lf> in dos/windows, <lf> in *nix). Netscape 3.0x handles things nicely, I think (I may have to do some double checking). <I was on the way to writing a long dissertation here, and I might still have to do that, but my tentative bottom line is that the default composition window / editor in Mahogany needs a setting for "soft word wrap". The problems that can help solve (and that I won't explain very well) include that if you work in an external editor with soft wrap, in order to have the wrap look right (nice) you have to save it with hard wrapping. If you do that, and then take it back into the original editor with the hard wrapped lines, many editors cannot reformat the lines as you re-edit. (I should experiment some more, I'm not sure which don't and which, if any do. BTW, I tried notepad, wordpad, and textpad as external editors. Hmm, I should try qedit. (Used to be my favorite, still should be wink

Update: Now I think I can recognize two possible desirable behaviors for an editor or an external editor in combination with a built-in composition window. I'll summarize them as follows (I may have to elaborate more later):
  • The external editor always(?) uses soft line wrapping, even when "saving" the file (either as a draft or "to the composition window"). The composition window uses soft line wrapping to display anything on it (either typed directly in or "obtained" from an external editor. Finally, only when an email is actually sent, hard line wrapping characters are inserted.
  • The external editor can use soft or hard wrapping. (To reduce my confusion, the remainder of this description focuses primarily on hard wrapping.) If hard wrapping is "set", whenever it "reads" a file (either a saved draft or from the composition window) it converts hard wrapping to soft wrapping for internal use by interpreting two lines with no intervening blank line as the continuation of a paragraph, and hard wrapping characters are deleted. (This gets a little tricky, because, depending on the context, 0, 1, or 2 spaces should be inserted in place of the hard wrapping characters, and the algorithm for determining which could get messy (just in general, if the line ends without a space and the next line starts without a space, a space should be inserted, except if the line ends in an end of sentence punctuation mark (like ".", "!", or "?", except if the period marks an abbreviation, and some other exceptions which I'm sure exist. If there is a blank line, one set of EOL characters should be deleted (but the on screen soft wrapped display, AFAICT, should show a blank line anyway to indicate the separation of two paragraphs. More fun when we consider bulleted lists and so forth. When it saves a file, it might save it hard wrapped or soft wrapped depending on the capabilities of the other parts of the system (like the composition window -- if it can display "soft wrapped" it probably makes sense to always save a document in soft wrapped form to avoid the need to convert it again (for re-edting) from hard to soft wrapping. (Of course there can be variations, maybe the convert hard to soft wrap function is only for import.)

Having written the above, my preference is currently for the first option, as it seems much simpler. (Just based on how much I wrote so far to describe both alternatives.)

  • For now I've found and chosen an option not to remove mail from my (ISP's) pop server. I wonder if there's an option to set that on a per folder basis? (Is that what the option to Open, Read Only does? Does that work for a pop3 account?)

  • Error message: "Add new email entry to database?" -- for a while I was puzzled because occasionally as I attempted to read the next message I was interrupted by this. My current guess (to be confirmed) is that this indicates that a new email address has been found by the automatic address book thingie, and it's asking if the address should be entered.

  • Error message: "Failed to find trash folder" (loosely paraphrased). This message occurred as I closed Mahogany in some of my installs. I think that you have to do something like open the trash folder or set some of it's preferences to actually have it be created. Once you do that, I think the message goes away.

  • As I close Mahogany, I typically get a question like "Do you want to purge all deleted messages from the trash folder?" twice, whatever combination of answers I try. (I.e., yes, no; yes, yes; etc.)

* When I do various things in Mahogany, like send a message, request that my pop3 account be checked (by opening the pop3) folder, the Mahogany application sort of locks up. By this, I mean that, if I switch to another window / application, then attempt to switch back to Mahogany (by clicking on the buttons on the task bar), when I go back to Mahogany, its window does not come up. (I'll have to try the three finger salute, then see if the application says it is not responding (to satisfy my curiosity). Usually, if I wait long enough, Mahogany recovers.

  • IIRC, last night I left Mahogany on the screen, this morning the machine had crashed. (It didn't look like the normal BSOD, it looked like it might have been one and the characters from the message got converted to something else and scrambled -- maybe that's normal if a BSOD stays on the screen for a long time?)


The following are partially reminders to myself -- now that I have a little bit of a handle on Mahogany, these are some of the things I want to remember:

  • After installing, run through the Program Options (get there by Edit -> Preferences) and make sure everything is set to your liking. (I think the window should be titled "Preferences" since you get there by Edit -> Preferences.) On the Identity tab, consider setting your User Level as "Advanced", as some options are only available to an advanced user. As mentioned (implied?) above, set these General Preferences before you set preferences for individual folders (and maybe before you create individual folders?).

  • Using Mahogany (or any mail client with filtering) will entail a change (for the better, I hope) in my email reading habits. Where before I spent a lot of time going through my in basket and sorting stuff to other baskets (and sometimes taking action -- replying, whatever), now the sorting will be automatic. Some mail folders I will just let mail accumulate in until I am ready to do something with it. I probably will have to find a tool or develop a habit to quickly find emails that are of particular interest to me or need a response among all these folders. Possibly I'd want two folders for each list I subscribe to -- one to be the in basket for that list, one to preserve emails I want to keep, or even have several keeper lists for each (or shared among several) based more on subject matter. Something I'll have to experiment with and see how it develops.

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  • () RandyKramer - 07 Aug 2002
  • I got a few responses to my questions on the Mahogany users list -- I should acknowledge those people here (I have the posts saved somewhere).
  • <If you edit this page: add your name here; move this to the next line; and include your comment marker (initials), if you have created one, in parenthesis before your WikiName.>

[[Main.RandyKramer#07 Aug 2002][]]

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