A clean mailing list browser, focussing on readability

Mattias Geniar, Sunday, January 31, 2016 - last modified: Monday, May 16, 2016

I wrote a new frontend for viewing mailing list entries that I'd like to show you. Its focus is on readability, typography and a clean layout.

I've used Twitter's Bootstrap with Red Hat's Overpass font for a responsive and focussed layout.

Here's what it looks like. I think it's best compared against marc.info, our industry's de facto standard for mailing list archives.

First: the original.


Next: the redesign.


I'm not entirely satisfied yet, but it'll do for now. More tweaks will surely follow.

My main focus was:

  • Remove the bloat: mailing list archivers often include 20+ links to 'sort of' the same content. Nobody cares, just show the content.
  • The ability to redesign later: I'm generating PHP files from different scripts, filled with include-statements to other PHP scripts. I'll hate myself for this later, but it allows me to hook into the layout at multiple stages.
  • A clear font: no pre-formatted sans-serif fonts, but a nice, modern look and feel.

We often rely on mailing list communication to spread important news, there's no reason that can't have a nice and professional looking layout.

The new layout is up at marc.ttias.be (I may change the URL later, I'm not sure yet).

You're free to use it, of course. I now mirror the mailing lists that are closest to me, but if I'm missing one that you would like to follow -- just drop me a note. You'll know where to find me.

As for the technology involved, it's a pretty default setup:

  • A simple postfix setup with local (system) users for each mailing list account
  • Parsed every 20 minutes with MHonArc (I first tried HyperMail, but that quickly ended in failure)
  • Some PHP wrapper scripts for detecting new mailing list accounts automatically on my server and generating index pages for them.
  • An archival script that rotates the mailboxes every month, generating clean monthly indexes.

To add a new mailinglist, all I have to do is add a new system user in the correct Linux group and subscribe (manually) to the mailing list. From there on, the indexing, listing etc. happens automatically.

This was a fun weekend-hack!

Hi! My name is Mattias Geniar. I'm a Support Manager at Nucleus Hosting in Belgium, a general web geek, public speaker and podcaster. Currently working on DNS Spy. Follow me on Twitter as @mattiasgeniar.

I respect your privacy and you won't get spam. Ever.
Just a weekly newsletter about Linux and open source.

SysCast podcast

In the SysCast podcast I talk about Linux & open source projects, interview sysadmins or developers and discuss web-related technologies. A show by and for geeks!

cron.weekly newsletter

A weekly newsletter - delivered every Sunday - for Linux sysadmins and open source users. It helps keeps you informed about open source projects, Linux guides & tutorials and the latest news.

Share this post

Did you like this post? Will you help me share it on social media? Thanks!


Mathias Bynens Sunday, February 21, 2016 at 17:09 (permalink)

Similar project: https://readable-email.org/


Mattias Geniar Monday, February 22, 2016 at 17:31 (permalink)

Interesting, they charge money – perhaps I could do too. :-)

In all honesty: their layout is much nicer than mine (having their threaded/mailbox like view), but that’s too much effort for a free project.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *