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published: Friday 14 September 2018
modified: Monday 16 September 2019
author: Hales
markup: textile

Seamonkey's gradual showdown

Finding and testing alternative web browsers and email clients to Seamonkey. An in-depth critique of Firefox, Thunderbird and many more.

Quick links:

Seamonkey is the community continuation of ‘Netscape’, notably being a merge of Firefox and Thunderbird into one application. More importantly: it’s Firefox without the crappy bits and a lot of customisability instead.

I’ve fallen in love with Seamonkey and used it for many years, but external forces have been pushing me away. This post reviews several alternative web browsers and email clients I came across whilst soul-searching the waters.

There are occasional bits of anger and bile here, so bring a pointy object.

The Monkey

A themable UI:

I’m using the LittleMonkey theme and a lot of other customisations to make it fit well on my low-resolution screen. This theme looks a little goofy and isn’t for everyone, but in the long term it has been the most comfortable and easy to use interface I’ve ever had in a browser. A little more on this right at the end of this post.

An actually useful preferences dialog:

Status bar network menu: enabling a proxy or “going offline” are only a click away:

I can’t overstate how useful “offline mode” is. It lets you browse any webpages still in your browser cache when you don’t have an internet connection. Many programs today seem to ignore the fact that much of the world doesn’t have reliable internet, or that people like to read stuff while on the bus.

No I don’t want to pay for data, that’s a monetary solution to a software problem. Software problem.

If I accidentally close a tab whilst offline or want to go back to a previous page then this feature lets me do so without any issues. Whilst preparing screenshots for this post I managed to get Seamonkey to open pages from when I last used it three months ago. Everything was there, no internet connection required.

Application integrations:

Thunderbird already contains gecko (Firefox’s HTML engine), so merging the two programs isn’t as far fetched as it might initially sound.

I like the integration, but I can’t argue that it really brings any advantages over Thunderbird + a tray icon addon. Perhaps memory usage is lower due to the merge (versus running your browser and email client seperately). From a practical perspective it means one less program to start/kill when I am on limited internet.

The composer app is basically the “compose email” portion of thunderbird with a slightly different interface:

This might not seem like much but in the past few years I have grown to love it. Dead simple editors like this are a great alternative to Libreoffice Writer and LyX (LaTeX) when you are having problems with those programs/toolchains and need to write an assignment. Heading numbering is a few lines of CSS away and then you can just write, not worrying about page boundaries, fancy document shenaneggins or whether or not your TeX install has broken again. Composer even has sane table of contents generation built in, no javascript need apply.

Whilst I’m here I might diverge into a little bit about basic HTML editor programs: they taught me HTML and I wish they were pushed more onto students today. I was proud with what I used to make with programs like Frontpage or FBI. To steal a post by sequoia on a hNews discussion of Frontpage:

When the web technologies were more simple and rudimentary and HTML page hosting free and easy for beginners (e.g. geocities), it took very little to start writing HTML, adding some tiling background images, gifs and midis to express yourself. The variation in website look and feel back then was extreme.

Myspace then Facebook (plus forums) obviated the need to build your own site to express yourself online, and disdain for “poorly designed” sites, i.e. general snobbishness, I think discouraged people from messing around. I love that old web! You can still do something similar on Google Sites or similar, but of course it’s more constrained.

I grew up through HTML4 and was at some point taught that tables should not be used for formatting and you should use CSS for everything. I made the mistake of believing all of this at face value. Today it seems that everyone has to use a framework and that frames are bad and that desktops are dying, touchscreens are the future. Websites use things much more awful than table formatting (in fact I wish many sites went back). I now know better than to trust fashions and commonly repeated design mottos. Simple HTML editors are still useful today and will always be, as far as I can tell.

Seamonkey’s gradual decline

Whilst SM is an official Mozilla project it isn’t maintained by paid mozilla staff. It’s manned by community volunteers. Every new release over the past few years has highlighted how little resources many fans like me rely on:

GTK2 to GTK3 transition

A few versions back SM’s interface changed from GTK2 to GTK3. This removed the usable old GTK2 file chooser and replaced it with the GTK3 abomination that you can’t navigate using the keyboard . I’ve been internally screaming ever since. It has been easier to save things to my home folder and then use an external file-manager to move things where they are supposed to belong than it has been to struggle with this golem of evil.

Along with this update came a sudden slowdown in UI responsiveness. Menus now take a large fraction of a second or two to open.

Death of addons

Traditionally seamonkey supported most firefox addons. There’s also a converter tool for the few differences that occasionally cropped up. Life was good. Similar engine, same fuel.

Then Firefox Quantum and web extensions came along. Now you can only use the old and unmaintained versions of many addons. That’s if you can find them — there’s a seamonkey extension to make them easier to find on the addons site.

In practice this has meant I’ve been filling with fear, uncertainty and doubt about the future of my addons as the months have gone past. Then Stylish happened.

