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Evolution: A New Outlook for Linux

For as much time as you probably spend in an email client, you should be using an app with the features that help you get your work done and plays well with other (possibly proprietary) applications. Evolution fits that bill.

Internet browsers, email clients, and word processors are the most widely used desktop applications — and of those three, you probably keep your email client open all day long while you work. Email takes the place of physical postal mail, face-to-face conversations, memos, traditional calendars, to do lists, sticky notes, and telephone calls. We take email so much for granted in contemporary life that, when it fails, the panic that ensues is often as bad as any natural disaster. Nothing generates more calls to ISPs, voicemails to IT staff, or prayers to the gods like an email outage.

However, you won’t need divine intervention to enjoy the latest (2.x) release of Evolution. You already have it if you’re using the GNOME Desktop. Evolution is an advanced email client sporting features only found in commercial email applications like Novell’s GroupWise or Microsoft’s Outlook.

Getting Started

Getting started with Evolution is easy. Locate its icon under Applications, Internet. When you launch it the first time, the Evolution Setup Assistant guides you through the process of setting up an email account.

1. Click Forward on the Welcome Screen.

2. Enter your Full Name, Email Address in the given fields, and click Forward. See Figure 1.

Figure 1: Identity Information
Figure 1: Identity Information

3. Select a Server Type from the list as shown in the list below.

  • Hula
  • IMAP
  • Microsoft Exchange
  • Novell GroupWise
  • POP
  • USENET News
  • Local Delivery
  • MH-format mail directories
  • Maildir-format mail directories
  • Standard Unix mbox spool directory
  • Standard Unix mbox spool file

4. Fill-in your Server info, Username, Security level, and Authentication Type as shown in Figure 2. Click Forward.

Figure 2: Receiving Email Options
Figure 2: Receiving Email Options

5. Continue editing your Receiving Mail Options by selecting automatic mail checking, the interval, and options for storing your messages locally or leaving them on the remote system. Click Forward.

6. Next, configure your outgoing email options (Figure 3) by selecting your Server Type (Sendmail or SMTP).

7. Enter the name or IP address of your outgoing mail server, Security info, Authentication choices, and Username. Click Forward. Some ISPs require that you use your entire email address as your username, (hess.ken@gmail.com, for example).

Figure 3: Sending Email Options
Figure 3: Sending Email Options

8. Enter a friendly name for your email account and click Forward. This is handy if you setup more than one account in Evolution.

9. Select your Time Zone from the dropdown list or use the clickable map, and then click Forward.

10. Click Apply on the final screen to accept your settings and create your new mail account.

Once you complete the Setup Assistant, Evolution opens, prompts you for newly created account password, and then presents you with the Evolution interface and any new mail from your account.

If you’ve ever used Microsoft Outlook or Novell’s GroupWise, you’ll immediately feel comfortable with Evolution. Evolution uses familiar menu entries, icons, panes, folders, and shortcuts to make the transition from other email clients as painless as possible. Figure 4 is a shot of Evolution just after opening for my new account with 3 new emails.

Figure 4: The Main Evolution Interface
Figure 4: The Main Evolution Interface

Advanced Setup

Should you need to change any preferences from your initial setup, you’ll find Evolution’s configuration options under Edit, Preferences from the main screen. Here, you’ll find pages that allow you to change almost every aspect of your Evolution mail experience.

If you made any errors during your initial account setup or need to change setup information, select Mail Accounts, Edit to launch the Account Editor as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Evolution Account Editor
Figure 5: Evolution Account Editor

Using the Account Editor, you can change all the information you entered in the Evolution Setup Assistant. Additionally, you can add a signature, change some default behaviors, and add security to your email.

The other major customization page is the Mail Preferences option accessed from Evolution Preferences. Mail Preferences includes; General options, HTML Mail, Colors, Headers, Junk Mail and Filter preferences, Automatic Contacts, and Calendar and Tasks. There is also a Calendar and Tasks page under Evolution Preferences for finer grained control of those behaviors and presentation.

