1 Introduction

I quite like email – perhaps mostly not because of design or technical qualities, but because nice tools exist and there's plenty of users, so it can easily be used for communication.

Though even the design is not so bad: SMTP by itself is quite usable, OpenPGP is better than plain text messages (though could be much better, and there's plenty of criticizm), it's all open and federated.

Anyway, here are some email user notes – to use it while fancier things, such as secushare, are not ready.

2 Server

Here's how one can set a mail server:

  1. Install and configure postfix (or other MTA). There's plenty of guides around, it's pretty simple, and actually that's it: the rest builds around it.
  2. To not look like a spammer to other servers:
  3. To filter spam, spamassassin (via spamass-milt, for instance). Or bogofilter, but that one would require training.
  4. LE to obtain X.509 certificates for TLS. ACME clients are mostly poor, but certbot is more or less usable.
  5. Dovecot or something else for IMAP (optionally: as an alternative, one can read letters via ssh on a server, retrieve them into a local maildir with rsync, or something like that).

3 Client

Both notmuch and mu4e use xapian, which provides fast search. It's also very nice to compose and read letters in emacs, so I'm targeting those.

  1. Install and configure mbsync to retrieve letters via IMAP (optionally, see above).
  2. Install and configure mu4e or notmuch. I'm using mu4e, since it seems to support multiple mailboxes better.
  3. Set GPG in order to use OpenPGP.

4 Etiquette

The Email Worst Practices page provides a few links.

5 Public providers

Most of the seemingly semi-decent email providers cost like a VPS, so it's easier to get a VPS at once. As for free ones, there is a few seemingly fine ones, though some of them (e.g., openmailbox) don't seem that nice when you're trying to use them, and others don't even provide SMTP or IMAP. Not counting here those where you are the product. A/I looks almost nice (apart from requiring an email address for activation, which it claims to not associate with your mailbox anyway, having a weird design, messing up the terminology, and perhaps being more about politics than ethics), though I haven't tried it yet.

6 See also