HTML mail, linuxchix and mutt (Re: [Techtalk] Large SAMBA-howto post)

Mary Gardiner linuxchix at
Thu Jan 3 11:47:52 EST 2002

On Thu, Jan 03, 2002 at 10:03:01AM +1100, Jenn Vesperman wrote:
> However, please treat this as a one-off, not as authorisation to start
> posting large HTML attachments. It -will- overstress the machine if its
> done regularly - Linuxchix is hosted on a semi-retired desktop box, not
> a specialist server. :)
> It will also annoy our large mutt-using contingent.


Mutt (the magical "well someone's written a program that does it, we'll
just incorporate its output" program) does in fact have a way to view
HTML mail. See below, mutt users. But first:

Linuxchix and HTML:

So the only remaining reason not to post HTML, now that saving us
console-mailees hassle is out (actually it may still be a hassle in the
digest), is that it's a bandwidth hog. Same with images etc etc.

The standard recommendation made on USENET, which is based on the
usually correct assumption that only a fairly small portion of the list
actually need or want to see what you're attaching, is:
 * If it comes from the web, post a URL to where it already is. That way
   people reading old mail, or the archives will still be able to find
   it, search engines will cache it etc.
 * If not, put it on a webpage and post a URL. This is nearly as good,
   although if it's big you may have to take it down sooner.
 * If you can't put in on a web page (and there's a lot of free space
   out there) send a copy to the person who was asking the question and
   tell the list that others are welcome to contact you to get it
   emailed to them. That will mean more bandwidth use for you, but if
   you can't handle it, then the list certainly can't.

This brings me to the point: The web archives of technical lists are one
of the handiest features for Linux users aside from the lists
themselves. A helpful post to this list may help someone doing a 2am
desperate google search next year. Think of them as well as the original
poster when you reply. Post links if at all possible :)

Mutt and HTML:

Mutt users really should use the command 

auto_view text/html

in their ~/.muttrc files and if necessary fix up their /etc/mailcap
files or create a ~/.mailcap file (google for it) that either pops up a
browser to display the HTML, or dumps it to text.

For example, mine contains the line
text/html; /usr/bin/links -dump '%s'; copiousoutput; description=HTML Text; nametemplate=%s.html

which has the effect, when reading HTML mail, of converting it to text
(handling tables and lists sensibly too, since I use the text browser
'links' rather than the text browser 'lynx'!) and dumping it in the
console with the rest of the message. This means you can reply to it
sensibly too, since mutt will grab the plain text that was dumped.

There is no longer any excuse, mutt users.


Mary Gardiner
<mary at>

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