I am looking for a pure elisp email program to examine and potentially modify.

  • 6
    I suspect you would get less downvotes if you'd explain your motivation, be it because you're on Windows or would like to not require elaborate mail fetching setup or anything else. Examining an Emacs mail client is possible, regardless of whether it chose to shell out to external programs or not.
    – wasamasa
    Nov 6, 2015 at 18:32
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    Welcome to Emacs.SE. As a general rule, it's wise to do a little background research on your question before posting. A google search for "emacs email" gives the EmacsWiki node on "Mail" as its first hit, and that page has links for the various email programs near the top.
    – Dan
    Nov 6, 2015 at 19:39
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    I sincerely don't understand the downvotes. There is a finite number of MUAs written in Emacs Lisp, and it is entirely possible that some of them implement whatever protocol is needed in Emacs Lisp rather than outsourcing it to other programs. I just don't know the answer, but it's plausible that someone does.
    – wvxvw
    Nov 7, 2015 at 9:53
  • 1
    I think all Emacs MUAs will use external programs in some cases. I also think that (except for MH-E) they should all be partly usable without running external programs. So the answer to your question varies between "all" and "none" depending on the specifics. Please give more details.
    – Stefan
    Nov 9, 2015 at 14:28
  • My main concern with the question is that "mail program" is not well defined. Downloading/syncing, triaging, finding, reading, writing and sending mails are actions that can all be done with different programs. Some of these can even be done in multiple ways (e.g. accessing emails via IMAP vs POP3 vs a local mbox vs local maildir, etc.).
    – YoungFrog
    May 4, 2016 at 8:48

2 Answers 2


The following Emacs mailers are written entirely in Emacs Lisp:

  • RMAIL;
  • Gnus;
  • Wanderlust;
  • VM.

The following Emacs mailers are mostly written in Lisp, but use some components written in C:

  • Notmuch;
  • mu4e;
  • MH-E;
  • Mew.

All of them, as far as I am aware. I use Gnus myself. You can see the IMAP protocol parsing in nnimap.el, POP3 in pop3.el, etc.

  • 4
    mu4e is not entirely elisp since it relies on external programs.
    – Qudit
    Nov 7, 2015 at 7:21

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