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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Outlook Clone - Evolution in Windows at last

Microsoft's Outlook has been the kind of the defacto PIM/Mail Client for a long time with no challenger insight.

The reasons why it is so popular are:
  • It is a damn good Internet Mail Client.
  • A Microsoft Exchange Server Client. Not too many program can touch the Exchange Server
  • It has extremely good synchronisation ability with Pocket PC - naturally as they come from the same stable.
  • It is a good organiser for Calendar activities and tasks.
Well, Outlook's sole dominance in this arena is now being challenged by a program called Evolution, which has been around in Linux for a few years. Now, it has been ported to Windows.

I am always on the look out for ways of not paying Microsoft therefore I obviously do not pass up the challenge.

The installation in XP is rather smooth and uneventful. What is disturbing is the lack of any entry in the Start Menu nor was there any option not to create Start Menu during installation.

After installation in Admin account, I return to RANU to test Evolution for the LUA compliance. Surprisingly, it runs fine in LUA.

The installer appears to have forgotten to create the start menu. Hence to start Evolution, you need to run the Evolution.cmd in the Evolution directory. This starts a Command console briefly while it starts the StartX.exe which then runs the Step2.cmd. The comment in Step2.cmd is kind of worrying: Yes, I know this takes a while. Sorry. So be patient.

The first time it starts in an account, it will present you with the customary wizard to set up the POP account. The first thing an Outlook user will notice is the difference in user interfaces. The MS Outlook is slick and Windows-ish naturally, while the clone has the distinct alien look, but still functional.

Once that task is completed, the main screen is up. This is where I got lost completely. I was struggling to find the "Send/Receive Mail" button so that I could pull down some mail messages, which I knew were in this account.

After a bit of struggle, I found it under the File menu. But after pressing that and seeing the momentarily displayed progress window, I still could not find the Inbox messages. The WebMail access to this POP account confirmed the disappearance of the test messages. So obviously Evolution must be working.

After some exploration of the menu, I discovered the key ones to set and they are:
  1. Press "View | Layout | Show Side Bar" as this will present you the customary Outlook side bar allowing you to select folders.
  2. Press "View | Layout | Show Toolbar" as this will present you the toolbar.
Once these two settings are set, the operations and appearance of Evolution are uncannily close to Outlook.

It is early the days to proclaim that I will flip over to this but I will definitely monitor its development.

One of the claim of fame of Evolution is that it can hook up to a Microsoft Exchange Server and the Linux people have been using this for that purpose. Since I do not have an Exchange server to test it, I will take their words for it.

There are some Windows Z-order problem and is very typical for program that has forgotten to nominate the correct owner window of the dialog box. For example, when it is prompting for the password of POP account when the current one is incorrect. This sequence of windows is very untidy.

During closing down Evolution 2.8.2, it causes an application error. At the moment, I cannot determine the cause of it but it is repeatable.

Since it is free and some of the roughness is tolerable. The next is to compare this with Thunderbird 2 with the Lightning calendar plug in. So stay tune.

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