For those not in the loop: Stylish was a browser addon that mozilla blacklisted after discovering it was spyware . I used this addon extensively for years with my own custom webpage tweaks for many sites (death to fixed width text columns!). Suddenly shocked, I needed a replacement.

Except all of the replacements I could find were webextension only :(

Bugs and broken features.

Firefox sync support in Seamonkey broke years ago. Upstream firefox changed the server code, Seamonkey didn’t keep up.

The afore-mentioned stylish addon stopped working during one update. It turns out it was depending on a feature that was disabled for security purposes (somewhat ironic, but probably unrelated to the above fiasco). I had to revert this change in about:config.

Uncertain future, or active development?

With the massive codebase change in the upstream project (Firefox Quantum), the scattering of and slow death of SM project webpages and the general decline of appearances: what is the future of Seamonkey?

Now SM addons are being moved to thunderbird’s site (this might be interesting) and as of a few days ago the Seamonkey project no longer has access to Mozilla’s infrastructure for performing builds.

As it turns out: there is development going on and even a port to Firefox ESR 60 (Quantum) possibly in the works. The key to finding all of this is discovering the Seamonkey Status Meetings minutes . The meetings are held every two weeks and I’m going to try and sneak into the next one on IRC.

Hey, perhaps I’ll have more news in a future blog post. Hopefully.

Should I move on?

‘Should’ or ‘want’?

Apart from losing addons: my main concerns are site compatibility and security. I have already been coming across sites that refuse to work with Seamonkey (although user agent changes often help). These are things that are hard to measure and tend to slowly decay, so it’s difficult to draw a line on.

I have forced myself to try alternatives instead for the past few months, so that I’m ready for change if the project falls further behind. I still have hope that Seamonkey (or some equivalant “firefox without junk”) will rise again. Let’s see how things go.

Alternative Browsers

Chrome and chromium

Just no. Too much google. Google causes me many nightmares in several dimensions already, I don’t want more of them.

For those not up to speed: the Chrome and Chromium projects include all sorts of code and design intended to assist Google collecting user information. Lesser in the latter, but still present. It’s the Windows 10 of browsers.

Pale Moon

PM is a fork from Firefox that’s trying to maintain a lot of pre-Quantum stuff, including extension support, whilst continuing to improve performance and standards support. I have not tried PM extensively yet but I can make a short meta-commentary based on the little I know.

First up: Puppy Linux uses PM as a default. That’s already a big bag of praise. For those not in the know: Puppy is an extremely lightweight graphical distribution that tries to cram a ridiculous amount of GUI programs into a small (<200MB?) image. It has some oddities, but it provides a complete desktop environment that average people can get a hang of. Any software included is generally very lightweight and customisable.

There’s some drama around PM dropping some accessibility support. Many people are decrying this. I had a look into it and it seems that support for some hardware accesibility devices has been dropped but other accessibility features still remain. YMMV.

There have been community dramas about support for the NoScript addon. The devs had some problems with noscript causing strange breakages, and this caused them headaches supporting users :


Switching NoScript to “allow all”, disabling NoScript in the add-on manager, or any other attempt at fixing these issues without performing a full uninstall of the extension are, on top, usually met with failure.

In most cases, the only way to get back to a sane working condition is:

We’re sorry that you will be considered to be “on your own” when you use NoScript, but it’s been a cause for way too much lost troubleshooting time and wasted energy from developers and community members alike, and we simply can’t keep doing this.

Their response was to blacklist the extension in the browser so that a warning message would be displayed for those that use it. Unfortunately the wording of this message was… not quite suitable.

Noscript […] known to cause security or stability issues […]

Users: What the hell? What security issues?
Devs: There’s an ‘OR’ in that sentence. It’s a level 1 block on our blacklist. You can just click past it.
Users: ?$?$#%! it keeps coming up!

Cue lots of dramas.

Bad form on the devs part in how they handled this, they completely misunderstood what it’s like to be a user coming across this message blind. Especially when the devs on the forums started to use bold text and colours in the heated arguments.

I can understand the dev’s position: I’ve been there before. Warnings and words have different significance to you depending on which side of the knowledge divide you are on. For example:

General Motors Hudsons are known to make noises or explode.

Owners: What the hell? What’s the explosion problem? Is this safe?
Auto maker: There’s an ‘OR’ in that sentence. It’s the lowest category we have. You can just ignore it.
Owners: ?$?$#%!

Uh huh. Sells car quickly

Unintentionally or not, it seems the devs threw fire on their community after getting burned themselves. Stuff like this scares outsiders like me.


The big brother of Seamonkey, but now also a steaming trainwreck of intentionalism:

This starting screen is chaos. I now understand why I have to help people all the time with seemingly simple things like noticing brightly coloured status messages rolling down from the top of the screen. There’s so much visual noise from the get-go that I suspect users are taught by Firefox to ignore anything flashy. Like fluffy dice hanging from your rear-view mirror, you get used to blanking out anything that moves so you can concentrate on the road.

Let me explain what I mean by ‘intentionalism’ here:

The Mozilla devs need a deep, intravenous shot of consequentialism. Let’s run through what they have made here:

A: “We need an import function”
B: “Let’s add it to the first screen!”
A: “We need a new user wizard”
B: “Let’s add it to the first screen!”

The tunnel digs deeper.

A: “We need to tell users we’re collecting data”
B: “Let’s add it to the first, wait, err, second screen!”
A: “Blank tabs are boring, let’s use them for something.”
B: “Touch size icons! Drag and drop! Company links or adverts!”
A: “Touchscreen users and higher-dpi users have trouble with the UI elements, let’s make them bigger!”
B: “Fixing problems!”

This interface feels and smells like the product of a thousand small pin pricks. Unless you’re a power-user familiar with web-browsers then you will have no hope of knowing which of the UI elements in the above images are clickable or just static, let alone which you should click right now because they’re not coming back.

OK, let’s calm down, ignore this and type something into the URL bar.

Oh dear lord what is this mess? Look at it again.

As a developer I can work out how the UI elements nest and structure, but many ordinary people will just see artwork. Lots and lots of rectangles. And pictures. And text. What are they all for? Where was I typing again?

If your own application is competing against itself for attention then you have a failed interface.

I now forgive my parents for their inability to see obvious messages in Firefox’s interface, or even to find things like menus in it. The interface is now like a website that has sold out and decided to put ads on all four sides of the screen (plus floaters ontop of the page). I’m here for the content, where has that gone again? No I don’t want to be sold other busses, I’m already on the bus!

Anyway, I’m not going to be using this software as-is. If this is going to be my daily driver then I’m going to customise it until the seats are comfy and the teeth fall out. Let’s start by highlighting everything that I want to get rid of:

Actually, why is there even whitespace either side of the address bar? Was this an attempt to put a big, plain border around a single element to made it stand out more amongst the mess? Sweep the mess under the rug!

I should link to the ‘visual’ page of the interface hall of shame at this point. It’s a beautiful website full of lessons from last century that we are all still ignoring.


Since Quantum: Firefox’s customisability has gone down the shitter. Themes don’t exist anymore, instead you get some basic skins (colour + images) that don’t change any dimensions or shapes. The in-built ‘compact’ interface option is only marginally more compact than the default touchscreen interface and still stands like one on the most common screen size used in common cheap laptops like mine (1366x768).

A new red flag: you can’t move the tab bar below the address bar any more. A single binary option, gone. You are left guessing at what user-detached motivations are behind such things. As it turns out (later, below) you only need a few lines of code to fix this.

Another binary option lost: hiding the tab bar when you only have one tab open. A really good saver of vertical screen space when reading long articles.

All of this makes me think the Mozilla devs have gone full GNOME 3 about corporate image. Customisability is bad, we want recognisable visual branding. Just ignore the fact our interface looks like Chrome, don’t even think that you traitor.

This application used to have first-class theme support. It really pains me to see this removed.


Q: What options do we have left to customise Firefox’s interface?
A: Edit the source code.

Firefox’s UI is actually HTML with CSS styling and some more complications (“XUL”). As far as I can tell this is how it’s always been, which brings up the question of why theme support has been dropped at all — everything is still there for it.

Unfortunately the UI is no simple HTML document. It’s a mess of many years of complexity, XUL variables and crazy inheritance. Looking at it with FF’s inbuilt debugger:

Cue the CSI music!

Finding out how to even get this far and view the existing source isn’t particularly easy. The magic keywords are ‘browser toolbox’, and getting there requires settings changes and a hidden four-button key shortcut. Ooh yeah.

To make any changes permanent you make a chrome/userChrome.css file in your profile directory and place your work there. It does not look like there’s a way to reload this file other than restarting the browser, so it takes quite a few restart cycles to get everything right.

Other people have made and published repos of CSS snippets for common mods, like moving the tab bar below the address bar:

Not every published tweak works (old code?) and many things clash, so it still typically takes lots of your own efforts and investigations to get things working the way you want.

After the past couple of months of using Firefox and modifying my userChrome.css I now have a browser that looks like this:

It uses very few vertical pixels, allowing my small quota of vertical screen real-estate to be used for content rather than UI. But it’s also far from perfect:

Here’s my userChrome.css if you want it, including bits stolen from other authors:

@namespace url("http://www.mozilla.org/keymaster/gatekeeper/there.is.only.xul");

/* Re-order the toolbars */
#nav-bar { -moz-box-ordinal-group: 1 !important; }
#PersonalToolbar { -moz-box-ordinal-group: 2 !important; }
#TabsToolbar { -moz-box-ordinal-group: 3 !important; }

 * Make the toolbar extra-compact (similar to v56 with CTR)
 * Applies to Compact density
 * Contributor(s): Alex Vallat

.searchbar-textbox {
  font-size: unset !important;
  min-height: 20px !important;
  height: 20px !important;

#identity-box {
  max-height: 18px;

#nav-bar .toolbarbutton-1 {
  padding: 0px !important;

/* more compact navigation toolbar */
#nav-bar #nav-bar-overflow-button,
#nav-bar #nav-bar-customization-target > toolbarbutton,
#nav-bar #nav-bar-customization-target > toolbaritem textbox,
#nav-bar #nav-bar-customization-target #stop-reload-button > toolbarbutton {
  margin: 0  !important;
  padding: 0 !important;

#nav-bar #nav-bar-customization-target > toolbaritem{
  margin: 0 !important;
  padding: 0 !important;

/* Hales */
toolbarbutton, toolbaritem, .toolbarbutton-badge-stack
    height: 20px !important;
    width: 20px !important;

    padding: 0 !important;
    margin: 0 !important;

    padding: 2px !important;
    margin: 0px !important;

.tabs-newtab-button .toolbarbutton-icon
    padding: 6px !important;

    background-color: orange !important;

#urlbar, .searchbar-textbox {
  border: none !important;
  box-shadow: none !important;

  --tab-min-height: 20px !important;
  --newtab-margin: -3px 0 -3px -3px !important;
.tabbrowser-tab {
  max-height: var(--tab-min-height) !important;
  margin: var(--newtab-margin) !important;

#readinglist-addremove-button {
 display:none !important;

Addon changes

With the transition to WebExtensions many addons have been lost or limited.

NoScript is a burnt husk of what it used to be. No ability to middle-click the toolbar icon to temporarily allow a scope. Very different menu interface. Generally a pain to use, so I’ve been using ublock origin’s matrix mode instead.

I would be using uMatrix instead of uBlock, but the former only supports per-url (rather than per-element) filtering granularity.

Chris Pedrick’s Web Developer Toolbar used to be my companion because it had a single key shortcut (Shift+Alt+A) to disable all CSS in the current tab. Annoying websites with trendy fonts or fixed width text columns (I’m looking at you medium!) suddenly become readable on a small display again. Unfortunately this key shortcut (and all others, according to the manifest.json in the new addon) are now gone.

Expect a follow-up blog post where I try to make my own addon for just this purpose. “CSS Annihilator” has a nice ring to it.

I’d love to hear other people’s input about things they have lost with the addons transition.

Firefox Sync

Hoorah! Many years ago, when I only had one computer (no laptop) I created and maintained an organised hierarchy of bookmarks. Since then I have been unable to do this — Seamonkey lacked a way of easily merging bookmarks and the only external tool I found was a bit cumbersome. Firefox sync fixes this problem.

Firefox sync doesn’t extend to addon settings in any uniform way, however, and it’s up to the addon authors to implement it. This is a bit disappointing, especially in regards to ublock origin blocklists. Big shame.

Speed and responsiveness

In some areas better than Seamonkey, in others worse. Large webpage loads (eg Element14, RS-online, ebay, aliexpress) no longer lock up the whole web-browser (only the one tab) but at other times the browser feels generally slower.

Startup time, on an SSD, is several seconds (addons?). This is still better than my Seamonkey install. I suspect this may all also have to do with my long browsing histories — a way of confirming the cause is something I need to hunt for.

Seamonkey might actually be a bit faster overall if not for the horribly slow GTK3 menus it now has.

Ridiculous Overflow menu

Occasionally Firefox likes to hide some of my toolbar icons in the “overflow” menu. I’m not exactly sure what triggers this, I think it’s window resizes. Then firefox refuses to let them come out again until I enter and exit customise mode (via right-clicking a toolbar).

I use these icons constantly every day. Having them randomly hide is a PITA.

Why was this feature added? Were the devs concerned that some people had too many addon icons? Is that really even a problem? If someone has a lot of addons installed, but does not know how to remove the icons, then I suspect the real problem is that they probably don’t understand addons and were asked to install them without informed consent. Hiding them in a menu, depending on unclear triggers, is fighting the symptoms rather than the cause.

I have found that this problem occurs with or without my userChrome.css tweaks, albeit it has been occurring a lot less lately. I’m not sure if this is due to Firefox updates or me adding a non-addon toolbar icon to the very right of the mix.

I’m going to link back to the interface hall of shame website again. It’s an absolute masterpiece, and a good place to lose a few hours of your time. Somewhere in there is a topic about not hiding UI elements from the user. I think anyone involved in UI design should be forced to read it.

Completely broken/useless “offline mode”

As mentioned previously: Seamonkey has a fully functional offline mode, accessed by a single button, that lets you browse any pages in your cache.

