Using Elm with the Panix mail system

We have a version of Elm that will work with IMAP, although it is not entirely satisfactory. Elm is no longer under active development, and we do recommend using Mutt instead, but you can to continue using Elm if you truly prefer.

You cannot directly open a file in maildir format using "elm -f" as you can files in mbox format. If you try to use "elm -f" on a folder in maildir format, Elm will complain that that folder is a directory.

Furthermore, in order to make sure that Elm understands that it may encounter some folders in this format, you must first open it on an IMAP folder. That can be your inbox (in which case, you can just enter elm at the prompt, or another IMAP folder, in which case you must enter

elm -f {localhost}INBOX.foldername

If you start by opening Elm on a folder in mbox format, Elm will complain when you try to access maildir folders.

If you are used to saving messages to the default file using the "=" prefix, Elm will generate an unworkable filename. You can save the message, but not to the standard default folder.

Bearing this in mind, you can save mail from IMAP to mbox folders or from IMAP to IMAP folders, from mbox to IMAP and from mbox to mbox.

IMAP takes a little longer to index a long mail folder than the old system did. If Elm had Maildir access, this wouldn't be a problem; alas, it doesn't, and it's not being developed anymore. If the slowness is a real problem for you, we recommend switching to Mutt and using direct Maildir access.


If you only ever use Elm, and don't need a Webmail interface even for your Inbox, and never need POP, you can use Procmail to keep your mail coming to your old-style mbox inbox.

Note: You can still use the webmail interface to access its functions, including forwarding, two levels of spam control, and virus checking. Login to using your full email address (including "" if it's a Panix address) and your usual password.

Set your mail forwarding to use Procmail (| /usr/local/bin/procmail -t) by using the "forward -e" command from the shell or by using the Forwarding option (under Personal Information) in webmail).

Then edit your .procmailrc. Add these two lines near the beginning, before any recipes or INCLUDERCs.


Now your mail will keep coming to your old-style mailspool by default, and your IMAP/Webmail Inbox will stay empty.

You will need to tell Elm where to look for your mail. The MAIL environment variable controls this. You want to set it, using the syntax appropriate to your shell, in your .login or .profile, to $HOME/.mailspool/$LOGNAME.
No changes to Elm config are necessary, if you do this.

Last Modified:Tuesday, 22-Feb-2022 08:47:30 EST
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