Linux e-mail clients rant
June 2nd 2008

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!

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Application of the week: Evolution
May 20th 2008

Around 1 month ago I said I had made the switch from KMail to Thunderbird for managing e-mail. Well, now I must confess I am making another switch, this time to Evolution, the native e-mail client for GNOME.

The main (sole) reason is that Icedove (Thunderbird) was unreasonably slow lately. Maybe it's a matter of versions (I'm running the latest in Debian Lenny), but it was driving me crazy. And so is Iceweasel (Firefox), but that's another story. Evolution seems to be as fast as KMail to start up/minimize/maximize/quit, and as fast as Icedove to manage the IMAP folders (something KMail was seriously lacking).

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Switch from KMail to Thunderbird
April 9th 2008

As I said 2 months ago, I made the switch to IMAP for handling my Gmail e-mail. I have to say that it's a switch that I don't regret at all: it gives me the convenience and comfort I want.

However I have to admit that my long-used and much loved KMail was not up to the task, for some unknown reason. My main gripe with it was that reading, moving and deleting messages took forever, and refreshing folders was a royal pain. I thought it was an unavoidable problem, related to the way IMAP works. However, I decided to give other e-mail clients a chance, and that I did.

I have installed and run Thunderbird (actually, Icedove, the Debian version of TB), and so far it's given me good impressions. All the slowness I suffered with KMail is gone, and I have to say this fact alone is driving me from KM to TB.

As an additional piece of info, here's how to set "plain text" as default for sending messages. Why would you want that? Read these tips. The reason why TB has no obvious button to set "all plain text" or "all HTML" escapes me, but that seems to be the case. However, there is an "advanced" mode of doing it: go to Edit->Preferences->Advanced->Config Editor. From the variable/value list there, you have to set (by double-clicking, for example) "mail.identity.default.compose_html" to "false". I also set "mail.html_compose" to "false", but the important variable seems to be the first of the two. From that point on, all the new messages you compose will be plain text.

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