Firefox’s version of this can be accessed from many different locations:

Unfortunately this feature is now completely useless. Try and press the back button or open a closed page and you get this:

Yeah, thanks. Basically “offline mode” == “nothing”. Complete with a custom dinosaur picture and everything.

This has burned me several times when I’ve been reading pages whilst in transit with no internet. Accidentally tap a link with my touchpad whilst scrolling a big article? You can never go back. Nope. Page isn’t there. Get an internet connection or get lost.

Firefox is one step closer to always online. It’s somewhat inevitable due to the differing perspectives between most developers (good, reliable internet connections) and most countries/people on the planet (poor, unreliable internet). I suspect it would be difficult to ask them about this issue, I’m concerned I’d get an answer along the lines of “it’s an internet browser, of course you need an internet connection” and get punted away or told I don’t matter.


Compared to Seamonkey: a complete mixed bag. Firefox sync fixes some of my problems, and some things are faster, but all the other reasons I’m using Firefox instead of SM are bad/forced ones. I’m not sure what to make of that.

Email Clients

Outlook Express

For shits and giggles I do introduce:

Unfortunately it errored out when trying to access my test email account. Possibly my shared host has banned plaintext password exchange or even blacklisted this client completely. No fun.


Beautiful to use interface, probably the best here. Systray icon from the get-go. Fast loadtime and responsive UI. Offline mode. An online mode for bad/expensive internet links (hoorah, I’m currently on a rural mountain!). Heaven on earth.

…until you realise that it only supports one account/server at a time. The whole point of me using an email client instead of a webmail interface is so that I can manage multiple email accounts!

2019 edit: Long-standing bug report. Looks like there was experimental patches for it many years back, but not much more. :(

Claws Mail

Another dead set beauty. Ridiculously fast load time. Actually supports multiple accounts.

Claws is popular enough to have a whole plugin system. Whilst tray-icon functionality isn’t there by default, it’s at least available through a plugin.

“Sylpheed” appears to be a related project with a slightly different history, but otherwise quite similar. Claws Mail appears to be a bit more mature from the outside.

The settings dialog is extensive, reminding me of Seamonkey. This is something a user really appreciates:

I have two killer issues with Claws:

Slow ‘check for new mail’ by default

When I setup claws it took forever to look for new mail as it scanned every single one of my IMAP folders separately. This might just be because my email provider places everything under the Inbox folder and a setting was inherited, but I’m not sure. Worst of all most application functionality greys out when new mail is being fetched.

To turn this off you need to right click the infringing folders and untick “Scan for new email”. Claws lets you apply this setting recursively, so I didn’t have to manually untick every folder.

I don’t expect many users with this problem will catch on — instead they’ll probably just assume Claws doesn’t support some faster way of checking for mail. I did until I stumbled upon the fix.

No HTML email support

Oh dear. This is a big one.

Developer perspective: HTML emails suck. They’re complicated, they’re a massive security hole and to handle them right you need to embed a whole web browser in your application. Maintenance nightmare.

Completely understandable.

My perspective: I regularly use headings and inline images in my emails. Often my emails are often long and of a technical nature, my ability to communicate is severely dependent on not having to tell people to “see attached image xyz.jpeg” every few paragraphs. Additionally I’m not my own boss: I can’t turn around and tell everyone else that plaintext is better and that they’re wrong.

Claws has a webkit plugin (oh the irony!) for viewing html emails, but no way of composing html emails. This is by design.

There’s supposed to be a Dillo plugin too — this got me extremely excited — but it looks like that’s old/out of date information. Dillo is awesome, and now I’m particularly mad at claws. Perhaps the devs were concerned about security flaws in little-known Dillo more than the popular qt*Webkit.

As Claws stands I simply can’t use it for my day to day work. I live and breathe emails with images and headings, HTML is currently the only solution for this.

I’d love a way of writing and viewing some “basic” html. Something that supports nothing more than the following tags:

In other words: No support for styles. No support for alignments, flows and floats. Something stupid and linear. Gimmee text and images in a straight line and I’ll be over the moon.

You could do this without a proper HTML parser. A simple, dumb one that doesn’t understand nesting (and just gives up/guesses instead) would be brilliant. And I’d be able to have all the things I need back again.

Perhaps a project for another day.


Back to the beast. Big and slow, but not missing any features.

Interestingly Thunderbird has no tray-icon support by default. I had to download an addon myself to do this (firetray) — and it wouldn’t install inside of Thunderbird either. I had to download it in my web browser and tell Thunderbird to install it manually. No idea what’s going on here, especially since TB has an in-built addon searching and installation interface just like Firefox’s.

I decided to settle with Thunderbird in the end. First step was to import my mail accounts from Seamonkey — a really nice feature to have. All was well.

