Popper - the e-mail notifier and indicator

  11 years ago

This tutorial is taken from the Help page of the Popper Configurator. The Popper software and the related documentation is available under the GPL license and its authors are Ralf Hersel and Patrick Benz.

1. Introduction

Popper is an application to notify about new emails from one or more POP3 or IMAP email servers. New emails are notified on the Gnome Desktop for the Linux Mint Main Edition (based on Ubuntu), in the indicator menu on the panel and by means of notification bubbles. Emails can also be displayed directly on the desktop.
It consists of two parts. The configurator (popper_config.py) let you make all settings that are used by Popper (popper.py) itself. It comes with a graphical user interface and is started from menu: applications->internet->popper configurator. Popper itself is a background application that just shows up in the indicator menu and with notification bubbles for new emails.
The configurator provides a lot of settings. Don't be discouraged, you only need to set correct email account entries. All other options can be done later on demand. Please read this help text to understand the meaning of the advanced settings.

2. Installation

Popper is available as a DEB archive and is installed with the Debian-Installer (gdebi). After successful installation you will find a new entry in menu: applications->internet named 'Popper Configurator' which starts the configurator. The installer also creates or removes an entry to your autostart list.

3. How it works

Popper reads in defined intervals the inbox of your POP3 or IMAP email server via SSL or non SSL if the server does not support SSL.
Sender and subject are listed in the indicator menu.
The number of new emails shows up in the notification bubble. Popper compares new entries with emails that were already notified and informs only about the new ones.
The application does not delete any emails from your server, it only reads them. Deleting the entries of your inbox remains a task of your email client, e.g. Evolution, Thunderbird, etc. Popper does not communicate with your email client, it only knows the inbox of your server.
Information about already notified emails can be kept beyond a computer session. Optionally Popper saves your messages and does not notify them as 'new' when you start your PC next time.
Popper checks your inbox every n minutes. How does this work? First Popper check for an internet connection. Without a connection the check is repeated every 5 seconds. This ensures that your computer is re-connected in case you were temporarily offline, e.g. you lost WLAN connection because you are roaming. If you are online, Popper tries to connect to your email server. If it fails, the program will try again after 30 seconds. In case it fails again, Popper connects the next email server in the list (if any at all). If no server could be reached, Popper repeats the whole procedure after n minutes when it makes its next check.

4. Configurator

The Popper Configurator is started from menu: applications->internet->popper configurator. It contains different areas for the settings which are arranged in tabs at the upper window edge.
If you close the Configurator it will start Popper itself. If Popper is already running, it will be terminated and then restarted.

4.1. Tab 'General'

Checkbox: Start Popper automatically after login
If this one is checked, an entry in your autostart folder will be created. When you start your computer or restart the session, Popper is started automatically. Unchecking this option will delete the autostart entry.
4.2. Tab 'Accounts'

Enter the email accounts that you want to be checked for new emails. On the left side you see the list of your accounts. The right side lets you enter details for a selected account.
Account List (left side)
Checkbox: On
Switch this checkbox to include or exclude email accounts from beeing retrieved from the server. You can enter all your email accounts and switch them on or off on demand.
Text: Name
The name of your email provider, e.g.: GMX, Gmail.
This text is only used for displaying the provider, it is not used for the connection to your email server. The name can be changed on the right side (see below).
Button: Import
This feature imports existing email accounts from Ubuntu Keyring. For each detected account you will be asked to add it to the account list.
For each new account you should check if the imported fields are correct, activate the account (switch 'on') and change the imported acccount name to something meaningfull.
Button: Add
Click this button to add a new account. The name and the other mandatory
fields (server, user, password) (see below) must be entered. Enable the checkbox 'On' if you want Popper to check this email account.
Button: Delete
Removes the selected account from the list.

Account Details (right side)
Text: Name
The name of your email provider, e.g.: GMX, Gmail.
This text is only used for displaying the provider, it is not used for the connection to your email server.
Text: Server
Name of the POP server of your email provider, e.g.: pop.gmx.net or imap.googlemail.com. This entry is used to connect to your email provider.
Text: User
Name of your email user account which is usually identical to your e-mail address, e.g.: john.doe@gmx.net.
Text: Password
There must be a password for each user account. Characters are shown as dots. Passwords are managed by Gnome-Keyring. When you key it in for the first time or modify an existing password, all changes will be stored to Keyring. Popper retrieves your passwords when checking for new emails.
Therefore the Keyring has to be unlocked at every start of a user-session unless the password has been set to BLANK. If want to know more about keyring you should take a look at the programm "Seahorse" or its
documentation. Seahorse can be found in Ubuntu menu: system->preferences->passwords and encryption.
Checkbox: IMAP
You email accounts are either connected via POP or IMAP. In most cases this can be detected by looking at the server name, e.g.: 'pop.gmx.net'.
If it is 'IMAP' you must switch-on the checkbox, in case of 'POP' you must uncheck the box. If you are not sure, leave it unchecked.
Text: Folders
For IMAP accounts you can enter a list of folders that are checked for new emails. Multiple entries must be separated by comma. If this field is empty, Popper will always check your 'INBOX' folder. If you enter
folder names, you must enter 'INBOX' explicitly if the inbox should be checked.
'Gmail' supports labels instead of folders. In contrast to folders, one e-mail can appear under multiple labels. In this case Popper prevents duplicated emails in the indicator list.
Text: Port
If a special port is required to access the email server, you can enter the port number in this field. Normally you don't have to fill it in.
Text: Check Frequency (valid for all accounts)
Popper checks your inbox on the server every n minutes for new emails.
This entry determines the time between the checks. Maximum value is 1440 (24 hours), minimum is 1 minute. Some email providers restrict frequent queries by blocking the request; you should consider this if you choose a low value.
Checkbox: Check only once (valid for all accounts)
Usually Popper repeatedly checks the inbox on the email server. If this option is active, the program will check the inbox only once and terminates afterwards. Choose this option if you just want to have a single email check when you start your computer. You avoid that Popper is running constantly in the background.
4.3. Tab 'Indicate'

Text: Headline
This text is shown as a headline in the indicator menu.
Text: Headline command
Enter a command to start an email client of your choice, e.g.: Evolution, Thunderbird, etc. Whenever you click on the headline in the indicator menu this command will be called. Please understand that Popper does not communicate with an email client, it only mirrors the inbox on your email server. If you don't know the correct command for your email client, just try it in a terminal or look at the settings in the application menu.
The headline command can also be used for a click on the Desktop Display (cf. 4.5.).
Checkbox: Show Sender
Enable this option if you want to see the sender of an email in the indicator message.
Selection: John Doe, john.doe@gmx.net
Choose between the natural sender name or the email address. This is shown in the indicator message. If the email does not contain a natural name, the address is displayed instead.
Checkbox: Show Subject
Choose if the email subject is shown in the indicator message.
Text: Max. subject length
Enter a number that determines at which character position the email's subject is truncated. If the subject is longer than this length, it will be indicated by some dots '...' at the end. This setting helps to control the overall length of the message line.
The max. length is also applied to the subject text in the email list that is shown in a separate window for summary entries (Summarize by provider).
Selection: Subject-Sender, Sender-Subject
Choose the order of the message line in the indicator menu. Select if you want to see 'subject' first or 'sender' first.
Checkbox: Show provider in front of message
If you query more than one email account it is helpful to show the provider name in front of the message.
Selection: Sort by date, Summarize by provider
Choose if the entries in the notification list shall be sorted by date or by provider. Sorting by date will put the latest emails on top of the list (independent of the email account).
The age of an email is shown in a circle at the very right. This may be seconds (s), minutes (m), hours (h), days (d), weeks (w), months (M) or years (Y).
If you choose to summarize by provider one entry per provider will be displayed with the number of new emails next to it. A click on such an entry will open a list of the emails of that provider in a separate window.
Checkbox: Remember last session
If this option is disabled, Popper will notify all emails from the server's inbox again and again with each restart of the computer. You can prevent this behaviour by setting this checkbox. In this case the program will store the status of notified emails wherefore they are not notified again when you restart.
Checkbox: Remove entry after click on single email
If this option is enabled, you can remove a single email entry in the indicator menu by clicking on it. No further action will be done. Therefore this option only makes sense in combination with a user script. You can utilize user script 'Click on an email in the indicator menu' to start a meaningful action. (This feature is experimental.)
Checkbox: Show only new emails
This option is meant for users who do not clear their inbox on the email server (either by means of their email-client or if they read emails in the web-browser and keep read emails in the inbox). Normally Popper mirrors the inbox and lists all emails in the indicator menu. If this option is switched on, Popper only shows new emails in the indicator menu (either as an entry per email or as a counter for each provider).
As soon as you click the headline or the 'clear' function (see 'special commands') all emails are marked as 'seen' and will not listed again in the indicator menu. However the summary display (either by function 'list'
or by clicking on e.g. GMX(3)) will show all emails of the inbox(es).
As an example it is possible that clicking on GMX(3) will show seven e-mails in the summary window. That means you have 3 new e-mails but a total of 7 e-mails in your GMX inbox. There is no way to mark a single
email in the indicator menu as 'seen'.
Checkbox: Clear email list after click
Your email client can either delete received emails from the server or keep it on the server. If you set-up your email client to delete emails from the server's inbox, you should check this option in order to clean up the indicator list as soon as you click the headline. The green envelope (with standard theme) in the panel will also be reset to 'neutral'. If you keep emails on the server you should not check this option to avoid repetitive filling of the indicator list with emails that you already know about.
Menu Entries:
You can have up to three functional entries in your indicator menu. The will appear on top of your email list. Each menu item has a command that is executed when you click on the menu entry. Menu entries can also be achieved in the Desktop Display by right-clicking the mouse on it (cf. 4.5.).
Checkbox on the very left
Check this box if you want to show the menu entry at all.
Textfield on the left 'Menu entries'
Contains the name of the menu entry as it will be shown in the indicator menu. The default settings are: 'Write new email' and 'Open address book'. These names can be adapted according to your
Textfield on the right 'Commands for menu entries'
Contains the corresponding command for that menu entry. The default settings are: 'evolution mailto:' und 'evolution -c contacts'.
These command are valid for the email-client 'Evolution'; you can adapt the commands for your prefered email-client, e.g. Thunderbird. Search in the Internet if you don't know the correspondig commands.
Special Commands
You can enter some special commands in the text field on the right:
'exit'    Terminates Popper
'clear'    Clears the list of emails in the indicator menu
'check' Checks for new emails immediately
'list'    Show all new emails in a separate window
        See also: "Summarize by provider"
4.4. Tab 'Notify'

Checkbox: Notify on new emails
Enabling this option causes a notification bubble for new emails.
The bubble remains about 10 seconds on the screen before it vanishes.
If this checkbox is disables you will not be notified about new emails except by the envelope in the panel which will turn to green (with standard theme).
Textfield: Text for one new email
This text is shown in the notification bubble if you receive only one new email. Also sender and subject of the email is shown.
Textfield: Text for multiple new emails
This text is shown in the notification bubble if you receive more than one new email.
Checkbox: Play sound on new emails
Enabling this option causes a sound played whenever new emails
arrive. This event comes together with the notification bubble.
The sound file is 'popper.wav' and it is played with 'aplay', which
is preinstalled in Ubuntu.
Text: Sound file
Enter the name or path of a music file that will be played when new e-mails arrive. The program 'aplay' is utilized to play the file. Supported format is 'wav' but not 'mp3'.
The 'Select' button besides opens a file chooser dialog which opens the OpenOffice.org sound library as default.
Button: Play Sound
Press this button to test the selected sound file. If 'Speak notification text' is enabled, it will also speak that text after the sound file.
Checkbox: Speak notification text
When you enable this option, Popper will speak the notification text for one or multiple new emails after the sound file is played.
4.5. Tab 'Desktop'

