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Connecting with GNOME Mail Clients

An Overview of GNOME Mail Clients

  • June 19, 2000
  • By Michael Hall

There's a common belief that e-mail is the Internet's "killer app," the thing that made Net access essential to the masses. Despite Microsoft's creation of virus-vectoring e-mail clients as a sort of literal "killer app," there's no sign that e-mail will stop being popular any time soon. It's a communications conduit that offers a nice blend of information density (attachments), immediacy (Internet speed), and privacy (turning off requests for return receipts.)

There are a lot of good mail clients for Linux. Pine, for instance, is a common choice for shell-based mail (and an X front end is underway), as are mutt and even elm; and there's exmh, tkRat, XFMail, Aileron, and Postilion for those who prefer a GUI. Emacs fans can use RMAIL, vm, Gnus, and mew.

With the rise of the desktop environment, integrated GUI environments that bind lots of useful and small applications together, there's some room for expansion in the mail client scene. KDE, for instance, has its solid kmail and the upcoming Magellan.

When the GNOME project began to take shape, the de facto mail client for the new environment was Balsa. Over time, GNOME's developers announced a new mail framework (Camel), and Balsa's development seemed to slow. Several other projects have since taken shape, offering a variety of mail clients ranging from the rather simple to at least one commercial effort that offers Microsoft Outlook-like features right down to the calendar. A quick look at the GNOME Software Map's mail client list shows fifteen projects under development.

Miguel de Icaza hasn't been sleeping, either. His new company, Helix Code, in addition to providing a top-notch binary release of GNOME, is also hard at work on the mail and scheduling program Evolution, a clear run at the corporate messaging environment.

We took a look at several of the available clients and found a good diversity of features and simplicity. Though all are still under development, each shows promise and a few offer enticing extras.


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