Linux e-mail clients rant

I am really disappointed at the MUA offer I am finding for by Debian box. I have tried KMail, Thunderbird, Evolution and Claws Mail, and all of them fail at some point. All four errors are different, and all of them almost total showstoppers.

Note: I access my e-mail through Gmail IMAP. I don't really care if these MUAs are good at POP3 or whatever. I want good IMAP.

KMail 1.9.9

The GUI is nice, has all features I want, everything OK... It's just that browsing the remote folders is hopelessly slow. I can brush my teeth in the time it takes to delete a message, and I don't want to go into what I can do in the time it takes to move a message from one folder to another one.

Apparently this could be fixed in KMail2, which will come with KDE4. The problem is that I want it fixed now.

Thunderbird 2.0.0.14

This one is also very good in general. Actually, its problem is not due to itself. Its probably due to some bad interaction with X.org or something: everything works fine, but starting up and subsequent rendering/deleting of the window itself is really slow. If I minimize and maximize it back, it takes ages to reappear. I have this problem with TB and Firefox (actually Icedove and Iceweasel in Debian), and with no other program.

Evolution 2.22

Again, almost everything is fine. Almost. The single problem is that if the "To" and/or "From" fields in the message list contain non-ASCII characters, they appear garbled. Nowhere else does this happen. Even other fields, such as "Subject" can contain accents or ñ with no problem, as can the text body.

This would be a cosmetic issue I could live with, but there are two problems I can not tolerate: I do not want these errors to appear in the messages I send when replying to garbled messages, and more importantly, I have sometimes had recipient lists containing non-ASCII characters mangled. I don't want to click "Reply all" and end up sending the message to only 3 of the 10 recipients.

This problem will supposedly be fixed in version 2.23.

Claws-mail 3.4.0

Again and again, almost everthing is right. Now messages can contain non-ASCII chars anywhere, browsing folders is fast, manipulating/drawing/erasing the program window is fast... BUT, replying to a message, regardless of the settings one chooses, does not include the original message quoted. This seems a minor error. It isn't.

The thing that bugs me most is that I can not understand how these problems happen with free software packages. If you take KMail, Evolution and Claws, each one has a single error that the other two have already fixed... Couldn't they just copy each other? That is precisely the whole point of free software.

Couldn't KMail browse/scan/manipulate the IMAP folders with the efficient method Evolution and/or Claws use?

Couldn't Evolution display the message fields with the error-free method KMail and Claws use?

Couldn't Claws quote the original message as anyone else in the Universe does?

If only the three errors where not spread among the three MUAs, there would be one that I could use!

14 thoughts on “Linux e-mail clients rant

  1. Gmail's IMAP implementation sucks, last time I tried. Also, Claws does quote mails in replies by default, if it doesn't for you, it's due to a translation bug in 3.4.0. Look in Preferences/Compose/Templates (Reply and Forward tabs). A reply template like:

    On %D{%d %B %Y at %Hh%m}, %N wrote:

    Hi,

    %q

    Does include quote.
    See http://www.thewildbeast.co.uk/claws-mail/bugzilla/show_bug.cgi?id=1587 for the bug description, and http://www.colino.net/claws-mail/getpatchset.php?ver=3.4.0cvs23 for the fix.

    HTH,
    Colin, Claws dev :)

  2. Thanks a lot, Colin!

    It sure helped. Now it works.

    Anyway, I am confused by a discrepancy. I tried the template you provide at:

    Configuration->Preferences...->Compose->Templates->Reply

    But it didn't work. In fact, I had to add it to:

    Configuration->Prefences for current account...->Account->Templates->Reply

    I also don't understand why there are two places to input the preference. Apparently they are a "general" pref and a "specific for this account" pref settings... but it always seems to use the specific, even if it is not set, so the general one is superfluous.

  3. There are 2 places because Claws Mail supports multiple accounts, and although the standard Reply might be good for all of them, perhaps you want a different one for mail sent with a particular account.

  4. What do you consider "good"?

    For some people, speed is a must, so the command-line client Mutt (often mentioned with source patches to add a folder list to the side of the screen) is a common choice. You can find many examples of muttrc files that work well with Gmail's special IMAP folders with a simple Google search.

    I stuck with Thunderbird for many moons, loving IMAP but resisting Gmail, and using a self-hosted Roundcube install for access while I was away from my desk. I finally caved, got Gmail, and found prefer the Gmail web interface to any PC-based client. It's one of the best changes I ever made.

  5. By the way, I can't stand Evolution either. It's like Outlook, except with more horrible interface bloat and less features.

  6. Seems I can always count with your input, Super Jamie. Thanks a lot!

    I think that in the XXI century it is not too much to ask if I want a MUA (and e-mail provider) that:

    1) Handles the features IMAP promises in a painless way, with a speed limited only by bandwidth, not crappy software algorithm (Kmail doesn't).

    2) Handles all UTF characters out-of-the-box, without any hassle (Evolution doesn't).

    3) Is configurable in every single way. For example, I'm using Claws-mail now, and I don't seem to be able to configure what fields (To, From, Subject...) are shown in the e-mail lists in a per-folder fashion. ALL folders must have the same fields showing. How shitty is that? Why is the per-folder setting so simple in Kmail, whereas Claws has other features not present in Kmail? Can't they all COPY and SUM the features among them? Isn't FLOSS about it?

    4) Looks good while doing the above.

  7. Paul: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rhetorical

    Sorry if I hurt someone's feelings. Claws-mail deserves a more constructive criticism than mine. However, I repeat and support the claim: not being able to set e.g. your Inbox folder to show the "From:" field in the message list (but not the "To:", which is yourself), while having the Sent folder show the "To:" (but not the "From:", which is yourself) is a big mistake, IMHO.

    Why should I like being forced to have ALL folders show the same field set? And if there is some setting to fix it, I never found it.

  8. Your feature request is interesting...
    In Claws Mail in the Sent folder the default From column is switched to the To column automatically.

  9. Maybe so, but for that you have to label a folder to " of type 'Sent' ". I once tried, then could not convert the folder back to "regular" type. It would be nice to take advantage of the feature of being able to automatically move sent messages to any folder, not just a default "Sent folder".

  10. I'd never heard of Claws Mail till this post, so I installed it and had a look. Quoting works correctly in the version I'm using (3.3.1-1 in Ubuntu 8.04 repos), and it looked like it had options to specify where Drafts and Sent went, however it moves deleted items to trash, not "mark as deleted", as Gmail's "special IMAP" standard specifies.

    Free Software is indeed about being able to do what you like with transparent software, however this often means writing the functionality in yourself, especially on a smaller project with few developers. Try the developer mailing-list or forum? Claws looks like it has a quite good plugin implementation, perhaps writing something in won't be so difficult after all?

  11. 'Gmail’s “special IMAP” standard' ??
    That's not a standard, unless it's a standard in the way M$ use standards. i.e. ignore existing standards, create something different and call it a 'standard'

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