Cone mail client


Cone is a screen-oriented E-mail/News reader and writer. If you are reading this documentation from within Cone, you are actually reading the simplified HTML version of Cone's documentation that's formatted as a folder of E-mail messages. Each online tutorial chapter appears as a separate message. Use PgUp and PgDn to read each chapter. Press N and P to move to the next/previous chapter.

Pressing Q on most screens exits Cone. Cone tries to gracefully log out and shut down all server connections. If Cone cannot log out of a remote server because the remote server is down, press CTRL-C (after Q to terminate Cone).

Use CTRL-Z to temporarily suspend Cone and drop back to the shell prompt. Cone remains suspended in the background, and may be restarted by using the shell's fg command.


Connections to remote mail servers may be disconnected for inactivity if Cone remains suspended for a prolonged period of time. When suspended, Cone cannot maintain any active connections to remote mail servers.

It might be more convenient to browse the full HTML documentation using your favorite web browser, at When Cone starts for the first time, it automatically creates a fake mail account called Online Tutorial. This fake mail account contains a stripped-down HTML version of the online documentation, which you are reading now. The terminal display must be at least 80 characters wide in order to be able to read Online Tutorial.

The Online Tutorial mail account can always be removed, but it might be convenient to keep it around for a quick consultation, from time to time, even though the full HTML version is a bit easier on the eyes.


Cone is a powerful, yet simple, text-based mail reader. Cone seamlessly handles multiple mail accounts simultaneously. Cone is capable of using the following kinds of mail accounts:

  • Local mail folders, or maildirs.

  • Remote POP3 and IMAP mail server accounts.

  • A simple newsgroup reader. Cone doesn't have sophisticated features found in dedicated newsreaders, and may be a bit slow and memory hungry when reading large Usenet newsgroups. However, Cone will prove to be an excellent, fast, reader of internal local newsgroups, accessible via a remote login.

  • Experimental SMAP mail server accounts.

Cone contains an experimental implementation of a new remote mail access protocol, SMAP. At this time, SMAP is implemented by the Courier-IMAP server. SMAP offers several improvements over traditional IMAP-based mail accounts, namely:

  • Names of SMAP folders may use the full UTF-8 character set. Most IMAP servers restrict certain characters from appearing in names of folders, due to their special meaning in the IMAP folder hierarchy.

  • Faster downloading of binary attachments. SMAP requires approximately 25% less bandwidth to download binary attachments.

  • Consolidated mail transmission. IMAP clients usually need to transmit a message twice, when mailing it. An IMAP client must first save the message in the IMAP server's Sent Mail folder. Afterwards, the IMAP client needs to send a second copy of the message, using SMTP, in order to deliver it to the listed recipients. When using SMAP, Cone transmits the message only one time; the server saves it to the Sent Mail folder, then mails it to its designated recipients.

    Of course, Cone is fully capable of using traditional SMTP, or running the local sendmail command.

Other features of Cone:

  • Full SSL/TLS support with IMAP, POP3, NNTP, SMTP, and SMAP. SASL CRAM-MD5/CRAM-SHA1 authentication (except for NNTP).

  • Built-in editor for creating messages.

  • Full UTF-8 support (requires the wide-character version of the Curses library).

  • Spell checker.

  • Local and remote (IMAP or SMAP-based) addressbooks.

  • Remote configuration (share a common configuration between different instances of Cone).

  • Cone tries to automatically customize itself to user's preferences, without requiring explicit configuration. Cone remembers the sorting order of each opened folder's index. When a folder is reopened, Cone sorts the folder using the same sort order used when the folder was opened last. Similarly, Cone memorizes user-configured mail headers. From:, and several other, mail headers are freely editable, and default to their contents the last time a new message was sent by replying to a message in the folder, or which was created while that folder was opened. A power user can easily use multiple mail accounts with Cone, and Cone will select the appropriate mail headers when replying to messages from each mail account.