Features

Evolution’s advanced features and near universal compatibility set it apart from its free email client peers. Most impressive is its ability to connect to a Microsoft Exchange Server via the Outlook Web Access (OWA) URL. The OWA URL is the same address to which you point a browser to use Outlook mail via a web browser.

This single connectivity feature brings Desktop Linux into a very competitive situation with Microsoft Windows. The ability for a Linux email application to connect to, and use, Exchange is a major step towards adopting Linux in enterprises where Windows dominates the Desktop. Similarly, GroupWise Server connectivity further establishes Linux as a viable Desktop Operating System option.

Email with shared calendaring and tasks have long been a point of contention where Linux adoption was considered. Evolution makes it possible. Consult the Evolution User’s Guide for a tutorial on converting from Outlook to Evolution.

Features

Desktop Integration

Gnome applications also integrate with Evolution by using the evolution-data-server. You’ll find your appointments and tasks in the gnome-panel calendar applet. Evolution allows synchronization of your Pidgin buddies into your email contacts. View your Planner files in Evolution as task lists.

Intelligent Bayesian-based Junk Mail Control and Filtering Rules
Junk mail filters and controls allow you filter your mail before you ever see it but also to mark unwanted mail as junk.

Advanced Search Capability
Smarter email searching and collation tools help you find and separate messages quickly based on a number of criteria. Evolution also automatically indexes messages for faster search and retrieval.

Web Calendar Support
Evolution provides built-in support (via an EPlugin) for Web Calendars (local, network, or Internet).

Microsoft Exchange and Novell GroupWise Support and Multiple Account Management
Support for Exchange and GroupWise is built-in to Evolution providing all options and behaviors expected from a commercial and proprietary email client. You may integrate all your email accounts into Evolution: POP, Exchange, Hula, GroupWise, and so on so that Evolution is the only mail client you’ll ever need to open.

LDAP Compatible

Evolution is LDAP compatible and is easy to configure for LDAP Server use. To add a new Address Book, select File, New, Address Book from Evolution’s main menu. Evolution presents you with a dialog that prompts you for the location and address of the LDAP Server, login, and encryption information.

PDA Support
Some limited PDA synchronization is possible through the integrated Gnome Pilot applet.

EPlugins

First introduced in Evolution 2.2x, EPlugins lend unlimited extensibility to Evolution. EPlugins are language neutral, modular extensions that require minimal code and hassle for implementation. Find the HTML version of the EPlugin Manual. You can create your own EPlugin using the Manual for guidance. Currently, there are EPlugins for Backup and Restore, Automatic Contacts, Hula Support, Mail-to-Task, Web Calendars, Weather Calendars, and many more.

The EPlugin architecture makes it easier for anyone to extend Evolution in creative ways. You need not be part of the Evolution Development Team to contribute directly to the project.

Summary

Evolution is now part of my standard repertoire of Linux apps. I consider it a crossover application because of its interoperability with anything Windows-related. It doesn’t bother me that Linux and Open Source developers are trying to provide this kind of crossover to Linux users — in fact, I think it comes at a time when businesses need it most. Leveraging as much free software as possible is going to be the norm in the coming months and years as we all attempt to strangle more life and functionality from shrinking funds.

Applications that play nice with Microsoft, and other proprietary software vendors, have a better chance at corporate adoption and survival than those that don’t. Like it or not, attitudes change very slowly in corporations — almost as if by evolution.

Comments on "Evolution: A New Outlook for Linux"

rkrishnamcan01

The one issue with Evolution (as of 2.24) is that it does not yet support MS Exchange 2007. If it did, I would adapt it in a heartbeat.

Reply
shekharc

I was thinking to switch to Evolution from Kmail since Evolution supports inline images. However, I couldn’t because it doesn’t support maildir format for POP downloads and this is something I can’t compromise with. Kmail rocks and if looking for calender etc, Kontact is there for you :-)

Reply
dbaddour

I am having the same issue as “rkrishnamcan01”, I use Evolution but when our server upgrade to Exchange 2007, cannot connect to it at all without open IMAP port for this service. And on the other hand I do manage the distribution list for the office and evolution doesn’t support it either. I have to use a Window machine to perform that task.
I am not trying to put Evolution down, but I like to see it working in way to support all platforms.
Hope someone will come up with a solution so I can approve my point with Evolution is the way to go.

Cheers.

Reply
jsilve1

Evolution *Sounds* like a great tool, but in my experience so far — and I have been trying it on and off since 2002 — it has, well, not to be nasty, but, well, it has sucked. Evolution has always had some very basic issues, like instability and bugginess.

I have tried Evo on Red Hat 9, MEPIS 3.3, Ubuntu 6.06, 6.10, an 8.04, and I still encounter show stopping instability and bugs. I wish I had specific examples, but I don’t. But suffice it to say that I have never had good success with it.

Has no one else had my negative experiences?

Am I using the wrong distros? (Red Hat or Debian-based distros) I figured on a RH distro Evo would be alright but not AFAICR.

Also, does anyone actually like the “send/receive” button (ala MS Outlook)? Why are send and receive not separated from each other? I have never been able to figure that one out. There are times when I DON’T WAN TO DO BOTH!

Yay! Linux! Seeya!

Reply
kfries6

I use evolution for my home computer, and it NEVER crashes on me (Ubuntu 7.04, 7.10, 8.04, 8.10… yes no crashes even on the Intrepid beta). It looks like some have been suffering from PIBKAC errors.

However, for business use? Never. I will re-evaluate next March when 2.26 comes out, hopefully with MAPI support. Because as others have noted above, this program is just not ready for prime time until it can properly handle Exchange servers (yes, even the 2007 versions). The OWA hack this author was so proud of was a first class kludge. It should never be considered a feature, but instead as the hack that it is.

Evolution is fine for personal use, but in the office, in a mixed environment, its just not ready for prime time.

Reply
cavemole

I, too have tried evolution several times. I’m still using Thunderbird.

Will the new version do calendaring with Outlook users?
We don’t use an exchange server, but our customers have standardized on Outlook calender, and we need to be able to request meetings, etc.

I would like to be able to work with google calendar. Is there a plugin, and/or working synch app to keep a calendar synched to google?

* Spam filtering. at first they expected us to manage a SpamAssassin install. That is NOT a reasonable solution for most users. What spam filtering plug-ins do they have now?

Finally : secure e-mail.

Are there plug-ins for PGP/GPG? S/MIME?
We use S/MIME at work, but I still use my old GPG key for personal communications.

Reply
kfries6

To answer your questions:

– You can talk to an Exchange server as long as it is 2005 or below with an OWA account.

– Evolution is compatable with any iCal server, I am not sure if Google Calendar is. There is also a service that can be added to a Linux desktop that acts as a proxy to GMail and Calendar services. Look for it in your distro.

– Spam filtering should never be relied upon at the desktop, and should be beefed up at your server. If you do it at your desktop, the virus is already at your machine, and you are playing defense… filter at the server.

– PGP and S/MIME are both natively supported in Evolution, no plugin needed

Hope this helps

Reply
frlgrb

Have been using various Linux distros for about a year now in a medium-large Windows network. I alternated between accessing my Exchange server from Firefox (OWA) and with Evolution. I must say that OWA is not the best way to do Exchange even if it is wrapped up in a nice interface like Evo. However, as a tech needing to get good at Linux for work-related reasons, I found that Evolution gave me everything I needed. I was able to open my personal calendar on Exchange, answer appt. reqs and create appts of my own (although I had to do a regular email invite to staffers for meeting reqs.) My tasks and notes were there and I could manage them fairly easily. I think that the solution is very close and am excited to see the next scheduled features. BTW – I built Linux boxes for my teenage kids. The boxes are nearly four years old and I’ve never had to fix anything serious. It took them a few months to figure out how to do everything they were doing on Windows. Now they’re doing that stuff and more (web 2.0). In the meantime I earn cash from my neighbors by fixing their viral WinPCs and use same to pump up my own systems :P

Reply
cuetzpallin

Well the only issue with evolution is in Exchange 2007, other things works ok

Reply
jc2it

We use Evolution in our office environment and have been for four years, since RH EL 4. We do not use Exchange, and I would not recommend our organization getting it. I would say that it has performed as well as Outlook. That being said I would not say that either is a great product. We have had problems with buggy, or non-working features. Little things like email notification and passwords for POP3 accounts either just don’t work or only work in undocumented ways. We have had problems with the mail storage files getting corrupted, who knows how. Also, it is very tricky to turn off some “features” that get in the way, like password keyrings. We are in the process of moving to Ubuntu 8.04 in that office environment, and while they have fixed some bugs in the latest version on Ubuntu compared to our older RH EL setup, there is a long way to go until I think Evolution will be a mature product.

I would deem is usable, but not desirable. With that said, until Mozilla releases Thunderbird with Sunbird, there won’t be a decent alternative to email/calendar functions.

Reply
bartvandeenen

I had to quit using Evolution with exchange-connector, because it always ended up using hundreds of megabytes. It’s only the exchange connector that does this. Fortunately Kontact also supports Exchange; I’m very happy with it (and the rest of KDE actually).

Reply
mahasamoot

I’ve just tryed evolution, kmail, and thunderbird/sunbird. After reading your article, I gave another look to evolution.

They all have two problems in common:
1. None of them have proper message threading.
2. None of them load the full thread into the message window.

The winner, hands down, is thunderbird/sunbird…

Thunberbird has an addon to sync its address book with the Google address book, which is a huge plus. There’s also an addon to use Google short cuts (eg. just hit ‘y’ to archive)–but even without, it still wins due to the “move to again” feature. So you don’t have to go thru the folder menu list every time you want to move a message to youraccount/[gmail]/allmail, or youraccount/[gmail]/spam. All of this leads me to believe that it’s likely that the problems above will be addressed.

Sunbird has an addon to sync with your Google calendar. Thus, we’ve covered all the bases as far as syncing is concerned.
—————————

Kmail/Kontact are in second…

Kmail looses because there’s no way to sync with Google’s address book, and archiving is a pain–you have to right-click each message and go thru the youraccount –> gmail –> allmail dance (verses pressing ‘y’, or right-click, move to youraccount/[gmail]/allmail again). A plugin will sync the calendar with your Google calendar. On the plus side, the new kde4 version looks lovely with the oxygen widgets and such… but don’t run it on KDE4.x, as encounters with that piece of shight will give you nightmares.
—————————-

Evolution came in last (by a little)…

I gave evolution a second glance after reading your article. It’s much the same as Kmail, but the plugin to sync with Google calendar didn’t work for me.

Cheers,
~Thomas

Reply
ashsingh

Biggest problem for me is poor sync with Palm devices. Cannot see it ready for corporate use for a variety of reasons most of which are already in the mails.

-Ashok

Reply
timrichardson

I use it on Debian lenny. Debian is of course pretty serious about the word “stable” so maybe that’s why my experience has been extremely good. In fact, I love it. Outlook (I have Office 2003) drives me up the bloody wall in comparison to Evolution. Luckily, our Exchange server is not 2007. Evolution support for 2007 is still in development.

Reply
sack

I’ve tried using Evolution on Ubuntu, but I find it (Evolution) too slow. When using IMAP, Thunderbird is far quicker at displaying messages – in my experience.

Reply
efsouza

Don’t save mail in maildir format is the big problem on evolution. Kmail is fast and save mail in maildir format. I have mailbox greater than 5 GB and I have no problem for manipulation of this mailbox.

Att

Reply
fdeutschmann

It’s funny: in the early years, ‘Open Source’ projects (e.g.: Emacs, Linux, gcc) really did offer substantial qualitative and quantitative advantages versus their closed-source cousins; these projects/tools were cutting edge and often responsible for introducing totally new concepts into the zeitgeist.

Now we come to Evolution (ironic, that!) which seems to be struggling vainly to just meet the lowest level of the bar set by a commercial offering from the software development institution that everyone loves to hate. Even the (pretty bad) UI and UI functionality is copied sans improvement — in fact, with reduced functionality. (What would be the fate of another closed-source entity that attempted this?!)

Anyway, this state of affairs seems mighty sad and disappointing — but of course, the bigger question is, does this reflect on just this project, or the principle of ‘Open Source’ in general…?
-frank

Reply
richarson

@mahasamoot: I’m not sure I fully understand what you mean by ‘archiving’ but maybe this will help you: kmail has a very nice feature, which is single-key shortcuts.

For example: n to compose a new email, f to forward an email, etc, and also m to move and c to copy an email or group of emails. By pressing one ofr those two letters, a hierarchy of folders shows up to select where to move/copy the email(s). That window filters as you type, so you can quickly find the destination folder.

I have a notebook and I hate touchpads. I recently found those two shortcuts that made my life so much easier :)

Cheers,

Reply
semenhyia

i used it on OpenSuse 11.0, Sabayon 3.4 and Ubuntu. it was too eratic for my liking and kept crashing. it doesn’t support exchange 2007. if it did, i could live with nursing it along but as it stands, too buggy to keep open all day long

Reply
ruko

I tried it with openSUSE 11.0 (and nearly every older SuSE/Novell version):
It is not stable enough!
And I was not able using evolution to import/copy emails (2.5G in size) from a mbox to groupwise.
Seamonkey did the job, uncomplaining: simply setup one account for the mbox, an other for groupwise (using the groupwise imap server) and copy the mails from one to the other.

Reply
vwbond

I good piece of software that should be worked continuously worked on. In order to work with exchange 07. I’ve found it to be stable.

Reply
jtheriot

I just hooked Evo up to our Exchange server today. I’m pleased with the performance. One thing that Evo did that Outlook ’07 didn’t was that when you began typing a name in the To: field that you didn’t use before, it listed all matches in the GAL.

I’ve been using GnuPG with Evo with my normal imap and pop accounts without a hitch.

Evo may lock up. I’ve locked it up a couple of times by changing preferences while it was sending/receiving. The nice thing is that if it locks up, you open a terminal, type
ps ax | grep evolution
kill ##### (the number of the jobs that appear)
and reload evolution. If Outlook locks up, you reboot the whole machine.

Reply
dbmethods

I am doing a study on text search for BLOB Text data type on MySQL.
Any idea to extract Evolution raw data and import that to MySQL database.

1) I found these files, need a data extraction program.
user@ubuntu:~/.evolution/mail/local$ ls Sent*
Sent Sent.cmeta Sent.ibex.index Sent.ibex.index.data

2) Is there a way copy over Windows Outlook .pst files to Ubuntu box and import them to Evolution mail?

Thanks

Reply
oouc

An article should enable users to do something not just brag about theories or things which the author claims are possible. I searched for “mult” in order to find out how to set up multiple accounts. All I got was this nonhelpful PR.

[Quote]
Microsoft Exchange and Novell GroupWise Support and Multiple Account Management
Support for Exchange and GroupWise is built-in to Evolution providing all options and behaviors expected from a commercial and proprietary email client.
[End Quote]

After writing this I was confronted with the ambiguous button
[Add comment] instead of [Submit comment]

The main advantage commercial sw has over FLOSS is that the big companies paid me and people like me for our opinions and scientific research concerning user friendliness and they listened and corrected to those opinions or research. But so many FLOSS developers instead argue with experts who try to be helpful instead of listening to them.

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