Why Evolution is not my favorite mail reader

April 12, 2007

I will admit up front that I am not an IMAP person; I'm an MH and exmh person and have been for years. The only reason I'm playing around with IMAP is that I'm more or less responsible for an IMAP server, so it behooves me to be able to test whether or not it's working. I picked Evolution as my IMAP test environment for various reasons including that it's the Gnome default.

As a result of this, I have formed some opinions about why Evolution is not my favorite mail reader:

  • it crashes, and too often. I'm an old-fashioned person; I expect my mail reader to just work, and not to explode every so often.
  • to add insult to injury, the bug reporting system it's hooked up to in Fedora Core goes all the way through quizzing you and getting you to fill in information, only to announce that Evolution bugs aren't managed through the system it files bug reports with.

  • getting Evolution to notice IMAP folders created outside of itself seems to take multiple rounds of quitting and restarting Evolution. I guess I can be thankful that I have a fast machine.

  • Evolution desperately needs an 'accept this SSL certificate permanently' option. Otherwise, if you are using a self-signed certificate, you get prompted about it every time you start Evolution up.

  • there appears to be no way to export your filters from one Evolution and import them into another. Apparently it is a freakish thing to want to read email from work and home with the same filtering settings.

    (It turns out that the magic way is to copy the filters.xml file from one install to another; it's found in .evolution/mail. You probably need to do this while the target Evolution install is not running.)

  • filters mysteriously fail some of the time, or mysteriously fail to have some options (in my case, 'move to folder') work. As far as I can tell, there is no way to debug this sort of issue; Evolution is totally silent about the operations of filtering, what matches, and so on.

In fact, Evolution is silent pretty much any time something doesn't work, which makes it very frustrating whenever something goes wrong. Which it seems to for me with moderately distressing regularity.

(For example, Evolution managed to get one IMAP folder into a state where it could half-see that there were messages there (sometimes), but totally refused to show me any of them. Fixing this was impossible, and eventually something just erased all of the messages.)

I also have to say that it is annoying that no two IMAP clients seem to be able to agree about all of the fine details of how to deal with messages, which makes it hard to switch between clients for testing. Given that this is a client/server protocol to start with, it would be nice if the clients were more interoperable.

In summary, I'm really glad that I'm just using Evolution and IMAP for testing and I don't have to use it as my real mail environment.

(While bits of this have been accumulating for a while, this grump has been brought to you today by the process of trying to bring up a second IMAP server running different IMAP software on a different OS platform, and thus attempting to make sure that people can switch back and forth relatively transparently.)

Written on 12 April 2007.
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Last modified: Thu Apr 12 14:08:11 2007
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