A clean mailing list browser, focussing on readability

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Mattias Geniar, January 31, 2016

Follow me on Twitter as @mattiasgeniar

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!

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