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Is there a GUI-based mail reader that I can call with the path to an arbitrary mbox file or Maildir directory? In other words, a mail reader that does not insist on storing all mail in a single place in the file system? I'd like to store mail and other files organized by task or topic, for easier backup and sharing.

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man mutt

-f mailbox
Specify which mailbox to load.
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Thanks for the reminder about mutt, which I have used in the distant past. But nowadays I am used to GUI-based mail readers, so I don't think I could go back to terminal mode. I modified my question accordingly. – khinsen Oct 18 '11 at 3:55

Evolution allows you to add arbitrary mailboxes in either mbox or maildir format. It will still store its information in its own private store though.

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Not quite perfect, but with a small support script it almost does what I need. Thanks! The solution I am testing consists of setting up an empty directory in Evolution as a Maildir store. Then I have a small script that removes everything from that directory and puts in a symbolic link to the Maildir I want to read. Then it runs evolution. The main limitation is that I can't open two Evolution instances for different Maildirs at the same time. – khinsen Oct 18 '11 at 13:53

Balsa (http://pawsa.fedorapeople.org/balsa/) can work with mailboxes (mbox or Maildir) anywhere in the file system. It's not perfect either (opening a mailbox from the command line doesn't work, although there's a documented option for this), but until now it's the best solution I found.

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