The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Introducing Lichen

[screenshot of message list in Lichen] E-mail is something that’s fairly important to me, and I need to be able to check it from the Web. So when setting up a new mail server a few months ago, I looked around at the open-source webmail clients, hoping in particular for something with an AJAX interface. But none of the available options seemed good enough.

Thus, I enlisted Daniel‘s aid and we started to write our own.

It’s called Lichen, and you can get it (or just play with the demo) at

Lichen is in many ways an agglomeration of stuff shamelessly copied out of other software. It’s built as a standalone IMAP client, just like SquirrelMail (which I love dearly, but is a little dated). The interface is heavily influenced by the big G’s e-mail service. The install procedure is basically a clone of that of WordPress (rename lichen-config-example.php to lichen-config.php …).

[screenshot of settings pane in Lichen] Lichen has two main components: a set of scripts on the server side use the PHP IMAP routines to talk to your server and handle meaty affairs like character encoding, then pass the results as JSON to an AJAX frontend. That interface is written using mootools, taking advantage of such time-savers as Json.decode, .toQueryString(), and the Class construct.

This release is version 0.3 and should be considered very much an alpha — parts of the code are grotesque hastily-cobbled-together hacks, and it lacks such trivial features as an address book. But we hope to fix these matters soon and get Lichen good enough to become everyone’s webmail client of choice.

(I will be presenting an in-person version of this post at Webjam Perth tomorrow evening.)

  1. Awesome work dude!

  2. Out of curiosity, why did you reject roundcube? It’s shiny and AJAXy; it’s set up somewhere at the UCC if you want to have a play with it.

  3. RoundCube is good, but it’s more complex to set up (in that it requires a database) … and I’m not a big fan of AJAX applications that try to imitate desktop apps :-)

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