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Evolution Reviewed

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Scott M. Morris

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Posted: 13 Jan 2005
 

At the beginning of this series, I shared the method of how to choose the best email client according to your needs. Then, I reviewed KMail, the default KDE email client. Next, we took a look at Mozilla Mail. To end this series, I'd like to evaluate an excellent email application, Evolution.

Very first off, those of you who have been following this series know how important it is that software be intuitive and inherently incomplex to use. It's incredibly inspiring for a new user to fire something right up and start using it with minimal hassle. It's not quite so exciting to wade through volumes of HOWTOs and documentation only to be told to manually edit cryptic configuration files. What is wonderful, though, is when the software vendor displays generous consideration of the end user. People like to be catered to and fawned over. Using software should never have to be an intimidating experience.

The first time Evolution is started up, it immediately begins with an account set-up wizard, complete with clear and simple explanation on each screen of what is happening thereon. Look at the second screen in this wizard, for example:

The layout of the page is simple and clean. Throughout the rest of the wizard, everything is clear, friendly, and pleasant. This immediately diffuses any apprehension common to budding users.

After the initial account setup wizard was complete, I was taken to the main window:

A clean, well-structured, intuitive interface is one of the finer things in life. It's also great to have much of the functionality of the application immediately available from the interface. It's difficult for me to enjoy having to click 7 times to mark a message as "read." Actions should be available in two clicks or less. It can be in a button, a drop-down box, or a menu item. When things are readily accessible, it makes it easy to get more work done faster. It's all about the perfect mix of efficiency and ease of use. With how well Evolution performs in both these areas, users can have their cake and eat it too.

So it looks good and it's well-organized. Those are important elements. In and of themselves, however, they are not determining factors of whether or not to use a given email client. Let's look at some other considerations.

One of the brilliant things about Evolution is that its mail, address book, scheduler, and task list are all integrated into the same window. No more having to manage multiple windows. Everything stays uncluttered. With a single click, you can display any one of these sections of the application:

The mail messaging part of Evolution has all the bells and whistles. It has some nice advanced searching for messages. Going one step further, Evolution exhibits the ability to save these searches as virtual folders. It offers filtering rules for sorting out your mail. It has some fantastic features for customizing the layout of the application's interface. It has a lot of functionality without the unneccessary bloat found in applications like Microsoft Outlook.

The address book is also quite robust. Contacts can be sorted, searched, and organized in several different ways. Perhaps the most wonderful feature possible in an address book, it allows me to customize the fields that I wish to see in the view of my contacts. I love this feature. Go into the "View" menu, select "Current View," and then click "Phone List":

Next, right-click on any of the existing column titles to see the following menu appear:

When it does, click on "Customize Current View":

In the "Show Fields" box, customize the layout to your liking:

Click "OK" when done. Click "OK" on the next window as well. Your columns should now show up according to your preferences.

Another brawny section of Evolution is the Calendar. It boasts the ability to display a day, week, or month at a time, available from buttons found right on the task bar:

Evolution makes time and schedule management a breeze. One problem I have is remembering everyone's birthdays and anniversaries. Support for this is built right into the Calendar.

Regularly, unfinished tasks become casualties in a constant battle for my time. Forever there are things that need to get done. Wouldn't it be great to have a task manager? Again, Evolution answers this question with a very well-organized task manager. You can even assign due dates for the tasks, as well as start dates. You can organize them into categories and assign them to other people. Adding a new task is easy:

With all of the great tools, functionality, options, and settings, Evolution is very much my email client of choice. It has all of the incredible features that I demand, and the clean, organized look and feel that I like. When it comes to performance and power, I don't have to sacrifice ease of use. After much deliberation on which email client is king, I hereby crown Evolution with that title.

In future weeks, I will break down the plentiful functionality contained in Evolution. We will discuss the features, usage possibilites and good practice. Topics might include how to set up message filters, add other email accounts, manage messages, thwart spam, protect your identity, and so forth. With such an exciting and robust application, there are many marvelously cool subjects ripe for discussion.


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