Evolution is the mail client included in GNOME, but it is also much
more than just an e-mail client. It includes full groupware
functionality; address book, calendar and task management. With an extra
plugin it can even communicate with a Microsoft Exchange server
for better interoperability with the Windows world. Depending on your
environment, this can be an important point to consider, although it
is not free.
Evolution includes most everything you would expect from a modern mail
client. The main view follows the popular 3-way split with the message
folder tree on the left, the message index on the top and the preview
pane on the bottom. It also includes a small search bar above the
message index for quickly finding mail without having to open another
window. The interface is clean and gives a good overview.
Mail import: Evolution can only import from UNIX mbox files and
some older versions of Netscape. This makes migration from Windows
clients such as Outlook Express problematic to say the least. The
easiest solution might in fact be using KMail to migrate the mail to
mbox format and then import it into Evolution.
Account setup: A setup wizard makes creating new accounts a
snap. Simply fill in the information about the type of the mail server
(POP/IMAP) and the other required information and you are done. It
also supports automatic querying of the server for supported
Filters: By right-clicking on a message and selecting the
"Create rule from message" option, filters can be created directly
based on subject, sender, recipient or even thread. Virtual folders
can also be created this way.
There is a wide selection of filter rules, from the basic
subject/to/from to date, message size, spam status, attachments
included, status, label, source account, regex and even piping the
message to a shell command and checking the return value.
The possible actions to take are equally rich and include
moving/copying to folders, change status/score/label and also piping
the message to a shell command. The only limitation is that either all
the rules have to match, or just one; you cannot create a rule
matching on a specific sender and one of "before a date" or "bigger
than a given size," for example. This is not a big limitation, however,
and advanced users can use regular expressions to create more complex
searches. There is no tool for helping with regex creation, however.
Address book: Adding a person to the address book is as easy as
right-clicking on a message or e-mail address and selecting "Add
Sender to Addressbook". The address book is integrated with the
contact list, and you can actually have several address books
(separating personal and work contacts for example).
Searching: For quick searches the search bar on top of the
message index can be used; it supports the most common search fields
directly, and you can use the "advanced" option which opens the normal
search dialog. Here the same rich selection of rules (minus the pipe
to shell command) as for message filters can be selected. The search
can also be given a name and saved; it will then be available on the
search menu. There is also a search editor for editing the saved
One missing feature is the searching of sub-folders; there is no
option to enable this.
Reading messages: The message index includes by default the
most important columns (attachment, status, from, subject and date),
but this can be easily changed by right-clicking on the message index
header. Showing a threaded view in the message index is supported. It
is very convenient to read messages in the preview pane; quoted text
is grayed, but the level of nesting is not indicated by different
colors. One interesting feature is that the mail header also shows the
mail client used by the sender if the information is available. Double
clicking on a message brings it up in its own window, but this is only
necessary if the preview pane is disabled. Since the default security
settings does not allow HTML mail to download any external resources
this should be completely safe.
One small annoyance is the inability to search just the message text
of the current message; you have to search all messages in the current
Composing messages: Reply to sender, reply to all, reply to
list and all forwarding modes (inline, attached, quoted and as-is) are
all supported. The composer window is easy to use and different from-
address and signatures can be selected. The fields shown can be turned
off or on from the "View" menu; by default the CC and BCC fields are
not shown. Evolution supports writing HTML e-mail with options for
changing font size and color. Options for signing and encrypting are
available from the "Security" menu. The editor supports undo and
IMAP: Support for IMAP is very good; IMAP folders work the same
way as normal folders and all the normal options also apply to them.
Server-side searching is supported, also for virtual folders. The
message filters work on IMAP folders and there is also a per-folder
option of copying the content locally for offline operation. In short,
the IMAP support is mature and very well integrated.
Virtual folders: Creating a virtual folder is done by selecting
"Create Virtual folder from Search" on the Search menu; all the same
options as for normal searches are supported, and the (non-virtual)
source folders can be specified. Note that a search folder cannot be
edited once created. They work quickly, however, and you can also do
searches within a virtual folder just like for normal folders.
Encryption: Supports S/MIME signing and encryption.
Only beep on new mail is supported. The sound card can often be busy
because of legacy applications, however, and a visual cue would have
You can create follow-ups from e-mails, which integrate with the
calendar. This can be a very useful feature as mail has tendency to
become lost in the inbox if not dealt with immediately.
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