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Tell HN: I just open-sourced the e-mail client I spent 2 years of my life on (github.com)
475 points by waseemsadiq 2027 days ago | hide | past | web | 130 comments | favorite

It looks like this was forked from (or to) an iPad version? It's probably a lot easier to sell there, granted.

It looks like a nice client- What are it's distinguishing features? What needs help? What are your intentions now- To throw it out there, or keep building it?

Are there binaries?

How are you handling the Messages in-memory? I'm looking for a mail client that can handle my multi-hundred-thousand email inbox, but everyone except Mulberry tends to have a problem ;)

Looks really sharp. Kinda reminds me of FF with the tabs at the top.

Actually those are completely seperate products. One written in .net/c#, the other in objective c / pure c. Some of the concepts have been "forked" tho.

Actually with the ipad app we are not even trying to create an email client (doesn't look like it currently) but more of a email communication tool. Sounds vague but in the coming weeks things will clear up.

Did you give the "new" Opera a try in regards to your large email "collection"? I had similar issues in the past, but the new version is surprisingly good in handling large repositories. Just as an idea ;)

True! I did use that for 2-3 months over the summer (version 11? 11.5?) , and it worked reasonably well. I eventually moved away, because it had a bunch of locking pauses.. I'm not sure what caused them. My guess is that when checking for mail in account A, account B,C,D would lock up?

I'll give it another shot.


... is really slow for opening large mailboxes, are you using some trick to make it faster? mutt alone just scans all mails before displaying anything. thats not a good idea for 100k+ emails

there's the mutt header_cache directive which can help

although if you have 100k+ emails in a folder, particularly a non-archive folder I'd suggest you're doing it wrong

header_cache only works with Maildir and IMAP. If he's using Maildir for a mailbox w/ 100k+ emails, then he may start running into filesystem limitations.


However, you must be willing to integrate it with other tools (a frontend, something like fetchmail, and something like procmail, etc.).

my particular recipe involves fetchmail, procmail, msmtp, vim, aspell, ical, etc..

but yes, if you are stuffing +100k emails into one folder -- that is completely insane -- that's why you use procmail to sort your email into different folders as it arrives; I subscribe to a LOT of email lists and ctrl-D delivers a lot of magic when I don't want to or have the time to sort through a bunch of crap but


The Bat!

try emclient

Impressive looking product. Your efforts shine through. Great work man.

Now I will ask the inevitable question: why did you open source it?

Well we could build 'a' business out of it, but we realized it wouldn't be a scalable business. For a couple of reasons:

* We tried to do to much (classic mistake -> email + social + contacts...)

* There are way too many ways that people use e-mail (folders, labels, rules, sorting, etc, etc)

* Because there are too many ways you can not create a commercially viable alternative that fits a large nr. of users

Truth be told, we didn't even want to create an e-mail client but rather wanted to fix e-mail workflow. We never ended up being able to do that due to forementioned reasons. We intend to rectify that in a couple of our other products.

We still see a need (and people actually ask for it) for a unified e-mail/social inbox. So we thought to have the open-source community have a go at it.

Excellent answer, and I love your thought process. Why have all your work go to waste not publishing it? This way, you don't have to worry about the inevitable "Why doesn't it do <random fringe feature>? I NEED that in my workflow!", you still get good recognition in the field, and all us users benefit from another good email client.

I would still try to put any kind of businessmodel onto it and look if any money comes out. Now you are here on the mainpage and thus much more famous. Having your source code in the open doesn't mean you don't see a paycheck for your work! (especially when most of your page views will come from HNers, who value great coding work and thus are more willing to pay for it, even if they don't have to. Think about this one article about Textmate2 some days ago.)

From the blog:

  > For the last one week, a considerable number of people who
  > have downloaded the Inbox2 app have had issues.
  > The main reason for this was that our infrastructure was not
  > scaling fast enough at the rate the app was being downloaded. 
Why does an email client depend on your infrastructure?

Actually the client doesn't but we also have another version which runs in the cloud. Old versions of the ipad app were hooked up to that, newer versions are completely stand alone so that has also changed in the mean while... hey what can I say, we move fast :-)

What was the benefit of such an arrangement? My email server is already "in the cloud" so to speak. As it's a downloaded app, what value was added from a man in the middle, as it were?

Well the cloud is always on and online. Additionally we want to work with metadata which we want to store in the cloud and is not supported by for ex. the IMAP protocol. I can't go into to much details regarding our product roadmap but having a cloud backend really helps.

Another concrete case is new email notifications. When our ipad is not the active app we simply are not able to inform you when new mail arrives (due to apple background app restrictions). With a client/cloud hybrid we can do the heavy lifting on the client and use the cloud for example to send notifications when new mail arrives.

The cloud is always on and online? I don't mean to be argumentative, but your cloud apparently couldn't handle the load. Downloading an email client shouldn't require a "hit by a bus" analysis of the app's creators.

An app can store metadata locally; no need to have that on your servers. No doubt you can do some interesting things by having a server-side infrastructure, but I'm concerned about the security implications. If your server gets hacked, an attacker would have access to all of my email. Not to mention that you would have access to all of my email and why should I trust you?

Pure speculation but it kind of sounds like they want to be able to mine some of that data.

It also gives them an extra way to lock users in.

Well thats why we are a 'start'-up, we have the start part down just need to get at he up part :-0

Stop offering the cloud version while you work on the client version. Re-offer the cloud version later once you've got your feet under you.

Congrats on creating such a nice client. And in C#, no less!

Your title implies that your hand might've been forced here. Was that the case? Would you have preferred to keep it closed?

Could it be? Someone has finally made an aesthetically pleasing Windows App?

Thank you for being design conscious. If only more developers like you existed on that platform.

I had to look twice to realize it wasn't an OSX app. Very well done.

I am glad I wasn't the only one that thought that.

Haha, exactly what I did :)

What license is this under? :(

It's under the "I don't give a shit as long as some dude in china doesn't slap another name on it and sell it licence". I am not sure what the official name for that is tho :-)

This is a good intention, but unfortunately the way copyright law works, having the license be ill-defined means that nobody can really use it and be assured that they're above-board, particularly in something like an Apache or GNU open source project, or in a company environment.

Unfortunately, there's not really a good, widely used license that does what you want, mostly because you run into problems pretty quickly based on derivative works with what you want. Let's say somebody merges your email client with a browser - can they call that by a different name? Can they sell that?

Anyhow, I'd suggest looking at looking at the Apache or BSD licenses (if you want the broadest use) or the GPL (if you want to ensure that modifications to the code must be distributed with any binaries made from the code). Licenses are a bit of a pain, but you can just pick one of the common ones and it'll really help adoption.

Thanks thats helpfull, I'll add a licence tonight (probably BSD)

Note that BSD does allow "some dude in china [to] slap another name on it and sell it".

Yes, but they have to give credit back. Better than nothing - people can follow the trail.

I don't believe this is true. Looking at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BSD_licenses indicates nothing about an attribution requirement.

  * Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright
    notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.

  * Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright
    notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the
    documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.

They just have to bury the license in the documentation somewhere. Who reads documentation?

Yeah but at least if he goes BSD then he too can use this code in a commercial product.

Huh?! If he's the copyright holder, he can license the code under whatever license he chooses and use his code in a commercial product if he wishes.

Ok I think I read you, but lets say his new commercial product was proprietary; the product costs $100. If the license for his original Inbox2 product was GPL, he would be required to distribute the source code on his new product right? So my point is, if its a BSD license he can integrate that code into the $100 product and not have to share the source code. I'm no software license expert so if I'm mistaken please correct me here.

IANAL either, but I still think he'd be free to use his original code in a commercial product. By releasing under GPL, you give others a limited license to redistribute and modify the software subject to some conditions, but you keep all your rights, and you are free to distribute proprietary versions of the code.

See https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#ReleaseUnderGPLAnd...

Ooooooohhhh neat, OK that makes GPL a whole lot more attractive then. Assumption destroyed; paradigm expanded. Thank-you.


You might also find the Artistic License interesting -


It's an interesting balance between freedom and giving back - may be more suited to what you want or may not.

I think MIT and BSD licenses fall into that category in that the copyright must be left unaltered. But that still won't stop someone from doing what you say ;)

When a "dude in china slaps another name on it and sells it" you'll still not be able to do anything about it regardless of the license you choose.

Just say its "public domain" or MIT or Apache in a file called license.txt in the project and forget about it.

I believe you're looking for the WTFPL:


Looks like public-domain now, since no license mentioned: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain

When you write code, you automatically have copyright on it (in most countries). Failing to include a copyright notice or including a license text does not make your work fall into the public domain.

As far as I can tell this code is not currently open source. The only permissions given are: "now fork it, fix it and send pull requests". Which omits some important permissions, without which this cannot be called open source.

The author publicly announced it was open source via HN.

"Open-source software is software whose source code is published and made available to the public, enabling anyone to copy, modify and redistribute the source code without paying royalties or fees.[19]" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source

"Works are in the public domain if the intellectual property rights have expired,[1] if the intellectual property rights are forfeited,[2] or if they are not covered by intellectual property rights at all." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain

He put it on GitHub, and he announced it was Open Source on HN.

"There's no license in this case and you cannot claim any intellectual property of the code. It would be the same if you uploaded the content on your own site without providing any license. According to the terms:

We claim no intellectual property rights over the material you provide to the Service. Your profile and materials uploaded remain yours. However, by setting your pages to be viewed publicly, you agree to allow others to view your Content. By setting your repositories to be viewed publicly, you agree to allow others to view and fork your repositories." http://stackoverflow.com/questions/4007674/whats-the-default...

So, I was wrong. He has copyright.

"Open source" isn't a legal term...

Under the Berne convention, "all rights reserved" if no license is mentioned. Pretty much every country has signed the Berne convention.

No, that's not how it works. At least in the US, an author has an implicit copyright over his or her work even if he or she does not post a copyright notice. The author would have to explicitly forfeit his or her rights to the work in order for it to be in the public domain.

This was actually the case in most of the world when the USA was still using a register. It's relatively recently that the USA has signed up to what the rest of the world has been doing for a while ... just for a change.

Of course there are some places that haven't signed the Berne Convention and don't have a copyright treaty through TRIPS or something similar.

No license mentioned doesn't mean public domain.

I'm no lawyer, but I'm pretty sure public domain is not the default.

Also not a lawyer, but pretty sure that no license is the same as "All rights reserved" (meaning, the most restrictive possible). Claiming "All rights reserved" doesn't give you more rights, but does establish that you communicated it and that anyone violating it had a better chance of knowing that.

(I think -- not a lawyer)

His statement to fork, fix, and ask for pulls perhaps gives some rights, but not usage or deployment ones.

In other word, if the author intends something else, they should say so.

EDIT: just noticed ThirdParty folder -- that changes the default to whatever is compatible with the licenses asserted in these libraries. I didn't check them.

I did some checking:

- Facebook Toolkit is Microsoft Permissive License (Ms-PL) 1.1

- FluidKit says it's the "New BSD License" but gives the old 4-clause license.

- Google/GData is Apache 2.0

- Json.NET is MIT license

- Lucene.NET Apache 2.0

- MEF is the original Microsoft Public License (Ms-PL)

- LumiSoft.Net seems to be a custom license. I'm not sure what it is

- I'm not familar enough with Mono to know what license this code is under, likely LGPL or MIT

- PyBinding: MIT

- SharpZipLib is GPL with a linking exception

- Sqlite is Public Domain

- tweetsharp: MIT

- log4net: Apache 2.0

With HttpServer, Shell32, Unrar and mshtml unknown.

[Edit: formatting]

Hmm- I think that is a grey area. Note what is said here about default license/rights on GitHub as of 10-7-2011:

"Copyright and Content Ownership

We claim no intellectual property rights over the material you provide to the Service. Your profile and materials uploaded remain yours. However, by setting your pages to be viewed publicly, you agree to allow others to view your Content. By setting your repositories to be viewed publicly, you agree to allow others to view and fork your repositories.