Then this started showing up:

What? example.com? Why is my mail client trying to connect and login to that? Are my login credentials getting sent to the wrong site?

Oh no.

I think I know what happened.

Some time in the distant past I entered ‘example.com’ as a domain in one of my mail configs. I later replaced it with the real thing. Somewhere, somehow this has been stored.

I scoured Thunderbird’s account settings. No mention of this domain anywhere. No idea where it’s stored or what it’s being used for. A grep of the profile folder however confirms it’s hiding in the databases.

In the end I nuked TB’s profile folder and started again from scratch. If the import process can hide details like this then I could not trust it at all.

Offline and network failure handling

Happily Thunderbird has an offline-mode toggle just like Seamonkey does:

It’s tiny and hidden in the bottom-left corner. But it works. I can download all (or some of) my emails for offline use and compose offline to my heart’s content.

One notable interface stupidity of Thunderbird is that it is never safe to be typing. “Never typing?” you say. “But this is an email application!”. Sure it is, right until the point random dialogs open whilst you are writing an email:

90% of the time I’m halfway through typing a sentence and don’t have the reaction time to stop typing (milliseconds?). Instead whatever keys I press close the dialog and I’m none the wiser to what it said or what just happened. I’m just glad none of these dialogs appear to have done anything bad. I hope.

On the flipside of the coin I have encountered definite-confirmed-evil dialogs in TB. If an email fails to send you will be asked if you want to retry. If you select anything other than ‘retry’ then your composed email gets closed and destroyed. Yay. That’s bitten me on the arse many times.

Miscellaneous issues with email clients

Tray icon communications

For years email has been my primary contact method. I don’t carry a phone and email has the advantage of still working when I’m beyond signal range.

Part of this requires me to have a tray icon (or equivalent) to notify me if I have new mail. Transient notifications do nothing if they arrive whilst I’m elsewhere or on the toilet, a proper tray icon is a better solution. This ensures I can respond to people quickly (often within minutes) to fix their problems. This, as best I can do, keeps people happy and ensures they don’t nag me to get a phone. Family excluded.

In terms of tray support all the email clients I’ve looked at have been a mixed bag. One point many fail on is visual usability.

Here are everyone’s icons, resized to 16x16 to make everything a bit fairer (Seamonkey’s equivalent tray icon is ~24x18px):




Claws Mail + Notification addon


Thunderbird + Firetray addon

Seamonkey + Littlemonkey theme

Which of these is a good design and which of these is a bad design? Warning: I’ll force you to use whatever you choose >:D

Visually similar icons for ‘no mail’ vs ‘new mail’ make it very difficult to tell what’s happening. You have to divert time and attention to working out which is which and this gets old, fast. Distinct icons on the other hand don’t even need to be looked at, they poke through your peripheral vision.

Firetray and Littlemonkey win by a mile here. Colour differences or major brightness differences are key. Humans notice colour changes much more easily than brightness changes, so colours definately win out, but Firetray’s solution seems to have at least been tested and fixed to work by a real human that uses these things.

Also Firetray’s default icon looks like a ghost got lost in my tray, which wins it brownie points.

Claws the vandal

Claws makes new folders on your IMAP server when you use it. On connection it creates a ‘spam’ folder, and when sending it creates a ‘queue’ folder.

Doesn’t seem that bad? Well I already have a spam folder. It’s called “Junk”. Now I have two spam folders. Yay.

Deleting these folders in another client is a pain if you have already deleted them once before. Apparently you can’t move something to trash if there’s already something there by the same name:

WTH Thunderbird. Rubbish bins with duplicate named files have been solved since Windows XP or earlier.

I hate programs that ‘organise’ for me. When a program creates a non-hidden folder in my home directory I get angry, the same applies here for my email folders. XDG is bad enough, with applications creating “Downloads” folders even when I’ve deleted them (luckily I’ve found the fix for that).

This is my home, not yours. Ask before getting comfy. AND GET OUT OF MY FRIDGE.

End notes

This post has been massive to write (excess 20 hours). I need to stick to smaller things, but it seems my inner rage knows no wordcount. Soon I will be attacking a user interface that you have made, dear reader.

I’m now pottering along with Firefox and Thunderbird. There are still things that irk me in Firefox, but Thunderbird seems pretty OK.

I’m beginning to think I should start my own “Interface hall of shame” page. That might make it easy to do bug reports and keep track of them too. For every bug you see here there’s another ten I deal with in various software every day, and if I try reporting things it would be nice to document the responses. I’ll avoid inciting anything, I promise :)

Tell me what you think. And thankyou for reading this far.

gr8p8p - website - Friday 14 September 2018

As a Seamonkey user of many version numbers who compiles it themselves; If anyone is going to fork Seamonkey, 2.40 is the magic version IMO.

nwildner - Friday 14 September 2018

Hey Hales,

What about qutebrowser?

