I have used what seems like countless e-mail clients — everything from text-based e-mail (Pine and Alpine) to all-in-ones such as Evolution and Outlook. Each of these clients always seemed to be missing a feature I wanted, suffered from poor performance, was buggy, or bogged down whatever machine I was using. That is a big problem, because e-mail is one of those tools you simply cannot do business without. So I searched high and low for an e-mail client perfectly suited for me.
I came across Claws Mail on the Linux platform. This client struck me as something special right away. Ever since I found it, Claws Mail has been my e-mail client of choice. And now, I have found, it can be installed on the Windows platform as well. So Claws Mail can be your e-mail client of choice too.
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About Claws Mail
Claws Mail was originally called Sylpheed-Claws and was the unstable branch of the Sylpheed e-mail client. Eventually Claws Mail extended beyond Sylpheed and became a separate entity. And although Claws Mail contains quite a bit more extra features than Sylpheed, it still enjoys the lightning-fast speed and reliability of its former parent.
Claws Mail now enjoys installation candidates for Linux, Solaris, BSD, OS X, Maemo, and Windows. Claws Mail features include:
- Very fast GUI and mail handling
- Multiple accounts
- Threaded display
- Mime attachments
- Usenet reading/posting
- SSL support
- GnuPG support
- User-defined headers
- MH and Mbox folder support/import/export
- Plugin capabilities
Most likely the feature that will get you hooked is the speed. I have yet to find a mail client that opens, runs, filters, and delivers e-mail as fast as Claws Mail. The only clients that can even compare are text-based clients.
The Windows port of Claws Mail is actually part of another package — gpg4win — and the only way to install Claws Mail is through this package. You do have to install gpg4win during the installation, which is a good thing as it will allow you to take advantage of encryption with Claws Mail. However, there are two other features currently missing from the Windows port of Claws Mail: LDAP and Spell Checking. I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before they make their way into the port.
The installation process is fairly straightforward. What you need to do is first download the gpg4win installation file. If you look at the Windows port page, you will notice two versions to download: the "official" release from the gpg4win team and a more recent snapshot. Go with the latter of the two for a more up-to-date version.Once you have the file downloaded, double-click it and walk through the installation process. The installation will offer very little out of the ordinary. The only exception might be when you come to the components screen, shown in Figure A. In this screen you can choose what you want to install. You have no choice but to install gpg4win, but you can choose whether or not to install Claws Mail. Make sure the Claws Mail component is selected before you click Next.
It uses only 34 MB of space for both components, not bad for a full-featured e-mail client AND encryption system.
Once the installation is complete, the first thing that Claws Mail will require is the creation of an account. This is done with the help of a very simple wizard that will walk you through the process. There is nothing in this wizard that should cause you any grief.Finally, once you have finished setting up your first account, you will be greeted with the main window (Figure B). And, as you see, the Claws Mail e-mail client is very much like any e-mail client you've ever used — on the surface that is.
It's not until you start scratching under the surface that you see how much more Claws Mail has to offer.
This is where Claws Mail starts to stand out. There are features found in Claws Mail that you will not find in most other e-mail clients. Some of these features are a bit too geek-chic for the average user, and it's just those features that will appeal to the IT crowd. Let's take a look at some.
This is the feature that was such a breath of fresh air to me. I belong to a lot of Linux mailing lists. If any of you have ever belonged to such a mailing list, you know what I mean when I say the phrase "top posting." The users of many of the Linux mailing lists stand strong with the idea that all posts' replies to posts should either be done in-line or at the bottom. So instead of replying to a post at the top of the reply you should either answer questions (or replies) within the body of the original e-mail (where those replies are necessary) or wait until the very end of the mail. This retains the flow of the conversation, so the reader doesn't have to go back and forth.
The problem is that the average user doesn't adhere to this and most likely doesn't want to have to search for replies to an e-mail. Most users want the reply on top for easy access. So what do you do when you e-mail both types of users frequently? Sure you could just manually place your cursor where you need it. OR you could use Claws Mail templates to do this for you.If you are using only one account, click on the Configuration menu and then select the Preferences entry. If you have more than one account, have that account selected and then click on the Configuration menu and select Preferences for Current Account. Either way you are going to open a Preferences window that contains the Templates section, as shown in Figure C.
You can also see how many different configuration sections Claws Mail contains here.
There are three tabs in this window:
- Compose: The template used to compose e-mails.
- Reply: The template used when replying to e-mails.
- Forward: The template used when forwarding e-mail.
You can also change the quotation mark character here. This is the character that is printed at the beginning of every line of quoted text.
As you can see in the example above, symbols are used to include special fields. In the default reply template you have:
The symbols above are:
- %d - Date
- %f - From
- %q - Quoted body from original email
- %X - Placement of cursor
As you can see, this places everything in the body above the cursor. This is perfect for replying to mailing lists, but for other users, not so much. For average users, you would want to reverse this like the sample below:
Is what %N has to say about the email, from %d, quoted below:
The above sample places the cursor at the top, a brief message, and finally the quoted body.
Now, the tricky part — how do you create filters for different types of replies? Here's how you do it. For our example, we are going to use the firstname.lastname@example.org. The steps for this process are as follows:
- Create a folder that all the mailing list e-mails will be filtered into.
- Create a filter that will move all e-mails from the mailing list into the folder.
- Right-click the folder and select Properties.
- Click on the Template tab and create your template.
Now when you reply to an e-mail that is in that folder, the template for that folder will apply.
PluginsAlthough there are not many available plugins, there are some handy ones. To enable plugins, go to the Configuration menu and select Plugins. In this new window (Figure E), click the Load button, select the plugin you want, and click Open.
You can also remove a plugin by clicking the Unload button.
The plugins you will most likely want to load are:
- gtkhtml2: Allows you to view HTML e-mail.
- Vcalendar: Adds a calendar to Claws Mail
- Bsfilter: Provides an anti-spam filter
Claws Mail offers a full-featured, lightning-fast e-mail client for the average and the hard core e-mail user. If you've grown tired of slow, unreliable, bloated e-mail clients, let Claws Mail sink its claws into you; you'll be hooked.
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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 getjackd.net.