GitHub does not pre-screen Content, but GitHub and its designee have the right (but not the obligation) in their sole discretion to refuse or remove any Content that is available via the Service.

You shall defend GitHub against any claim, demand, suit or proceeding made or brought against GitHub by a third party alleging that Your Content, or Your use of the Service in violation of this Agreement, infringes or misappropriates the intellectual property rights of a third party or violates applicable law, and shall indemnify GitHub for any damages finally awarded against, and for reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by, GitHub in connection with any such claim, demand, suit or proceeding; provided, that GitHub (a) promptly gives You written notice of the claim, demand, suit or proceeding; (b) gives You sole control of the defense and settlement of the claim, demand, suit or proceeding (provided that You may not settle any claim, demand, suit or proceeding unless the settlement unconditionally releases GitHub of all liability); and (c) provides to You all reasonable assistance, at Your expense.

The look and feel of the Service is copyright ©2011 GitHub Inc. All rights reserved. You may not duplicate, copy, or reuse any portion of the HTML/CSS, Javascript, or visual design elements or concepts without express written permission from GitHub."


"you agree to allow others to view and fork your repositories"

Ok, but not use or deploy the results. Basically -- the author should add a license.

No license/no copyright declaration means no rights in all countries that have signed the Berne Convention (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_convention). This includes the USA since 1989.

Did you read the page you linked?

"Copyright under the Berne Convention must be automatic" and "Under the Convention, copyrights for creative works are automatically in force upon their creation without being asserted or declared."

I'm pretty sure the grandparent meant "no copyright notice = no rights granted" rather than "no notice = no rights reserved". Maybe I'm just reading it too charitably.

Yes I did. My reply was to someone who assumed "no license" would grant him "all rights" (public domain) when in fact it does not give him any rights. For the copyright owner, the reverse is obviously true.

You and the other downv^Wredditors read it without considering the context.

Kudos to you for taking such a brave decision. Can we know the story behind it?

Looks like there is a little bit of the story here: http://blog.inbox2.com/we-are-launching-a-new-product

PS. Just in case you're all wondering, their company name "Tabdelee" is Urdu for "change" as in 'We want to change the world '

Kya baat hai!

Badal do zamana!

nice catch :-)

and suddenly HN becomes a cartel of Urdu speakers ;-)

Does this work on Linux with Mono?

Anybody want to build and host the binary somewhere? I tried to build in Visual C# Express 2010 and was unsuccessful...

Hah didn't even know that was in there! :-)

Only thing I can say so far is that it looks nice ;-) Appreciate the work, I'll try to contribute if I get the chance.

This is awesome. I've been looking for something like this for Windows for a long time. You put some serious effort into this and it's beautiful.

FYI - for those looking to run this: open the non-64 bit solution, build it, then go to the installer directory and run the windows installer. Works really nicely.

The github page has a screenshot, but no features list. It could be a good idea to add one. Right now, I still don't have any idea of what makes your email client different from any other, and why I would want to use it.

Just got really excited about this and tried it on my iPad. I managed to set the accounts up no problem but on downloading data it just keeps bombing out on me, and now i cant get back into the app.

We just released a new version to the app store like 15 minutes ago, try again. Could you send me a crash report to waseem@inbox2.com otherwise? thx

How do i send you a crash report? - Sorry im rather average when it comes to iOS

I tried the new update, its definitely a little more stable but it's still bombing out on me :(

Follow the instructions on this page: https://culturedcode.com/things/wiki/index.php/Sending_crash... but e-mail them to waseem@inbox2.com


I also wondered about the story. Looks like they made an iPad version instead: http://www.inbox2.com

He started writing this just to open source it...



Well not entirely true, that other post is actually about a experimental gmail plugin that I made. It hooked up in gmail and added something that we call the people centric inbox, never released tho

This looks amazing, and I'm looking forward to compiling and running it on my Windows machine later today. I'm accustomed to simple and elegant apps like Sparrow and Mail.app on OS X and get really frustrated when I have to use clunky Windows mail readers. This looks like a huge step forward in many ways. Great job, and thanks for sharing.

Looks great, maybe you can monetise it by bundling some add on web services? xobni / rapportive / cloud backup & search?


