Kushal Das

FOSS and life. Kushal Das talks here.


Emails: my kryptonite

My first experience of Internet was in 1999, I also made my first ever email account on the same day. A lot of things have changed from then. I don't have to pay Rs.120 per hour (which was way more than my monthly allowance at that time) anymore to access the Internet, or no long queue of waiting to get access to a computer in the Internet center. As a note, my village did not have an Internet center at that time, I had to visit the nearest town Durgapur to have access to the Internet.


Around 2005, I created my Gmail ID, kushaldas AT Gmail. I was happy to have one single final email ID, which I can keep using forever. And, it was like that for many years, till the time I suddenly figured out that I am getting way too many emails from different lists. I was not being able to follow all the emails anymore, even though I made many filters to move the emails to different labels (I thought they are normal folders, but it seems they are not in the case of Gmail). Deleting emails also became a troublesome work.

Suddenly, emails became one of my weakness. I was not being able to reply on time to everything, I was not being able to find the mails which I wanted. I started loosing emails. There are too many emails in my Gmail INBOX, sometimes the Google web interface happily crashed while I tried to delete a lot of emails together.


Meanwhile a few years back I moved to mutt as my primary email client. Things were better for the first few months, at least mutt was very fast to open my big INBOX than the other clients. Btw, the emails are all locally cached using the mbsync tool (part of isync package). But, then I discovered the problem of deleting the emails from the mutt interface for Gmail. The standard delete option just untags the mail, but it stays back in the All Mails folder. My Gmail storage space slowly started filling up.

I later figured out that I move my emails to the trash for a proper delete. But, that was taking more time. And, after filling up the free 15GB, I had to start paying to Google to have more space.

mail AT kushaldas.in

Around a year back, I created this email ID. This is maintained by Kolab, and they are simply awesome. A pure FOSS solution provided by folks who really value the freedom. The IMAP also works following the standard IMAP interface, no fancy things non-standard features like Gmail. I am using imapfilter tool to have more control over the mail filters. mutt is still the mail client for this account too. As I moved most of the work to this account, I still did not delete emails on time.

Clean up process

This week, during my regular 1x1 with my manager Paul Frields, he showed me some details about how he manages his Gmail account. I never knew so much about the search/filter system. I am yet to try out all the options he showed. But, yesterday, I once again tried to clean up.

First, I deleted all the different mailing list folders in my personal ID, just going to the folder, and then pressing D~A was enough to mark all the emails in that folder for deletion. After that, I had to go through the whole INBOX, and delete all the random emails, I kept selecting by pressing Ctrl+d, and in every few minutes pressed $ to clean up. Later, when I ran the mbsync tool, it synced and cleaned up space as I hoped for.

Now, for Gmail, I deleted emails using the web interface for the random mailing lists, and later when I tried to clean the trash, the web frontend was not that happy and crashed a few times. I was deleting emails in 66K, 20K, and 12K batches.

But, even after deleting more than 100K emails, I can find there are still around 236K emails in my main INBOX, and out of those around 30K are unread. I am going to take a lot more time to select them carefully, and then delete them. If you have any tips to mark emails to delete from the archive during this process, please let me know. That will help me a lot :)

Replying to emails

For the last few months, I am trying to reply to the emails as soon as I am reading them. Whenever I used to think that I will wait for some free time, and then write a response after thinking, I never sent out a reply to those emails :(. At least by replying then and there, things are better for me. I am replying to the emails on time and not loosing emails.