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Connecting with GNOME Mail Clients - page 2

An Overview of GNOME Mail Clients

  • June 19, 2000
  • By Michael Hall

Project Homepage: http://www.newton.cx/balsa/

Balsa has been around for a while. Though it seemed to go through a slump in development, things have recently picked up and version 0.8 was recently released. Balsa offers a solid basic mail client that integrates well with whatever existing mail infrastructure you have set up.

Those who have less technically inclined users sharing their computer will like the way Balsa is able to handle POP3 and IMAP directly from the server, which introduces fewer points of failure. Those with more sophisticated setups taking advantage of procmail and fetchmail will find Balsa able to handle local mailspools and existing directories with no trouble. Balsa can be configured to use a local mail transport agent (such as sendmail) or it can send messages directly to an SMTP server, too. Again, this is useful for those who have a simple connection to the Internet and prefer to have their ISPs handle the heavy lifting.

Balsa also offers integration with the default GNOME address book, and, by extension, PalmOS-based PDAs. It takes a little tweaking to get this to work well with the GNOME Pilot package, since the two look for the default address book in different directories, but setting a symlink did the trick.

Balsa has some filtering functionality, though this isn't generally compiled into binary packages since it's not fully stable yet. Since Balsa works so well with procmail, there's really no need from the perspective of experienced Linux users who aren't afraid to work with procmail.

We were impressed by the Balsa setup druid, which would allow most users to set up a mail account just as easily as they would under comparable GUI-based packages under Windows, like Eudora or Outlook Express.

Finally, Balsa supports drag-and-drop attachments from GNOME-compliant file managers, though we had some trouble getting this to work smoothly, and it took toggling the attachment window from a drop-down menu. In other words, it wasn't the most obvious procedure, and it didn't work all the time. Attachments did, however, work fine by adding them from a menu.

Balsa doesn't, at this point, support PGP or GPG, which was a disappointing oversight in an otherwise solid (if basic) mail client.

In all, we found Balsa pleasant and intuitive to use. It offers keyboard shortcuts for those who prefer to keep their hands off a mouse. It was stable and quick to load, and it was also easy to set up with a nice set of configuration options, including setting the default character set, basic reply mode indenting options, and flexibility in terms of which message headers are displayed and how messages are printed.

We'd have little problem setting a new user in front of Balsa, and we'd even recommend it for power users who have a good foundation established with other traditional mail tools but want a nice GUI front end.

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