default mail client

Matej Cepl mcepl at
Thu Feb 21 11:23:49 UTC 2008

On 2008-02-21, 01:48 GMT, Jens Petersen wrote:
> though I am not really trying to start painful flame-war 
> here...

Sorry, I don’t know how to say it nicely, so I will be just blunt 
— there is no way how can I believe this sentence. I don’t mean 
it badly — a good flamewar from time to time makes things more 
clear, but it is the flame if I ever saw one.

> For a long time (actually as long as I can remember;) I wondered why 
> Evolution was our default Mail application (MUA).  I was a long time 
> user of Emacs MUAs, so I feel my background is fairly neutral - but I 
> have never been able to use Evolution for long.  These days I use 
> Thunderbird since alas I gradually found Emacs too slow for imap.  I am 
> not married to Thunderbird but it mostly does what I want it and it is 
> pretty stable at least.

Aside from the obvious one (“It is the standard Gnome MUA”), you 
mean? OK, I think to make a little sense of this argument, let’s 
get to the common ground — “All mail clients suck. This one just 
sucks less.” ( What’s true about all mail 
clients (and yes, mutt sucks too, but that’s for different 
flamewar) is especially true for GUI MUAs.

I have in the past seven years used (aside from mutt and little 
bit of pain) kmail, Thunderbird, Evolution, and in the last week 
I needed to dip a little bit into claws-mail and sylpheed (I 
prefer the latter, BTW). That IMHO means I have covered most of 
what’s interesting in the world of Linux GUI MUAs (yes, I am 
missing chandler and balsa; oh well). My conclusion? All of them 
suck. A lot. And I mean it (Matthew, you are great!). I have no 
idea, why we still don’t have at least one MUA which would suck 
only as much as mutt does in non-GUI world, but we don’t.

Now, a little bit of reasons why I think Thunderbird is no better 
than others. First of all, I certainly cannot confirm that 
Thunderbird wouldn’t crash on me. It did and many times. Second, 
in my past many attempts to use Netscape Messenger/Mozilla 
Mail/Thunderbird I have actually incurred couple of times 
a dataloss (which never happened with other MUA), which makes me 
a little bit worried — true, it hasn’t happened lately, so may be 
Thunderbird is better IMAP client now, than it used to be, but it 
certainly makes me worried.

Second, you mean you have tens of thousands of messages in IMAP 
folders and you don’t care that your MUA hasn’t heard about 
regexps?  ( the 
bug was filed 1999 and there is still not attempt from TB folks 
to solve it)

Third, another reason why Thunderbird seems to me a pitiful IMAP 
client is that somehow it never heard about separate Trash folder 
not being part of IMAP world 
( and

Fourth, Reply-to-list feature — Thunderbird is 
one of the reasons Red Hat internal mail lists are such mess as 
they are, because everybody Reply-to-all.

Fifth, automatic messages archiving 
— You 
shouldn’t have ten thousands of messages in your working folder 
ever in the first place, because old messages should be 

Sixth, its vfolders are just pityfull — I suspect TB doesn’t 
index the messages, so whenever you open vfolder it has to search 
through all messages again and again.

I am not writing down these issue to say, that Evolution or any 
other GUI MUA is better (actually, kmail doesn't fail on most of 
these, but then vfolders in Evolution rock, and kmail is also 
POP3 client learning IMAP — special dIMAP account anyone?), just 
that there are good reasons why Thunderbird is not that much 
better than others, and there is no reason to incurr 
non-negligible switching costs on our users (remember, most of 
them probably use default MUA, just because it is default).

The second reason, why I put down this list is to show how old 
some of these bugs are. OK, maybe regexps are questionable 
feature in MUA (I would strongly disagree, but who am I), but not 
being able to fix Reply-to-list for seven years, and “Hide 
deleted IMAP messages” for four years, shows questionable level 
of support for the application which is in the core of 

Happy flaming!


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