April 20, 2019

Balsa 1.0: Mail in the GNOME Environment - page 2

An Update

  • December 11, 2000
  • By Michael Hall
When you launch Balsa for the first time, a GNOME configuration Druid appears. This provides an easy-to-use set of configuration options. Unlike some other Linux mail programs, Balsa will default to ~/mail instead of ~/Mail. If you're moving to Balsa from another mail client and have a set of preexisting mail files elsewhere, this is an important thing to keep in mind. Balsa also sets up specific inbox, outbox, trash, and sentbox folders. Other options in the Druid include setting your mail address and SMTP host.

In addition to the basic configuration the Druid offers, Balsa has a wide variety of configurable options from within the program itself. It's possible to add POP accounts, set which headers you can see when displaying a message, adjust how messages are colorized for attribution when displayed, and add address books.

The address book feature is welcome, because it allows users to link directly to their GNOME Card address book. Balsa allows aliases to auto-expand when entering a recipient in the 'To' field of a new mail, as well. By right-clicking on the index entry of a message, addresses can be added directly to the default address book. This tie-in with a standard GNOME desktop app is very helpful and gives Balsa an edge over some other clients that have decided to go their own way and maintain an address book of their own.

Among the other things Balsa brings to the table are, if you've enabled it, display of HTML mail. It's not the most popular feature in the world among many, but if you're working a job where you just get a lot of HTML mail or have friends and relatives you can't break of the habit, it's a nice feature to have enabled. For multipart mails with a HTML component, Balsa defaults to the plain text version, you can click on an HTML icon at the bottom of the message to see the HTML version rendered.

Balsa can also render graphical attachments. Again, it defaults to showing an attachment icon, but clicking on the icon presents the image without resorting to an external viewer.

Because it's fully tied into the broader GNOME environment, Balsa can handle additional MIME types as they're added from the GNOME control center, providing a unified set of document handlers. If you've set Applix to edit .doc files from MS Word under GNOME Midnight Commander, for instance, this will apply to Balsa as well.

Balsa also has a set of command line options that make it more customizable at launch. If you run several instances of the GNOME mailcheck applet to keep an eye on several different mailboxes, each can be configured with a different launch command for Balsa to open that specific box on being clicked. This is done with the command balsa --open-mailbox=foo. Through command line options, Balsa can also be configured to launch a composer window by using the command balsa --compose=foo@bar.net.

Printing messages allows Balsa to show off one of the nicer features of the GNOME print module. The print preview display is very clean and very scalable. Options include printing Postscript directly to the printer, writing a Postscript file to disk, or outputting to PDF.

In addition to the basic GUI point-n-click functionality, Balsa has reasonably intuitive keyboard shortcuts, though it isn't possible at this point to live without the mouse.

Finally, Balsa comes with good, illustrated documentation under the Help menu, tied into the general GNOME Help browser. Among other things, this shows how to set up IMAP folders as the primary folders for Balsa, which is a useful trick (even though it isn't point-n-click simple to pull off.)

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