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Last update: 2004-01-12

Mail::Box 2, First Progress Report

[Improving Mail::Box — concluded in 2003]

14 May 2003, Mark Overmeer, MARKOV Solutions

In the previous months

In the first three months of the second phase of the Mail::Box project, most effort was put in promotional activities and user support.

To describe the development since the end of Mail::Box phase 1:

1. Participation in the German Perl Workshop

Four talks were presented, of which two were Mail::Box related:
a) User::Identity and Mail::Identity (45 minutes talk, slides)

This subject is more e-mail related than the names of these new modules sound. These classes will help implement unicode use for e-mail by providing simple ways of configuration.

User definitions on a system reaches much further than username and password: languages, character set, pgp keys etc. call for a structural approach, which this module hopes to provide.

b) MIME Headers (15 minutes talk, slides)

E-mail MIME headers are terribly complicated when implemented in the full extend of the RFCs. Demonstrated is how Mail::Box hides all complications for common use.

The slides of both talks are published on the conference CD and on a website. Besides, I organized

E-mail BoF session
In a group of 14 we discussed our e-mail related work, ideas, problems, and needs. The participants received the minutes of meeting to keep in touch in the future.

2. Preparations to YAPC North America

It took considerable effort to get an invitation to speak on the YAPC::NA conference, which will taken place in June. Efforts to get a talk on OSCON2003 were in vain. About 90 is available for me to fill with one or two talks. Probably 45 minutes on pure Mail::Box, and the other half on a related subject (probably OODoc). I will produce a new Mail::Box talk especially for this conference.

3. Mail::Box documentation

In the last year, the documentation of Mail::Box was improved in many ways. Next to the traditional POD manual pages, it also became capable of producing manual pages in HTML using all the benefits of HTML. This production of manual pages grew into a large script, which attracted other people's attention.

In the recent months, the way Mail::Box creates documentation was reimplemented into a separate module named OODoc. It became a documentation system which can handle raw documents from various sources, and generate manual pages in different formats.

The OODoc has already attracted quite some attention. I gave a talk about the ideas on the German Perl Workshop, a demonstration on how to use it at the monthly Dutch Perl Mongers meeting, and O'Reilly asked for an article about this subject for their Perl website

The re-implementation of the documentation tool gave the opportunity to enforce more strict checking to fight documentation inconsistencies. Mail::Box has been converted to use the new system (location). OODoc also provides better ways to navigate between the available examples and tutorials. The structure is better to understand for (new) users.

4. Releases

The Mail::Box module had a new release about every three weeks. The previous period showed mainly bug-fix releases. Many different people contributed reports or even patches.

version 2.042: will be released this week
version 2.041: Thu May  8 14:05:32 CEST 2003
version 2.040: Mon Apr 14 15:48:54 CEST 2003
version 2.039: Sun Mar 30 17:34:43 CEST 2003
version 2.038: Wed Feb 26 16:20:03 CET 2003
version 2.037: Sun Feb 23 14:53:50 CET 2003
version 2.036: Thu Feb 13 18:18:29 CET 2003

5. Mailinglist

The mailinglist seems to work well. The archive shows the following counts

2003-05-01 - 2003-06-13 38 messages
2003-04-01 - 2003-05-01 104 messages
2003-03-01 - 2003-04-01 92 messages
2003-02-01 - 2003-03-01 138 messages

My personal trace contains 560 messages directly related to Mail::Box, and many dozens for related modules.

6. Outlook support

Using the external Mail::Transport::Dbx module, it now is possible to read Outlook Express DBX files. Adding, deleting or updating message is not supported by that module, and therefore not doable with Mail::Box.

Now Outlook DBX files can be read, they can easily be converted to Mbox, MH or Maildir format.

7. New message rebuild functionality

A new realm of possibilities has been opened with the new "message rebuild" infra-structure. This feature offers an extendible set of macros which can be used to alter (improve) an existing message. For instance: it can be used to remove html alternatives of text parts, create a text alternative for html only messages, remove empty bodies and multiparts without parts, etc.

Plans for the near future

The coming weeks, I will focus on my contributions to YAPC::NA (June, Florida) and YAPC::Europe (July, Paris). Both conferences will be used to show people the way to Mail::Box, for which I will produce a new talk.

Completing the unicode MIME headers, and everything which relates to that, will be my main focus of software development.

An offer by LinuxJournal for a publication about Mail::Box will be studied further.