wanderlust tips and tricks

Earlier, I spoke of the wonderful Wanderlust e-mail client. After years of using mutt, I am a quite happy Wanderlust-user now. Now, it's few months since my conversion, time to discuss some of the customizations I did. Not all the defaults are so well-chosen (in my opinion), but fortunately, the package is very configurable.

If you are interested in Wanderlust, this entry might save you some time in figuring out such customizations and some other tricks. If you haven't done so before, I'd recommend you to read the older entry first. Also, the entry about BBDB may be useful.

Before going into the customizations, let me first answer a question I got asked a couple of times: why I am using Wanderlust and not, say, VM, gnus, Mew or even mutt or some other client?

To start with the last part, an emacs-based client fits in very well with my workflow, which is (duh) revolves around emacs. Doing my email there as well makes a lot of sense - a little return-on-investment for the time spent taming emacs and its bag of tricks.

The reason I particularly like Wanderlust, is that it works very well with mail stored in maildirs - as you may know, maildir is a one-file-per-message way of storing your mail on disk. That's great for backing up things, and sync'ing different machines.

Unlike VM and gnus, Wanderlust keeps the mail in the maildir as-is, and does not use a separate spoolfile – thus, all changes are reflected in the maildir itself, making it possible to use different clients (ie., use mutt when needed). Even more important, the wonderful tool offlineimap does two-way synchronization with IMAP-servers, and downloads everything into a maildir. So, I can download all the mail on my laptop machine, go offline and work on the messages (delete, move, reply etc.) during a flight, and when I'm back online, I can synchronize things. All this 'cloud'-stuff is nice, but I like to have my mails on my side of the intertubes.

Ok, now let's take a look at some of the customizations and tricks. All of these are little snippets to add to your ~/.wl-file.

Forwarded mails should use 'Fwd:', not 'Forward:'

I wonder why this is not the default.

  wl-forward-subject-prefix "Fwd: " )    ;; use "Fwd: " not "Forward: "

Reply-to-all should not be the default

By default, Wanderlust uses Reply-to-All; that is usually not what we (well, I) want. The code below makes Reply-to-Sender the default, with Reply-to-All behind C-u; ie. A or a will reply to sender, C-u A and C-u a reply to all.

(Note, the uppercase A is for replying with quoting the original message, while the lowercase version starts the reply with an empty message)

;; from a WL-mailinglist post by David Bremner

;; Invert behaviour of with and without argument replies.
;; just the author
(setq wl-draft-reply-without-argument-list
  '(("Reply-To" ("Reply-To") nil nil)
     ("Mail-Reply-To" ("Mail-Reply-To") nil nil)
     ("From" ("From") nil nil)))

;; bombard the world
(setq wl-draft-reply-with-argument-list
  '(("Followup-To" nil nil ("Followup-To"))
     ("Mail-Followup-To" ("Mail-Followup-To") nil ("Newsgroups"))
     ("Reply-To" ("Reply-To") ("To" "Cc" "From") ("Newsgroups"))
     ("From" ("From") ("To" "Cc") ("Newsgroups"))))

Setting up spam-handling

If you're using spamassassin for spamfiltering, you can quite easily integrate it with Wanderlust:

(require 'wl-spam)
(setq elmo-spam-scheme 'sa)   ;; sa for spamassassin, see the elmo-spam-scheme
                              ;; docs for alternatives
(setq wl-spam-folder ".spam") ;; maildir to store spam

After this, you quite easily handle spam in the 'Summary' with some keybindings:

  • k C : check whether spamassassin considers this message 'spam'
  • k m : mark message(s) as spam (move to spam folder)
  • k n : learn this message is 'ham'
  • k s : learn this message is 'spam'

Note, there are some hooks for other spamfiltering solutions as well.

How to easily refile messages

I receive all my messages in only two mailboxes: one for personal mail, and one for mailing lists. If, after reading, I want to keep the message, I'll refile it to some other folder (after all, it's good to empty your mailboxes quite often. Wanderlust makes this refiling quite easy; the first way is to do it semi-automatic, i.e., let Wanderlust 'guess' the folder for you, based on the contents of the message. Then, when pressing 'o' in the summary, it will suggest this folder, and you can refile (move) the message. You can set up this 'guessing' something like this:

  ;; refile rules determine the default where mails are put

  ;; when you mark them for refiling ('o'); cfg. save-hooks in mutt
     ("Subject" ;; put more specific rules before more general ones.
       ("emacs"   . ".emacs")   ;; emacs-related mail

       ("running" . ".running") ;; running-related mail
     (("To" "Cc" "Delivered-To") 
       ("myself@company.com"      . ".workmail") 
       ("myself@home.com"         . ".privatemail"))
     (("Precedence" "Priority")
       ("bulk\|1\|2\|list"       . ".bulkmail"))))

Explicit refiling

Semi-automatic refiling works fairly well, but you might also want to have some explicit shortcuts to move messages to specific folders. For example, to move message from your inbox to your Project X-folder, or your Project Y-folder.

(defun djcb-wl-summary-refile (&optional folder)
  "refile the current message to FOLDER; if FOLDER is nil, use the default"
  (wl-summary-refile (wl-summary-message-number) folder)
  (message (concat "refiled to " folder)))

(define-key wl-summary-mode-map (kbd "b x") ;; => Project X

  '(lambda()(interactive)(djcb-wl-summary-refile ".project-x"))) 
(define-key wl-summary-mode-map (kbd "b y") ;; => Project Y
  '(lambda()(interactive)(djcb-wl-summary-refile ".project-y")))

Assuming you have (Maildir) folders project-x and project-y.

Check outgoing mail

It's not uncommon to forget to add a subject or an attachment when you send a mail (or at least, when I send a mail…). However, using wl-mail-send-pre-hook we can let Wanderlust warn us when something like that happens.

;; suggested by Masaru Nomiya on the WL mailing list

(defun djcb-wl-draft-subject-check ()
  "check whether the message has a subject before sending"
  (if (and (< (length (std11-field-body "Subject")) 1)
        (null (y-or-n-p "No subject! Send current draft?")))
      (error "Abort.")))

;; note, this check could cause some false positives; anyway, better
;; safe than sorry...
(defun djcb-wl-draft-attachment-check ()
  "if attachment is mention but none included, warn the the user"
    (goto-char 0)
    (unless ;; don't we have an attachment?

      (re-search-forward "^Content-Disposition: attachment" nil t) 
     (when ;; no attachment; did we mention an attachment?
        (re-search-forward "attach" nil t)
        (unless (y-or-n-p "Possibly missing an attachment. Send current draft?")
          (error "Abort."))))))

(add-hook 'wl-mail-send-pre-hook 'djcb-wl-draft-subject-check)
(add-hook 'wl-mail-send-pre-hook 'djcb-wl-draft-attachment-check)

Ok, that's all for now… I'll get back to Wanderlust in the future; of course, feel free to add your own tricks in the comments-section.