HTML Email from Mutt (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Mon, 05 Jun 2017

HTML Email from Mutt

I know, I know. We use mailers like mutt because we don't believe in HTML mail and prefer plaintext. Me, too.

But every now and then a situation comes up where it would be useful to send something with emphasis. Or maybe you need to highlight changes in something. For whatever reason, every now and then I wish I had a way to send HTML mail.

I struggled with that way back, never did find a way, and ended up writing a Python script, htmlmail.py to send an HTML page, including images, as email.

Sending HTML Email

But just recently I found a neat mutt hack. It turns out it's quite easy to send HTML mail.

First, edit the HTML source in your usual mutt message editor (or compose the HTML some other way, and insert the file). Note: if there's any quoted text, you'll have to put a <pre> around it, or otherwise turn it into something that will display nicely in HTML.

Write the file and exit the editor. Then, in the Compose menu, type Ctrl-T to edit the attachment type. Change the type from text/plain to text/html.

That's it! Send it, and it will arrive looking like a regular HTML email, just as if you'd used one of them newfangled gooey mail clients. (No inline images, though.)

Viewing HTML Email

Finding out how easy that was made me wonder why the other direction isn't easier. Of course, I have my mailcap set up so that mutt uses lynx automatically to view HTML email:

text/html; lynx -dump %s; nametemplate=%s.html; copiousoutput

Lynx handles things like paragraph breaks and does in okay job of showing links; but it completely drops all emphasis, like bold, italic, headers, and colors. My terminal can display all those styles just fine. I've also tried links, elinks, and w3m, but none of them seem to be able to handle any text styling. Some of them will do bold if you run them interactively, but none of them do italic or colors, and none of them will do bold with -dump, even if you tell them what terminal type you want to use. Why is that so hard?

I never did find a solution, but it's worth noting some useful sites I found along the way. Like tips for testing bold, italics etc. in a terminal:, and for testing whether the terminal supports italics, which gave me these useful shell functions:

echo -e "\e[1mbold\e[0m"
echo -e "\e[3mitalic\e[0m"
echo -e "\e[4munderline\e[0m"
echo -e "\e[9mstrikethrough\e[0m"
echo -e "\e[31mHello World\e[0m"
echo -e "\x1B[31mHello World\e[0m"

ansi()          { echo -e "\e[${1}m${*:2}\e[0m"; }
bold()          { ansi 1 "$@"; }
italic()        { ansi 3 "$@"; }
underline()     { ansi 4 "$@"; }
strikethrough() { ansi 9 "$@"; }
red()           { ansi 31 "$@"; }

And in testing, I found that a lot of fonts didn't offer italics. One that does is Terminus, so if your normal font doesn't, you can run a terminal with Terminus: xterm -fn '-*-terminus-bold-*-*-*-20-*-*-*-*-*-*-*'

Not that it matters since none of the text-mode browsers offer italic anyway. But maybe you'll find some other use for italic in a terminal.

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[ 18:28 Jun 05, 2017    More linux | permalink to this entry | comments ]
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