Kontact is the new groupware application in KDE 3.2, and was made by integrating existing KDE applications in a common view; note that the applications can still be run stand-alone. KMail is used for e-mail, KAddressBook for managing contacts, while KOrganizer provides the calendar. There is also KNotes for quickly taking small notes.
The level of integration is very good and there is no indication that these are actually separate applications working together. The Summary view in Kontact gives a quick overview of unread mail status, upcoming events from the calendar and even birthdays from the address book. Updated news from KDE Dot news is also included via the RSS plugin; more feeds can easily be added from the configuration dialog. Kontact works by having plugin components which can be selected from a toolbar on the left. The plugins to view are naturally configurable, and it is easy to see how more useful functionality could be included; a weather plugin seems to be present, however, it requires additional setup to become active.
Selecting "Mail" from the Kontact menubar brings up KMail. Already very functional in the previous version shipped with KDE 3.1, it has been improved by supporting more flexible searches and virtual folders, several IMAP related improvements (this needs more work, however; see the IMAP section), on-the-fly spell checking and also lots of small cleanups and improvements all over. KMail is a modern and full-featured mail client.
Mail import: KMail supports importing mail directly from Outlook Express 4-6 and Pegasus mail. This makes migrating from Windows very easy and should be a great help to users migrating to Linux.
Account setup: A wizard guides the user through the process of setting up accounts. KMail separates mail accounts from identities, which include personal settings such as which folder to put sent mail in, crypto settings, the dictionary to use, signature, etc. Incoming and outgoing mail accounts are configured separately, and KMail can also automatically check which authentication methods the server supports.
Filters: Right-clicking on a message and selecting "Create filter" allows for easy filter creation. Most mail headers can be selected from the menu, but piping to a shell command is not supported; this is unlikely to be missed by many, however. The filter actions are extensive and allow both the basic actions such as moving/copying to folders, but also options like forwarding/bouncing, executing a shell command, adding/removing a header or even rewriting it. This can be used to easily remove strings like "[mailing-list-name]" from the subject field of mailing lists for example. You can choose if you want the filter to be applied to incoming messages, outgoing and for manual filtering. Regular expression matching is supported and complex expressions can easily be created with the graphical regex editor; more on this in the search section.
Address book: Adding people to the address book can be done by right-clicking on an e-mail address; there is no option for this when right-clicking a message, but this might be a good thing since that context menu already has a number of other options. The address book is very well integrated with the Kontact applications, and has an impressive number of options; contacts can be grouped by category, and I already mentioned that if you specify the birthday of a contact you will automatically be reminded of this on the Summary page.
You can also enter geographical data for the location of the contact, a very nice touch.
Searching / Virtual folders: This version of KMail comes with greatly enhanced search capabilities. More than two search rules can now be used, and the header options are the same as for filters, with the exception of "age in days" which is not there for some mysterious reason. Also notably missing is whether the message has attachments or not.
The folder to search, and whether to include sub-folders can be selected. Entering a name for the search on the bottom and clicking "Open" creates a new virtual folder. These folders work exactly the same way as normal folders, and selecting search while viewing one brings up the search used to create it with the option of modifying it and/or renaming the virtual folder. It does not seem possible to copy a virtual folder, however, so a new search will have to be created from scratch in this case. In general the virtual folders work very well, and is a welcomed addition to the KMail feature set. Perhaps in the next version there will be the possibility of creating sub-folders also for virtual folders, thus removing much of the need for having separate physical folders at all.
One notable thing I would like to mention is the graphical regex editor: when selecting "match regex" one can click "Edit" and the regex editor is opened.
Here one can construct complex regular expressions without knowing any details of how they work. Using the question mark button to get help on the different buttons will enable most anybody to easily make use of the power of regular expressions. Nicely done!
Reading messages: The message index shows the message status (each message can have several), subject, to/from depending on folder and the date. Optionally the size can be displayed, but here it should be possible to add more items. A message threading view is supported.
The preview pane is normally used to read messages, but double-clicking on a message brings it up in its own window. HTML mail is only displayed as text by default, with a header asking the user to click to enable rendering for this message only if he thinks it is legitimate (this restriction can be relaxed if desired). Quoted text is not colored by default, but this is quick to enable in the configuration; also different colors depending on the level of nesting is supported. Colors for most other things can also be changed.
Unfortunately missing is the ability to easily create follow-ups to e-mails, which then appear in the calendar; this would be a much-welcomed feature which hopefully will appear in the next KMail version.
Composing messages: All the usual suspects are present: Reply to sender, reply to all, reply to list and all forwarding modes (inline, attached, quoted and as-is). The composer window has been cleaned up and several less-used options removed from the default view; the result looks very nice. Using the "View" menu, however, additional header fields can be displayed and things like sender identity, dictionary, sent-mail folder and outgoing server can be set. The message can be signed and/or encrypted, and public keys attached. On-the-fly spell checking with the selected dictionary helps to avoid spelling errors. The "Edit" menu has several useful options like "Paste as quotation", "Clean spaces" (in case you pasted text containing line separators), and also add/remove a level of quotation from selected text.
One notable feature is that if the message mentions any of the words "attachment" or "attached" and you did not actually attach something you will be asked if you intended to do this; a small, but very useful feature. This is configurable, among a lot of other things, like the text used for quoting.
IMAP: IMAP is supported, however, it is not yet as mature as it could be. In particular, server-side searching is not supported (which makes searching IMAP folders very limited), and offline operation is still experimental. Hopefully the next version will correct this as otherwise IMAP works quite well.
Encryption: GPG is supported out of the box, and S/MIME is supported through the Aegypten project. This requires crypto-plugins to be configured, however, something which is not done automatically. The next version of KMail (due out soon) should have this functionality built-in.
Copyright © 2004, Eklektix, Inc.
Comments and public postings are copyrighted by their creators.
Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds