Evolution – The Default Email Client for Ubuntu

Just as I’ve spent a lot of time at this humble WordPress address finding the perfect PIM 2.0 client, my previous blog had a fair amount of space devoted to traditional offline email clients. I’ve got email archives dating back some thirteen years, and I’ve moved them between various apps on OS X and Windows before finally settling on Thunderbird.

The original plan for my spiffy new Eee PC netbook was to dump my email archives on it, but the bundled email client for most Ubuntu-based Linux distributions is Evolution, an app I’ve never tried before.

Since there are barely any reviews of Evolution out there (that I could find, anyway), here’s a quick look…

Evoluion Mail Directory

Finding your mail files in Evolution is pretty straightforward if you know where to look. The default path is:


In the “mail” folder you’ll find bog-standard .mbox files which you can import into any other email app worth its salt. Evolution also has a nifty backup and restore feature that will compress your data (email + addresses, calendars, contacts, notes & to-dos) into a handy (for Linux users) .tar.gzip file — and restore a full data set from the same file.

As for the actual interface, here’s how it looks in Easy Peasy 1.1:

Evolution Mail Interface

IMHO it’s not quite as efficient as Thunderbird (seen below, running in Xubuntu 9.04) in its use of screen real estate, which can be fairly critical if you’re reading your email on a 9-inch netbook screen:

Thunderbird Vertical View

Another thing I don’t like about Evolution is that there’s no obvious mailbox maintenance utility as there is in Thunderbird. When you’ve got email archives dating back to 1996 keeping them from getting corrupted is a pretty big deal!

But the deal-breaker for me came not from Evolution itself, but from SyncEvolution, a SyncML client written for it. Specifically:

The order of email addresses and phone numbers in the Evolution GUI is not preserved.

While this is actually a reported bug for ScheduleWorld.com only, I found it to be a problem with my own hosted SyncML service Memotoo, uh… too.

If you’re wondering why this is a critical issue, have you ever sent a text message to someone’s home or business line by mistake? Either it won’t get delivered at all, or — in the case of my carrier — will cost you extra and embarrass the hell out of you.

Evolution will also sync data to a Microsoft Exchange Server, but I didn’t bother testing that functionality, as the whole point of my move to Linux is to get away from proprietary software.

If you use Exchange at work and Linux at home, or if all you need is an offline PIM suite and email client then Evolution should suit you fine. Me, I’m sticking with Thunderbird and keeping my PIM data in the cloud.

By Andrew

Mobile phones, Linux and copyright reform. Those go together, right?


  1. Well, to be technical it’s Gnome and not Ubuntu since Gnome packages it. Ubuntu is a Linux distribution. 🙂 Anyways, good article, I like evolution too.

  2. Does evolution support message threads? It seems to me that it does the same mess Outlook does. Kmail handles threads wonderfully.

  3. In Thunderbird when I press the send button a progress windows comes up and then once it’s sent it closes this window and also the compose mail window. I like this way of doing it.

  4. Im pretty happy with Thunderbird since email clients all look and do the same thing.
    Ive moved many people from Windows to Linux and TB is along with FF3, OOO, VLC (even non-free Skype) a program makes the switch easier.

    Its rare that a mail client will have a killer feature but sometimes good ideas come out of somewhere so its good to know.

    My question is: what is about Evo that makes it better than TB?
    Some magical feature maybe?

    Chances that I change are about zero but just like I dont plan to change VLC, I like to know what other programs have to offer.

    Exchange is the last thing I care about but there are people who want to switch who need access for work email so thats good to know.

    SInce Evolution is a Novellsoft product, does it include the dreaded mono?
    I have no problems using non-free Opera and Skype but I dont understand the need to make infrastructure based on a slower language which such baggage.
    There is a difference between adding an app like Skype and having something contentious be installed by default.

  5. Here’s to hoping GNOME will change their package to make it possible to completely remove Evolution. Tough I haven’t used it, I have no doubt Evolution is a great app however I’m a Thunderbird user.

  6. My main criticism of Evolution is that you have to use the default Gnome font for writing messages, and can’t easily switch to other fonts. I understand that with TBird you can switch fonts.

  7. @LX yes, Evolution supports message threads (and has for years)

    @JAPrufrock you can change the font to anything you want in the Preferences dialog.

  8. I have to agree, for me thunderbird does everything I need it to do and is stable. I keep trying Evolution out and it keeps crashing on me. TB also crashes from time to time, but it’s like once in 2 weeks and I use TB all day everyday. I use TB with exchange at the office using IMAP and it works perfectly. Always funny when a new urgent mail comes out and I get it 1st before all the other outlook users get it +/- 50 secs later. IMAP is FAST! MAPI sucks!!! I use the exchange server as an SMTP relay as well. Only issue I have is using the Exchange Global Address List. got TB working with active directory lookup but for some reason I cannot always lookup distribution lists. But users I find perfectly. Also i don’t use the thunderbird mail notification tool. Does not suit my needs, the mail-notification app is awesome for this. I have it setup to only monitor certain IMAP folders for new mail and is discreet

    Evolution needs to slim down and get more stable before I can consider it again for corporate use

  9. I have a go at Evolution with each new Ubuntu release, but always fall back on
    Thunderbird as a better client. It wins out for me in many areas, but where it really counts is in the many available community-built add-ins. That’s despite what seems to be a lack of commitment from Mozilla to continue to develop it. It’s a shame someone like IBM doesn’t pick it up.

  10. I like Evo, but my work uses Exchange 2007 for their mail server. For me to be able to use Evo, it will need to fully support Ex2007 – And I don’t mean using IMAP either. Email and calendar need to work fully. Until then I have to stick with the crappy Exchange browser/web mail interface. I believe that current versions of Evo support earlier versions of Exchange with a connector, but don’t support Ex2007… At least not without using IMAP as a hack workaround. I understand that Novel/Gnome is working on some Exchange connector plug-in for Exchange 2007 though. I check it’s status about once per year – I’ll be an old man before I see it in any relevant distro.

    1. @Workhorse: Evolution has a new MAPI connector to support Exchange 2007 servers. But I would SERIOUSLY advice against using it. All sorts of errors and inconsistencies. I’ve tried it for 2 days and I’m now back to using Thunderbird/IMAP and Outlook Webaccess. That sucks of course, but not nearly as using Evolution/MAPI!

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