The Desktop Display is an alternative way of displaying your new emails.
It is a frameless and transparent window that can be positioned and sized as you like it. New emails are shown with their sender, date and subject in a subsequent list. The horizontal and vertical limits of the displayed text depend on the dimensions of the window. You can influence it by setting the width and height.
Checkbox: Enable Desktop Display
Switch it on if you want to show the Desktop Display.
Text: Display Position (x, y)
Enter the absolute position (in pixels) of the display's upper left corner. (0, 0) is on the very left/top corner of your screen. x is the horizontal (left to right) and y the vertical (top to bottom) position.
If your settings exceeds the max. dimensions of your screen, you will not see the Desktop Display.
Text: Display Size (width, height)
These are the dimensions of the window itself. Width is the horizontal dimension and height the vertical one. Display Size is also used to calculate the end of text lines and the end of the email list.
A truncated text line or an incomplete email list is indicated by '...'
Background Color and Transparency
Clicking on Background Color will open a color selection dialog. A transparency value of 0% means complete opaqueness whereas 100% means complete transparency of the Desktop Display. The best value depends on the color of your desktop wallpaper; just try it.
CAUTION: On complete transparency it may happen that you accidentally click on the invisible range of the Desktop Display which will cause the configured behaviour ('close', launching the headline command) with
such a click (see below).
Textcolor and Font
This lets you select the color of text on the Desktop Display and its font type and size. The best text color also depends on the level of transparency and the color of your desktop wallpaper.
Checkboxes: close and launch headline command
These checkboxes control what happens when you click on the Desktop Display. 'Close' lets the window disappear from the desktop but does not delete email entries from the Indicator menu. 'Launch headline command' will start the command that you entered in the field 'Headline command' on the tab 'Indicate'. It also clears the Indicator menu entries and resets the indicator envelope in the panel. This can be used to start your e-mail client.
Button: Preview (on/off)
This button shows or closes the Desktop Display to let you check your settings. The 'close' and/or 'launch headline command' features are not available in preview mode. The preview display shows some example text but no real emails.
The menu entries, which can be configured for the indicator menu (cf. 4.3.), can also be shown and launched in the Desktop Display by right-clicking the mouse on it.
4.6. Tab 'Script'

You can configure your own shell scripts or commands that are executed on the occurance of an event in Popper. Currently two different events are supported:
- Reception of new emails
- Reception of no new emails
- Click on an email in the indicator menu
- click on a summary entry in the indicator menu
Tic the checkbox on the left to allow Popper to launch your scripts when the specific event happens. It is mandatory to have an entry in the 'Script File' text field when the checkbox is switched on. The text field may contain a command or the path and filename of your shell script. The button on the right opens a file chooser that points per default to: /home/user/.popper. You are free to choose any other directory of your choice, but keept in mind that the shell script must be executable (you can set this with the file access rights in your file manager).
When a script for the event 'Click on email' occurs, three arguments will be passed to script: 'sender, datetime, subject'.
When a script for the event 'Click on summary entry' occurs, two arguments will be passed to script: 'account name, number of emails'.
4.7. Tab 'Filter'

The filter allows you to prevent unwanted emails from displaying in Popper. The checkbox 'apply filter' switches the filter function on/off.
You can enter filter words in the text field 'filter text'. Such words must be separated by comma. Spaces and line breaks are allowed. Upper and lower case do not matter. If the filter feature is switched on,
Popper will compare sender and subject text of each incoming email with the words in your filter text. If any of the words occur in the subject text, the email will not be displayed by Popper.
ATTENTION: the filter function has no influence on your email programs like Evolution or Thunderbird.
4.8. Tab 'Test'

