September, 2010: Revisiting Mail Clients
I wrote about my switch to Claws-Mail about a year and a half ago. At the time, one of my major concerns with Thunderbird was their “only use one sending account” hangup. If you have a variety of business-related and personal accounts, you need to ensure that you don’t send out mail meant for one account through another one. T-bird made it a difficult process to set up, because you essentially had to go through the set-up process twice, and then link the incoming and outgoing accounts together.
Claws isn’t perfect either, so I occasionally look at another client. I recently decided to reinstall the OS on both partitions of my laptop. Since I’m using KDE (most of the time) and occasionally Xfce or Lxde, for my desktop environment, I thought I’d give Kontact a try. Kontact, if you haven’t seen it, integrates Kmail, the KDE addressbook, and a few other applications into one whole.
It didn’t make me set up filters, although the whole thing of creating an identity, then creating an e-mail account and assigning that account to that identity is beyond me. So set up wasn’t horribly difficult, and I wasn’t banging my head against the wall. Until I replied to an e-mail message from a friend and found my private, family-only address getting filled with mail enhancement spam (the friend’s computer was infected). It turns out that Kontact / Kmail generally uses the “default account” that is associated with the “default identity” for sending purposes. Changing the settings didn’t change this. Immediately, that took the whole KDE e-mail infrastructure off my list.
Past experience with Evolution meant I wasn’t even going to try it. (Incidentally, GNOME, when someone sends an error report, you really shouldn’t post their e-mail address online. I had to close the address I used with Evolution because of this.)
What is so hard about this? Here’s how it works: You have an e-mail address for work-related stuff. You have another one that you give to your friends and to your uncle Fred who likes to send you all the forwarded jokes and political stuff. You have another one that you give to certain family members who have shown that they are responsible. You read messages for that third address whenever they come in, while the other two may have varying waiting periods before you read their messages. The key to making this work is that you should never send a message from account 1 when you meant it to come from account 3.
So I immediately made sure Thunderbird was installed and started the account set-up process. Gmail, Hotmail, independent POP or IMAP, it didn’t matter. T-bird setup automatically did the right thing each time (with POP accounts, it asks you whether you want a single dumping ground or separate folders). One particular service uses non-standard ports, so I had to click “edit” and change that. I was also impressed that T-bird no longer needs an extension to let me accept various services’ changing security certificates.
Now, my next step was (finally) to restore some of my backed-up data. Then I installed Claws-Mail. When I launched, I had a surprise: I had copied my configuration, so it immediately had all my past messages and all my settings.
Claws-Mail doesn’t support sending HTML mail, whereas I’d rather have the capability there with a checkbox to turn it on or off for each message I send. (T-bird uses a per-account model: you choose to send HTML mail, and thereafter, every message you send from that account is in HTML.) I do like the speed and reliability of plain-text e-mail, however, so I am currently using the two side by side. (Three accounts in each client, with no overlap.) It also means that I can have a mail client open without having to accept delivery of every account’s messages. (And I also have four of those six accounts configured on my WebOS phone.)
Now, if only there was a “save to ODF” and “send as ODF” plugin, I’d be glad.