I'm using this little fella on Arch+i3wm when i don't need a "full feature browser" to debug stuff and mess arround with webpages.

And since it is keyboard oriented like i3, you need to use less your mouse to navigate.


tidux - Friday 14 September 2018

Email on Linux (or any *nix) really shines with a set of smaller programs, or just doing everything in Emacs.

MUA: Mutt
Sending: msmtp
Receiving: isync / mbsync or Fetchmail
Composing: a text editor of your choice (Mutt shells out to external editors)
Notifications: http://www.nongnu.org/mailnotify/ (use in maildir mode to work with the separate fetching programs)

All of these are 100% offline-by-default and store data in plaintext (or GPG encrypted plaintext if you want mbsync and msmtp to be safe) rather than opaque databases. If you need WYSIWYG email, just tell Mutt to spawn a WYSIWYG HTML editor. However, HTML email is in fact the devil, and if your workflow relies on it, your workflow is objectively wrong. Even MS -fucking- Outlook is cracking down on what subset of HTML is displayed by default due to years of catastrophic security bugs, most recently CVE-2018-8475 which makes ANY email with images potentially capable of hijacking a Windows system.

If you rely on Firefox Sync, it's a killer app. Nothing else but Firefox will work properly. If you don't need Firefox Sync, Qutebrowser with the WebEngine (Blink) backend is quite nice.

nwildner - Friday 14 September 2018

>>> HTML email is in fact the devil, and if your workflow relies on it, your workflow is objectively wrong

Not at all, tidux

w3m does a pretty good job on rendering most of html mails. I have this setup myself at home and it works good for my needs(maybe not for the OP needs).

jokilu - Friday 14 September 2018

Hello, and what about Evolution, Vivaldi and Falkon?

Hales - (site author) - Friday 14 September 2018

gr8p8p> 2.40 is the magic version IMO

Is this the last GTK 2.0 version, or before some other large changes?

Jeez, now I'm thinking back to the Seamonkey 1.x days and trying to remember what that was like. Time to fish for some ancient Puppy Linux isos :)

nwildner> qutebrowser

Vim binds? A website front page that actively links to other similar projects? Good form.

I'll have a look, thankyou.

tidux> mutt

I had always assumed mutt would be an everything-in-one app, but tying it to external tools of my own choice sounds enticing.

tidux> If you rely on Firefox Sync, it's a killer app

Aye. And at one point it did work with Seamonkey. Then for a while you had to create an account elsewhere first, but it still worked afterwards in SM. That was years ago, unfortunately.

tidux> However, HTML email is in fact the devil, and if your workflow relies on it, your workflow is objectively wrong

Being evil isn't wrong, it's just a different lifestyle ;)

Indeed HTML is evil enough in a web browser, let alone inside emails. But it's the only choice I have if I want to have text and pictures mixed together. Referencing attached pictures by name or having them displayed at the end of an email is useless communication if I have lots of slightly different images describing technical issues, as many of my work emails end up having.

N.B. It's not objectively wrong. There are several concerns to weigh up here.

jokilu> Hello, and what about Evolution, Vivaldi and Falkon?

Hello jokilu.

Evolution: tried to use this years ago and I had lots of stability issues. I've been mentally blocking it out since then, so it looks like I didn't give it a fair chance this time.

Vivaldi: Ahah, this is the ex-Opera one! I've been confusing its name with one of the other popular reskin browsers in the news that has its own ads included. I'll take a look. Sidenote: this kind of explains why Opera has gone down the toilet over the past few years and has now become a reskin itself.

Falkon: I used to use Qupzilla (the prior project) as an test browser for webkit rendering some pages, but nothing more. Falkon looks to be a reskinned Chromium with a few in-built addons. If so, then why use it instead of the real Chromium with its extensive addon support? Not sure what value it brings other than a KDE name.

Hales - (site author) - Friday 14 September 2018

Meta: more comments and discussion over at lobste.rs

Hales - (site author) - Friday 14 September 2018

Also over on reddit: https://old.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/9fkao8/seamonkeys_gradual_showdown/

I deleted my account there, so I'm not able to reply directly.

Hales> Soon I will be attacking a user interface that you have made, dear reader.
LvS on Reddit> Too late.

You are involved with one of these projects? What's your take on things? Happy for it to be from an entirely different perspective.

nullprog on Reddit> Minor nit-pick. No, not a merge. Seamonkey (used to be Iceweasel under debian) is the original Netscape Navigator suite.

Apologies, your are correct about Seamonkey's lineage. In an earlier draft I had the full description, but it was a bit long, so replaced it with a hacked one that refers to 'how it appears now' rather than how it came to be.

tso on Reddit> The basic problem for Seamonkey is that it was never a clean fork. It basically lives at the mercy of Firefox devs whims.

