Modern email readers have graphical interfaces and tend to offer similar features in a similar manner. In addition to delivering your electronic mail, most allow you to maintain contact lists and many include calendars. Email readers usually also let you read newsgroups, which are one of the oldest features in computer networking and still offer valuable communities and quick sources of information (if you can find groups untainted by scads of unsolicited commercial postings).
One of the most popular email readers and contact managers, Evolution, was described in Chapter 3. In this chapter, we show you some interesting ways to use other graphical email readers productively, and give you the background you need to carry out some more advanced tasks, such as delivering mail from a server to a local system using fetchmail, and protecting your mail with encryption.
Linux supports older, text-based tools for doing these things too. Elm and Pine are fast text-based readers that have managed to keep up pretty well with changes in modern email conventions, such as displaying files of different types and following URLs. A few people like the tried-and-true mail program, but it's generally used more in scripts to send mail automatically. These older tools are not discussed in this book.
At this point, it may be worthwhile to point out the difference between a Mail User Agent (MUA) and a Mail Transport Agent (MTA). The program that you interact with when reading or writing email messages is the Mail User Agent, like the ones described in this chapter. Mail Transport Agents are the software that then relays the messages across the Internet to the receiving party, which gets the message delivered into the inbox of his or her Mail User Agent. An example of a Mail Transport Agent is Postfix, which we describe in "The Postfix MTA" in Chapter 23.