The button 'Test Email Connection' will check the connectivity to your emails provider(s). If you have more than one email account they will be checked one after another. The text-box underneath the bottom shows the test results. That helps to test if your settings are correct. You should not start Popper itself without succeeding this test.
If you receive any error messages you should check:
- typos in the fields: Server, User, Password
- do you really have a connection to the internet?
- is the connection blocked by your provider because of frequent
Repeat this test whenever you change the settings. If this test fails also Popper will never work correctly.
4.9. Tab 'Help'

Shows this help text. The language depends on the country settings of your computer. Currently only 'German' and 'English' is supported. 'English' will be shown for all countries except Germany.
4.10. Buttons 'Restore', 'Cancel', 'Save & Exit'

At the bottom of the window you can find three buttons: 'Save & Exit' will store all settings and closes the application.
Then it will start Popper. If Popper is already running it will be closed and restarted. Therefore you don't have to restart your computer to get the changed settings active.
'Restore' takes the last stored values and discards your current changes. Restoring is useful if you made any mistakes during your setup.
Pay attention when using the 'Cancel' button. It will exit the program immediatelly. Nothing will be saved and Popper will not be started right after you closed the Configurator.

5. Indicator menu

For a standard Ubuntu installation you will find three entries in the indicator menu: Chat, E-Mail and Messages. These items start the associated standard program.
5.1. Making Changes

If you do not need one of the entries, because the program is not being
used or because 'E-Mail' was replaced by Popper, you can adapt the menu.
Open the direcotry /usr/share/indicators/messages/applications/ and
delete the according file. Each entry has a correspind file:
- empathy for Chat
- evolution for E-Mail
- gwibber for Nachrichten
Each file contains a refer to starter for the application, which is
stored in the diretory /usr/share/applications/
5.2. Evolution-specific entries

Things change, if evolution is set up, as there are two more entries
after 'E-Mail':
- Write New Message
- Contacts
This entries do not have their own file in the directory /usr/share/indicators/messages/applications/ Instead, the application starter is responsible for the entries. If you want to delete them, you have to adapt the starter. Therefore open the starter with a texteditor and remove the following:
- the line 'X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=Compose;Contacts'
- the sections [Compose Shortcut Group] and [Contacts Shortcut Group]
Finally save the changes.
5.3. Remarks

It is strongly recommended not to delete a file or change it, directly.
Instead make sure that you have a copy at another location. You can just move it back later if you want to undo the changes.
Of course you need root rights to perform any file system operation in the directories /usr/share/indicators/messages/applications/ and /usr/share/applications/.
You might need to restart your system before the changes affect the menu.

6. Bugs, Questions, Forum

Bugs are reported here (english): https://bugs.launchpad.net/popper

Answers are asked here (english): https://answers.launchpad.net/popper

Requirements and discussions happen here (german):

End of tutorial.

bergamot 11 years ago

I've just installed fresh Mint 11. There's pre-installed Indicator Applet Complete available to add on the panel.

OK, I've got that added. I can see now Pulse Audio Volume, Keyboard Layout, Network Manager, Session Control and -- now green or any color envelope from Popper. And my Popper is version 0.29 from the official PPA. It's customized and works well -- however I can get the info only by the Desktop Display.

Can you give me some new hint to work out this? Maybe I have to switch off this Desktop Display to enable the green envelope in Indicator Applet? I've got no other ideas.

bergamot 11 years ago

Thanks. But currently I'm using Linux Mint 10 and Popper 0.28 through added PPA.

Alexio 11 years ago

You need to install the Indicator Applet, a small applet to display information from various applications consistently in the panel.

Also you should use the latest popper version 0.29.2-1~getdeb1 that is available for the Linux Mint 11 Main Edition in the repositories.

bergamot 11 years ago

I can't see any green envelope on my panel. What's wrong, can you help me? I can see only Desktop Display when Popper check mails. I used Popper PPA, downloaded app from there.