I wouldn't say this is a problem. It can actually be quite beneficial -- it severely reduces the overall workload. But yes it does restrict the paths you can take, because you'll want to stick to the least-resistance path.

Shugyousha - website - Friday 14 September 2018


> Indeed HTML is evil enough in a web browser, let alone inside emails. But it's the only choice I have if I want to have text and pictures mixed together. Referencing attached pictures by name or having them displayed at the end of an email is useless communication if I have lots of slightly different images describing technical issues, as many of my work emails end up having.

My recommendation would be to upload your images to a server and then post the link inline into your emails. Like this.


This is the thing I was talking to you about:


As you can see here, there is a cute puppy playing with kitties in the lower left corner.




Tada, plain-text emails with inline pictures.

Hales - (site author) - Friday 14 September 2018

Hey Shugyousha,

That's a bit better compared to telling people to 'see attachment 123.jpeg' because they might have an actual hyperlinks to click, but it still requires them to be switching back and forth between two things to see what's going on. Additionally their web browser will only show one image per tab.

Often I email and discuss pictures of similar things (software, CAD diagrams, etc) with minor differences I'm trying to point out. This would end up being too confusing for people to navigate back and forth between (which one is which again?), so I'd have to merge those images into one mega image for it to be practical for them (and for me to avoid confused replies). At this point I may as well turn the whole email, text included, into one big PNG and skip all the problems entirely.

Actually: somewhere in an alternate reality that might be an email standard. Fax holdover? Not exactly efficient, but possibly easier to standardise on whilst remaining somewhat secure.

user 101 - Friday 14 September 2018

tbh just disable the new tab thing & you're back to a clean one
umatrix has surpassed noscript for me since a long time, because "block everywhere or nowhere" isn't an option
also regarding fonts in css/medium: just disable fonts in umatrix
you'll want it to keep google away (fonts.google) everywhere

firefox is up instantly on my laptop (ssd) and I wouldn't want to miss out on that

user 101 - Friday 14 September 2018

oh and yeah, those file pickers are A.W.F.U.L.
copy-paste the path, as you already know where it should go? maybe, of you're lucky
ui? fat, plain fat

Hales - (site author) - Friday 14 September 2018

I'm going to avoid expanding that acronym :D

> umatrix has surpassed noscript for me since a long time

I'd almost agree. Noscript has a lot of "script surrogates" to imitate blocked resources, I don't think uBlock has those.

Chris Siebenmann - website - Saturday 15 September 2018

Hales: Sadly, I'm not sure if the Quantum version of NoScript has script surrogates (I took a look in the current NS source code and couldn't find any sign, and they're not mentioned in recent changelogs). They may have had to be dropped in the shift to a WebExtension.

My uMatrix experience is that I don't miss anything the script surrogates (in pre-Quantum NoScript) might have been doing for me, but I'm strongly hardcore about blocking Javascript in my main browser and I've always been willing to deal with annoyances and broken sites due to that (I actually maintain a secondary browser to use on JS-required sites that I don't trust, currently incognito Chrome).

dt.iki.fi - website - Saturday 6 April 2019

Hello Hales,
thank you for this expansive article.
To date, I am still using seamonkey.
But I have been increasingly worried about it being outdated, maybe vulnerable. No more updates for addons, it seems.

At which point in time have you decided that you need to ditch seamonkey?
Or, which piece of information, which circumstance made you turn away from it finally?

Hales - (site author) - Monday 8 April 2019

It's difficult to measure fear and uncertainty. I don't really think I can give good advice here.

> Or, which piece of information, which circumstance made you turn away from it finally?

Addon compatibility. A lot of addons had moved to webextensions (not compat with SM) and the search function on the Seamonkey addons site had become useless because it mainly returned these webex addons.

When Stylish was outed as spyware (see the main writeup above) I tried to look for alternatives, but everything available seemed to be webextension-only. I was left unable to restyle pages like I had always been able to.

dt.iki.fi - website - Wednesday 10 April 2019

Thanks for your reply!

> It's difficult to measure fear and uncertainty. I don't really think I can give good advice here.

I wasn't asking for advice; my question just seemed a vital piece of information missing from an otherwise informative article:
the breakpoint between the "Seamonkey's gradual decline" and "Should I move on?" chapters.

Anyhow, this question has now been answered.

Personally I agree with all the criticism in "Seamonkey's gradual decline", but the development situation described therein was new to me and particularly worrying.
But I also got some new, helpful information.

/df - Saturday 13 March 2021

SeaMonkey + StyleM FTW https://repo.palemoon.org/Lootyhoof/stylem/issues/8

Hales - (site author) - Sunday 14 March 2021

2021 update: have been on Firefox ever since. I hate several things, including the new URLbar clicking/select behaviour that requires multiple clicks to edit a URL (???) and breaks X11 clipboard logic.

Thanks for the link df, I hope that helps those out there on SM. I wish I still was :|

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