They relaxed the Objective C only position quite some time ago.


Jiangmin 13.0.900 2011.10.07 Adware/Agent.gmc

False Scan or Thread?

You do realize that you scanned the installer and not the msi package or the contents of it, thereby making your scan almost useless?

Hmm build the installer yourself if you don't trust it, beauty of open source :-)

Interesting though...

Building it yourself doesn't protect you from malicious code. Some better advice would be to review the code yourself before building.

Could we a have a binary version, please? It would definitely help evaluating your project.

I will compile an installer version later. Keep an eye on the github page for updates.

There already is an installer in the repo. https://github.com/waseems/inbox2_desktop/tree/master/Code/C...

I think I was using your inbox2.com web version. I was a fan of that. I know, this might be too much to ask, but can you open source that too?

The thing is, I've have never quite learnt to parse raw mime email. I don't quite get the million RFC rules imposed.

And great work!

I used it may be once when it was in beta and then never touched. The thing is, C# as well as Java have poor startup time which becomes the biggest problem of using any of such applications.

I don't always have a SSD on my computers.

First of all, Thank you for the contribution to the OSS community but I just have to ask one question. With all the language wars and what not:

1. This is written in C#, correct? 2. Two full years of your life - do you literally mean 40+ Hours/week?

If this took two full years as in 40hours/week or working on it full time, I'm shocked it took two years. SMTP, POP3, and IMAPv4 are exceedingly simple protocols and the UI just seems to look like standard controls, no custom UI elements. Just had to ask.

I know I could probably whip together a decent email client in C++ within a couple months from scratch and maybe a week or two if I used any number of libraries out there.

1. correct 2. not as a paying fulltime job, but still probably around 30-40 hours a week 3. good luck with that, I also thought I could whip up the first version in 3 months... :-) Its not writing the code that takes so damn long its getting the machine and the user experience/expectance aligned.

thank you for being so honest.

A full answer would take a whole book, but could you outline what part of the process was unwieldy, and what you had to rewrite as you learned more about the user experience?

In particular, since you are using WPF, would you have altered your prototyping process so that it was more user experience focussed?

I will probably do a full blog post today on all the questions asked here then submit that to HN

"I know I could probably whip together a decent email client in C++ within a couple months from scratch and maybe a week or two if I used any number of libraries out there."

Want to know how I know that you've never written an email client?

Wow, as soon as I saw the screenshot I thought: "Beautiful." It kind of reminds me of the Mozilla Raindrop project. That is just a really great UI.

Just browsing the code on Github I noticed that there aren't any unit tests. I'd be interested in seeing what type of testing you did.

The screenshot looks amazing. You should be proud! Well done!

Are you planning to make a profit? Did you always intend to open source it?

My first thought was "oh, another e-mail client", but it has some very nifty features. Well done.

Sent a pull request, by the way.

98 compilation errors out of the box, this is going to be a long afternoon, but looks like it's worth it!

Actually make sure that you choose the x86 in the configuration manager dropdown and everything goes away.

Sorry, should have mentioned it in the README, will update later

Yeah, don't use the 64bit. The non-64 worked great for me. After that go to the installer directory and run the installer.

One of the most Mac-like Windows apps I have ever seen, barring iTunes & Safari, of course.

I'm not a big fan of OSX, but I would never be so cruel to it to say that iTunes is "Mac like".

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Good work Waseem/Khuram. Inbox2 going to live on for the iPad? Moving into 500?

thx, yes and yes :-)

A good addition to the readme might be to say what operating system it's for.

Swish. Very sexy. I love it

Thank you. I admire your contribution to the public. :)

Looks good! It reminds me of Sparrow for Mac a bit.

So where do I download the binary for windows?

I'll reply here as well, there is an installer in the repo. https://github.com/waseems/inbox2_desktop/tree/master/Code/C...

I think you'll have to compile it, looks like a C# project.

Any blog links?

"Second" on the desire for some blog links - or other links to info on your work, process, project info, etc.

is the ipad port also in C#? How do you make something so native-looking?

Its native objective-c / built in xcode

Beautiful. Big fan.

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