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Continuing my offline mail experiments


I have still not succeeded, really, with an offline mail experience that satisfies me. Partly because I have in parallel been trying to implement a "getting-things-done" (gtd) style task management system. (I use the reference to David Allen's system loosely and feel obliged to add this comment since so many bloggers and software developers talk about methods that seem quite far from Allen's system.) Opera's implementation is quite nice, as discussed, and would be fine for ordinary personal email. But it lacks some features that would make it more suitable for good office management. It's necessary to go to Google for contacts, calendars, etc. In addition, checking and downloading all those messages placed it under considerable pressure.

Thunderbird has more Gmail integration through various plugins. For example, I found one that adds Google's search operators like to:name and from:name, has:attachment, etc., which I use a lot. Some things still do not work, such as synchronization with Gmail tasks. Even more than Opera, I found that the offline imap placed the system under a lot of pressure. Sometimes it would become unresponsive. And as mentioned in a previous email I don't really like the mbox system.

On the basis of good reviews, I decided to try Gnome's Evolution again. After installation, it remembered my previous configuration from a few months before (though I didn't try working with it seriously at that time). I think it added, of its own accord, an account for its newer imap+ implementation, and I disabled the previous one. At first everything looked good. It synchronized with the server, Google calendar and Google contacts surprisingly well. But slowly I am discovering bugs and things that do not work as they should. Among these:

  • Purging tasks crashes the system
  • Impossible to create a task or memo from an email.
  • Impossible to edit notes after they have been created. Update: saw how to do this eventually.
  • No ability to send an email to a Tomboy task - though this is supposed to be possible.
  • Problems with focus (if this is the right jargon): Clicking on the Evolution icon in the Unity Dock does not return one to Evolution from another program. The workaround is to minimize the program that is hiding it, or click on the Evolution link in the notifications area. A similar issue exists with dialog boxes: once I had to 'kill' the Evolution process in the System Monitor. Update: this seems to have been a problem only with one session.
  • Problems with offline imap: it isn't possible to specify offline imap in the accounts preferences. It's possible to right click on individual folders to request offline use. But even after I do so I find that some messages are still unavailable.

That's all too many too many major bugs (and there may be more) in a system which is supposed to be so central to Gnome. But according to the reviews, it's still way-ahead of Kmail, which I previously used very successfully over an extended period.

As mentioned at the beginning, I've been trying to set up a gtd style system which I will be happy with, but which will work with both Google online and offline, so this also a factor in choosing how to work with these programs. I might even use Mutt or Gnus, but there are lingering problems with Hebrew support, which I also need for about 10% of my emails.

Update: I'm still using Evolution, despite the described problems. For my gtd solution, I star a message then delete it from the inbox. It shows up in the Starred folder, and sometimes add a reminder in Tasks. For messages that cannot be dealt with quickly, either because they require input from someone else or a series of actions, I move them to a folder called Action. I haven't quite decided whether to use Tasks for writing notes on these messages, or whether to use Emacs Org-mode. When messages have been dealt with, I remove the stars, and will remove them from the action folder. Some types of messages I will still store in special folders, rather than just in All Mail.