Open Source

Why Evolution should be the default Linux email client

The Linux landscape is filled with possible email clients. Jack Wallen makes the case for why the Evolution groupware suite should be the default for most Linux distributions.

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Image: Jack Wallen

For the longest time, the Evolution groupware suite was given a bad rap; being dismissed because of the inclusion of the mono software, bugs, or a lack of stability. However, that ire mellowed considerably over the years and Evolution continued to, well, evolve.

It had been a while since I gave Evolution a go. Since my migration to Elementary OS, I'd been toying with various and sundry clients (Elementary Mail, Geary, Nylas, and Thunderbird to be specific), never to be completely satisfied. In fact, over the last few years, I've felt the email client was one of the weakest links in Linux.

Until I came back to Evolution.

Why I left

I'm going to be completely honest here. One of the reasons why I left Evolution behind (years ago) in the first place, was because it too closely resembled Outlook. For the longest time, Linux was the anti-hero in the operating system world—fundamentally it functioned, but did so with enough variance to make it different. So when Evolution came out, looking (for all intents and purposes) like MS Outlook, I had a hard time accepting the very idea of using software on my Linux desktop that could have been mistaken for something created by "the competition."

Time passed. What was once important didn't exactly hold nearly the weight it originally did. Out of nowhere, what took over was a need to get things done with a modicum of efficiency. Instead of concerning myself about similarity with a Microsoft product, I simply needed an email client that would function in such a way that would help me through a busy day.

And so, I revisited Evolution and found it had evolved into just that.

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Why Evolution is important to Linux

Business. Period. That's why. I shouldn't have to explain further, but I will.

If there's one area where the Linux desktop needs to continue to focus, it is within the realm of business. LibreOffice does an outstanding job of filling the office suite void, but the business desktop is incomplete without a solid email/calendaring/contacts/todo solution. Thunderbird has tried to fill that slot, but having to add various and sundry plugins, so that it can serve as a somewhat passable solution isn't enough. KMail is okay, but really needs to serve its purpose on KDE. Beyond that, where do you turn? Geary is dead, Elementary Mail is email-only, Nylas' calendar plugin isn't enough, and Claws Mail is far too complicated for the average user.

That's where Evolution really shines. For any Linux user looking for a business-capable email client (one that can easily connect to both your Google Mail account and Office 365), you will not find a more apt client than Evolution. And that, my friends, is one of the main reasons why Evolution should be considered as the distribution-wide default. If you're looking for an all-in-one groupware tool, one that doesn't require you install various plugins to get the functionality you require, your best bet is Evolution. End of story.

Leaving behind the mindset

One thing Linux users have been guilty of is holding tight to a particular mindset (such as my refusing to use Evolution because it was too much like Outlook, or that the inclusion of Mono made it enemy of the open source state). Truth is, Evolution no longer depends upon Mono and the Outlook-like layout isn't really all that bad. The mindset of the Linux user has been a tough nut to crack. For instance, the idea that one can go their entire Linux lifetime and never open a terminal window is a reality...but it's one many of the Linux faithful refuse to accept. However, in order to win over the average user, that particular mindset must be set aside.

The same thing holds true with the email client. Take a look across the vast distribution landscape and count the number of "default" clients. This could easily become a point of contention for new users. Certainly you can install just about any supporting email client on nearly any distribution—but new users shouldn't have to do that. And that many Linux distributions default to an email client that is not ready for business prime time, is an issue that should be addressed. Consider this, for the longest time a Windows desktop could be deployed in either a home or business environment and (with little modification) it would function just fine. The same thing holds true for MacOS. Linux, on the other hand, needs some additional pieces such that it can pull off that same functionality within that same environment.

The good news on this front is that with Ubuntu returning to the GNOME desktop, it could possibly circumvent this issue by including Evolution as its default email client. However, that is no guarantee. Recently Canonical released a survey to find out what default applications should be used for Ubuntu 18.04. Reading through various threads on this subject, I was surprised to see how few people mentioned Evolution. Thunderbird received most of the attention, followed by the likes of Claws Mail.

Claws Mail?

Seriously?

Okay, I get it, Claws Mail is a very, very powerful email client. Years ago, it was my go-to for a long time. However (and this is a huge however), it's complicated enough that the average user would be absolutely lost in its setup. On top of that, it would look completely out of place (theme-wise) on the modern GNOME desktop.

This is what I'm talking about. Embracing what is actually best for the whole of Linux, instead of what is best for the individual user. If you consider what would be the most logical email client for the masses, there really is no reason to go beyond Evolution. And that every hardcore user can easily install their email of choice (in their sleep, nonetheless), means whatever is used as the default should make little matter. To the average user, on the other hand, it does make for a considerable matter. No new user wants to have to take the time to configure the likes of Claws Mail. No new user wants to have to walk through the process of adding a number of plugins to gain the standard functionality they are used to having.

Users just want things to work. Evolution works — and it works quite well now. It's stable, reliable, and familiar. It is that last bit which should weigh heavily on the decision to select Evolution as the default client. Add to that the fact that it plays well with business environments and the decision should be a no brainer.

What do you think? What should be the default email client for Linux, and why?

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About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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