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I have given up on the current generation of desktop-based IMAP clients. The list of failed IMAP clients available from the FOSS community is: Evolution, Thunderbird/Icedove, KMail, and Slypheed-Claws GTK2. All their tiny quirks and individual bugs aside, the unifying theme of failure is this: complete and utter failure to manage network worker threads and under-utilization or poor utilization of local disk caches. Why does it have to take 15 seconds to open a folder of 1,000 messages? Or 2 minutes to update a mailing list folder index? And even if it has to take this long, why am I prevented from doing anything to my mailbox while you work? In some cases, the email client completely freezes not even allowing me to read email that has previously been cached.

Anyways, I'm moving on. At work, we just found and implemented Zimbra, a web-based email, calendar, address book suite. We purchased the commercial version but an FOSS version also exists. The list of features is a mile long but let me summarize them all down to this simple statement: everything just fucking works exactly as you would expect it to. It's fast. Damn fast. Having the AJAX-ey interface loaded in my Gecko-based browser uses a tiny, smidgen of a fraction of the RAM consumed by Evolution. If you don't believe me, try the free demo. By far the coolest feature is that everything (including attachments) is indexed and immediately accessible through user-friendly search interfaces. This indexing gives rise to "Conversation" views; something undoubtedly inspired by GMail.

Speaking of GMail, I needed a replacement for my self-hosted email account so, I am in the process of evaluating "Google Apps for your Domain" to replace SquirrelMail (on which I am currently limping along). I have several gig of email that I want to be accessible but also fully indexed. Conversation tracking is also a plus. GMail is currently running a free trail of their 30 day service at 10GB. I have been using their hosted service for a day now and am already ecstatic about it. Again, it all "just works", is fast and reliable. I haven't received a single crash, disconnection, or waiting screen exceeding 5 seconds -- something that can't be said of any existing IMAP client. And most of my email has already been imported. Concerning the possible Google-based privacy concerns, yes, they are there. But I'm too exhausted of fighting to find something that works to care enough. If Google wants to ruin my Presidential bid in 2042 with copies of spam that I received in 2007 insisting that there are hot lesbians just dieing to meet me, well, I guess that would be consequence I'll have to live with.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 3rd, 2007 12:17 pm (UTC)
Desktop apps
Email is an area where the heavy clients became moot couple years ago already. I don't understand why distributions bother shipping stuff like Evolution anymore anyways.. That space could be better spent with something more useful.

I tried Evolution but it didn't have very good calendar support imho.. It also doesn't have s/mime and smartcard support (for signing and encrypting using the official national ID cards). Thunderbird has support for that stuff but there's no calendaring at all. (Yeah I know they have a project for that but it hasn't produced a thing so far.) Kmail is silly as KDE softare usually is (looks and feels like sitting in a shuttle cockpit). Sylpheed-claws felt to me like legacy software repolished. It was appalling.

I've been really happy with Gmail/Gcalendar/Gdocs myself. I can move around the globe using different computers, I can share stuff, Google handles backups, ui is decent, no crashes.
Apr. 3rd, 2007 02:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Desktop apps
Evolution has had S/MIME support for years... and I believe it also handles smartcards as it uses the same NSS libs that Thunderbird does, which is where the smartcard support was implemented.
Apr. 10th, 2007 04:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Desktop apps
Some of us have to use "heavy clients" because our workplace uses a "heavy server" (in my case Exchange 2000).

"heavy clients" still have their uses: GPG signing, drag & drop attachments, and offline mail reading (as well as queuing messages for sending).

And remember: SquirrelMail is a web client. I'd take Outlook Express over that aberration any day!

Michael Schurter
Apr. 3rd, 2007 02:18 pm (UTC)
The main thing holding me from GMail is the lack of support for GnuPG.

