generating mailtool configuration with addex

I’ve complained before about how stifling I find GUI mail apps. I can’t commit a few twitches to muscle memory that allow me to perform useful and complex operations the way I can with mutt. There are some things that GUI apps get right, like high-level folder browsing, but mostly I just despise them.’s integration with Address Book always tempted me, because I am pretty careful about putting everyone into it. It was irritating to get nothing out of it. Ages ago, I wrote a little program with Mac::Glue that would generate a mutt aliases file from my address book. Later it grew to produce some other configuration, and finally it became addex.

I’ve written about addex a little before, but never anything comprehensive. I realized that I really had to write up an explanation after the nth conversation with a Close Personal Friend that went like this:

rjbs: I’m so happy with Addex. It’s one of the most useful things I’ve written.

friend: What’s Addex?

Addex is a tool that turns address book information into mailtool configuration. It’s a very simple program, most geared toward making it easy to write extensions. The existing plugins are, unsurprisingly, geared toward my needs. When I run addex, this is what happens:

  1. addex gets all the entries from the Apple Address
  2. addex produces a SpamAssassin whitelist file to whitelist everyone I know
  3. addex produces a YAML file describing how to filter mail into folders
    • this replaces my previous use of the Procmail plugin, and is used by my custom Email::Filter script
  4. addex produces a file of mutt aliases, one for every combination of each entry’s name, nickname, and email address, along with mutt hooks, setting up message saving and .sigs

All of this works right out of the box except, obviously, for the YAML dumper. I had to write that plugin for myself, and it took about 20 lines of code.

Configuring addex is really easy, and the way configuration works was so satisfying to implement that I wrote about it already, long before writing much about addex itself.

My .addex file looks more or less like this:

addressbook = App::Addex::AddressBook::Apple
output = App::Addex::Output::Mutt
output = App::Addex::Output::SpamAssassin
output = AddexYAML

filename = mutt/alias-abook

filename = abook.yaml

filename = spamassassin/whitelists-abook

When I run addex, the requested classes are loaded and initialized with the supplied configuration, then addex gets to work.

Output plugins are really easy to write, especially if they do the usual thing and write some text to a file for each entry. For example, here’s the entire code of the SpamAssassin plugin:

package App::Addex::Output::SpamAssassin;
use base 'App::Addex::Output::ToFile';

sub process_entry {
  my ($self, $addex, $entry) = @_;

  $self->output("whitelist_from $_") for grep { $_->sends } $entry->emails;

…and that’s it. The base class takes care of dealing with file IO. Of course, it would be easy to write a more complex plugin. I keep thinking I might write one that uses Mac::Glue to setup rules, either by performing the scripting events as it goes or by writing out an AppleScript program to do it later. It would be easy, assuming it’s possible!

When I first got addex into a fit state for human use, I tried to convince all my Close Personal Friends to use it. (If you’re wondering how well that went, see above.) What I found was that a lot of people were now using or Thunderbird. The few who were still using mutt were either using no address book or abook. I sat down and wrote a second AddressBook class to handle abook configuration, and it took under an hour. Someday, I’ve love to write a Gmail or Exchange plugin – well, for some value of “love to” anyway.

Still, I’m one of the few users of addex, and that’s fine with me. Even if nobody else uses the darn thing, it still saves me loads of time. I’m hoping to release at least one new plugin in the next week or so, and maybe as I release more, I’ll snag a few more people, even if it’s just a few more friends who are tired of hearing me rant about it and finally give in to trying it.

Written on February 18, 2008
addex   email   perl