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:

/home/(user)/.evolution/

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.