Oct 9, 2009

Improving GNOME Evolution

I haven't written a tech-only blog entry in a long, long, long time. Well, here goes!

I've been a fairly happy Mozilla Thunderbird user for years. But lately, I've been getting more and more frustrated with it, and I began looking for a new mail client. So far, of all the others I tested, GNOME Evolution is the one that comes closest to what I want. Closest, but not there yet. It's not missing much, and that's what I plan on covering here.

So why would I want to change in the first place? Because I've been having nagging performance issues with Thunderbird. I have a local IMAP setup for my email and periodically, Thunderbird will spike the CPU for no apparent reason. When it does, my system slows down to a crawl. Sometimes the only way I can fix it is by killing the Thunderbird process. I tried the latest Thunderbird 3 beta 4, and although I like a lot of the improvements, performance is worse than the previous version. Hence, Evolution.

I generally like it, and I find performance is better, without the spikes I see in Thunderbird. Here are some of the things I'd like to see improved, many of which are paper cuts:
  • Keyboard shortcuts: I don't like the shortcuts that have been assigned by the Evolution team. Maybe it's because I have been using Thunderbird for so long, but I get frustrated when I try a keyboard shortcut I am used to, but don't get the result I expect. I'd like to be able to configure my own shortcuts, like I can in OpenOffice.org.
  • Automatic filtering: One of the things I like about Thunderbird is the way it starts filtering your email as you type in the search box. You don't have to press Enter to launch the search. Same goes for the address book.
  • Mailbox ordering: Mail accounts are ordered alphabetically. I would rather be able to specify the ordering. Of course, I can specify "dumb" names like 00-FIrst, 01-Second, etc. But that isn't quite what I'm looking for. However, since this is predicatable, it makes it easier to order accounts than it is in Thunderbird. In the latter, you have no control: they appear in the order they were created.
  • Slow reply: Whenever I reply, there is an annoying delay before the reply window appears.
  • Webkit: I know work is being done on this. Webkit is the toolkit used by Google Chrome to display Web pages. HTML display is awful in Evolution, nothing like Thunderbird's ability to do the same.
  • Importing: This one is almost a deal breaker for me. Evolution doesn't import Thunderbird data correctly. I tried importing LDIF, CSV, and ICS but in each case, some of the cards were not imported correctly. I wish Evolution would allow me to specify where to put the content of each imported column, like OpenOffice.org does when importing into Calc.
  • New vs. Recent: I like the fact that Thunderbird makes a difference between "New" and "Brand New" email. For the latter, it displays a star, while the former has no star. In Evolution, it's difficult to see a difference between new email, and mail that has just come in.
  • Favourite folders: Another TB feature I like. I can specify some folders as favourite folders and only see them in my control panel. There isn't something like this in Evolution.
Well, that's it. I am still hoping that the final (64-bit Linux) build of Thunderbird will fix the performance issues I am experiencing. If not, maybe I'll have to do something I haven't done in years: break out my C coding skills... Yeah, right!

No comments:

Post a Comment