evolution still falls short, t-bird and lightning rule

Decided to take another look at Gnome’s Evolution on the strength of improved functionality and performance of other Gnome integrated apps like Empathy. I tried it for both mail and calendaring. In the end I’m now back on Thunderbird with Lightning. Another swing and a miss for Gnome.

There are a few things I really didn’t care for in Evolution.

First, the graphics are still way too GTK2. Clearly the Gnome Shell UI guys have not spent a lot of time with the Evolution developers.

Second, it really wasn’t any faster than Thunderbird. It also hung as much as Thunderbird when under stress. Maybe more.

Third, doing customization, in keeping with the rest of Gnome Shell, is an exercise in frustration. It’s not just the Gnome Shell philosophy of “you’ll take what we give you and like it”, it’s the abysmal lack of documentation — and that even the thin veneer of doc available is nearly always behind by several versions, making it completely useless for users of the current iteration.

Fourth, in their drive to force everyone to use Gnome Online Accounts, they’ve completely hosed your ability to subscribe to calendars via Evolution’s calendar management interface.

Fifth, after over a decade of Evolution development you still can’t configure it to view more than one of your own Google calendars at a time, let alone Google calendars you’ve been granted access to (none of the half-baked work-arounds presented over the years still works).

In other words, the Emperor still has no clothes.

None of these problems exist in Thunderbird with the Lightning Calendar plugin. As much as users may complain about the shortcomings of Thunderbird (like a decade of unfulfilled promises regarding integrated encryption and other important technical details), I keep coming back to it because at least it’s functional. It’s also cross-platform, which means that I only have to support one e-mail client across all PCs here at the homestead.

Sure Thunderbird is slow, and crashes (or often threatens to), but is every other gui e-mail client ever published (we use Outlook at work, a/k/a the “reboot early and often” mail client from Microsoft). If you want speed, install and configure mutt. The doc is sometimes atrocious and dated, but at least the developers aren’t actively working against customization. Finally, although Lightning is far from perfect, it actually has improved over time. But that’s not just my opinion, it turns out that a lot of other people are turning to Thunderbird (or sticking with it).

NOTE: I intentionally refrained from praising Thunderbird’s superior detection of my e-mail provider’s IMAP folder structure. For example, Thunderbird configured itself to use my account’s Trash folder — conveniently giving it an “Empty Trash” option. Evolution, on the other hand, decided to go its own way and treat my provider’s Trash as just another folder, reserving the “Empty” (or Expunge) option for Evolution’s own deleted messages folder. I really wanted to avoid nitpicking details like this, although now that I’ve written about it I’m reminded of how so many of Evolution’s interface choices have seemingly been made without regard for the actual systems it’s supposed to connect users to.

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About phil

My name is Phil Lembo. In my day job I’m an enterprise IT architect for a leading distribution and services company. The rest of my time I try to maintain a semi-normal family life in the suburbs of Raleigh, NC. E-mail me at philipATlembobrothersDOTcom. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own and not those of my employers, past, present or future (except where I quote others, who will need to accept responsibility for their own rants).