Do you ever have that requirement?
Apr. 3rd, 2007 03:00 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's something I would like. But honestly, I have been using it for 5 years now and the most I have ever gotten out of it is the person on the receiving end of my email asking what the "attachement" was. Even the most tech-savvy people I communicate with have no interest in verifying that my signature is actually valid.
Apr. 3rd, 2007 03:10 pm (UTC)
Re: GnuPG
Actually, I discovered Canonical's launchpad uses GPG to verify that an email matches an identity within launchpad. If GMail had GPG support, one could simply reply to email (and sign it) rather than navigate launchpad.
Apr. 3rd, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC)
Seahorse has an Epiphany extension that allows you to GPG-sign any text in web forms you like!
Jul. 5th, 2007 05:25 am (UTC)
Gmail support for GnuPG
Well I believe there is FireGPG that might help



Soumyadip Modak
Apr. 3rd, 2007 03:11 pm (UTC)
Zimbra looks to be incredibly awesome. I work at a University that's been providing Squirrelmail based e-mail to our students, and limping along is definitely the word for it. Most people are fine, but the heavy users have a painful time in it. We're evaluating Zimbra now, with the intent on moving all 10,000 students to it this summer if all goes well.

Works great as an Exchange/Outlook replacement, too. As part of the evaluation, I moved my mail out of Exchange about a month and a half ago, and have not yet found a reason to move it back.
Apr. 3rd, 2007 03:35 pm (UTC)
Are you sure desktop client is to blame here? In most cases imap delays a caused by faulty imap server software.

My Thunderbird timings:
* Opening a 3000 messages folder is less than 1 second on a local server
* Opening a 15000 messages folder takes about 5 seconds on a server on the other side of the pond

Both cases are servers running dovecot which relies heavily on mailbox indexing :) Anyway, if I try open an account served by UW-Imap then things change :)
Apr. 3rd, 2007 03:40 pm (UTC)
Why doesn't the mailbox display immediately and *then* update the index?
Apr. 3rd, 2007 04:15 pm (UTC)
At least the last Thunderbird 2.0 builds do that. And I'm not saying current desktop clients are perfect, but if you were seeing 2 minutes delays to just open a folder there was something else going on there.
Apr. 4th, 2007 05:20 am (UTC)
Evolution does this
> Why doesn't the mailbox display immediately and *then* update the index?

Evolution IMAP does this (atleast on the latest 2.10).
Apr. 4th, 2007 02:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Evolution does this
Yes it does, however it fails to keep track of network worker threads. After an hour of using it, both of the status bar fields at the bottom of the screen will be replaced with undead "envelope icons followed by (...).

And it crashes... a lot.
Apr. 10th, 2007 04:14 pm (UTC)
Re: Evolution does this

And I'm sick of having to use the latest Evolution just to get "features" like adequate IMAP. Debian wants to keep me back at 2.6, but I run 2.8 from experimental. Now you're telling me I need to use 2.10 to get decent IMAP performance... *sigh*

The more I use IMAP, the more it feels like a broken protocol... or at least its never been implemented well. Either way webmail is winning simply because it-just-works.

Michael Schurter
May. 5th, 2007 11:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Evolution does this
Evolution's just horrible sometimes. I use it, I hate web-based mail systems. My server's got one for access when I'm not at my own computer, but I much prefer the idea and behaviour of a desktop client. Evolution should, after all, fit very nicely into my GNOME desktop, right?

So why does it have an insanely long network timeout? Quitting Evolution when the network's down takes half an hour or so while it sits and waits for something to happen, unless I get impatient and pull up a terminal and run kill. It does all sorts of strange things with folder updates...

I've never found a client that worked better, either. A lot of my friends like Thunderbird, but I find that clunky and horrible (it's okay on Windows, where clunky and horrible doesn't seem to stand out as much, but on Linux and OS X the cross-platformness sticks out like a sore thumb).

Oh yes, my final irritant with Evolution: calendar + mail + address book in the same window WHY? We've got evolution-data-server now, split them out into separate client apps please. Apple got that one right, and those buttons for switching between Evolution components are not and never have been a good idea.
Apr. 4th, 2007 01:24 am (UTC)
No Kerberos Support
I'd really like to use Zimbra, since it would solve many problems for us, but until it supports Kerberos - I just don't care.
Apr. 15th, 2008 06:13 pm (UTC)
Presidential Bid in 2042?
There won't be a presidential election in 2042. You should run in 2040 or 2044. You'll fare a much better chance in either of those years.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )


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Jason D. Clinton

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