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Ximian Evolution 1.2 – the Outlook lookalike for Linux

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Review The following review was first published by Extremetech, where you can read it with added screen shots here. We at The Register like the good people at Extremetech very much, we think they like us too, and we hope that the occasional piece of 'cultural exchange' will help further the causes of enlightenment and world peace. Which as you know is what The Register is all about.

Things just keep getting better and better in Linux Land. First a whole slew of desktop-oriented distros and now an upgrade to one of the most popular email/organizer clients - Evolution.

Evolution looks a lot like Microsoft's Outlook program, so if you've used that you'll feel pretty comfortable with Evolution right away. Evolution has been bumped up to version 1.2 and there are lots of new goodies in this upgrade.

Installation

After we heard the announcement about the new release, we waited patiently until Evolution made its way to the Debian mirrors.* It took a few days, but was worth the wait!

To get Evolution 1.2 we opened up a command prompt, in Libranet 2.7, logged in as root and typed "apt-get install Evolution." A couple of minutes later Evolution 1.2 was installed and ready to go.

To start Evolution after the install, we just clicked on the Evolution button on our Gnome panel. A small popup that informed us that Evolution needed to install some additional files into our Evolution directory.

We clicked Okay and that was all the configuration we needed. All of our prior configuration settings were kept, and we didn't have to do a thing to connect to our email server.

New Features in Evolution 1.2

Evolution has some nifty new stuff in it. While some features aren't exactly earth-shattering, they certainly improve Evolution's usability.

A new universal configuration menu makes it much faster and easier to set up Evolution with your own preferences. You can configure your mail accounts and preferences, calendar, font preferences, folder settings and directory servers from within the Settings menu.

There is also a new dropdown button andmenu that makes it faster and easier to create new mail messages, calendar entries, contacts, etc. In older versions you first had to open the associated applet to create an entry - the inbox folder had to be open, for example, to create a new message. Now just a click of the "New" button lets you create those items directly.

Evolution also has an improved News Feed â Evolution's summary page that's equivalent to Outlooks' Outlook Today page. Evolution lets you pull in news headlines from a wide variety of sites, including Motley Fool, Salon, Slashdot, Linux Today, the Register and others. Although not essential, it's a nice feature that adds value.

Now you can also can drag and drop folders and other objects into the Shortcut Bar. You can even specify default folders that the Shortcut Bar always points to. One minor nit: when we set up Evolution there was no default Drafts folder in the Shortcut bar. We shouldn't have had to drag it from Folders list for it to show up on the Shortcut bar.

Calendar, Contacts and Mail

Calendar: Ximian claims that this release loads the calendar much more rapidly. We didn't notice much of a difference but, then again, we don't really use the Calendar that much. Our main use for Evolution is email.

Another change in this release lets you import Calendar items to remote folders. There are some meeting tweaks as well. If you delete a meeting via right-clicking you can also now send a cancellation notice to the person who is supposed to meet with you. Evolution can also now send replies when you change your attendance status for a meeting.

Contacts: There have been some changes and additions to Contacts too. You can globally specify the folders used for autocompletion if you want. The address selection dialog has been tweaked and improved for mail and meeting requests. SSL/STARTTLS support for LDAP is now included in Evolution and you can also do category searches in LDAP.

Mail: Ximian has made some helpful tweaks to Evolution's email client too. It's now possible to create different signatures and easily choose which one to use in a message. During our testing, when we created our first email message Evolution created a default signature for us. We could easily toggle it on or off via a composition window drop-down menu. Multiple signatures are a nice touch, especially if you wear different hats.

Mozilla mail has included graphical emoticons for a while, and now Evolution does the same thing. This isn't a "must-have" feature but it's nice. Emoticons do help to communicate tone and emotion in an otherwise unemotional medium.

HMTL rendering is also improved. We noticed this immediately during our tests when we tried to read the daily "Good Morning Silicon Valley" email. In the prior release some of the formatting was off, but in this version it looks great.

You can now configure fonts in your HTML email right from Evolution, as well as the sounds and notifications associated with email actions. Just because we're masochists, we downloaded a wav file of AOL's infamous "You're Got Mail" and then configured Evolution to play it each time we received a message. Within an hour, we'd freaked out enough - and turned off the sound notification.

Evolution connects to a wide variety of servers such as Pop, Imap, standard unix mbox spool or directory, maildir format mail directories, MH-format mail directories, Local Delivery.

Final Thoughts

Evolution has come a long way from where it started and it's getting better and better. This release is definitely worth upgrading to if you are already running an earlier version. If you still aren't running Evolution on your Linux box then get to a server and snag a copy. A good thing has just gotten better. (Extremetech)

* Register note: You can also get Evolution from ximian.org.

Related links:
Extremetech review: The best Linux distros
Extremetech: The BSDs - Sophisticated, Powerful and (mostly)free

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