Some of you may know that the disk on my laptop passed away a while ago. Since then I have been using Windows in my very own way. Feels like carrying personal stuff in luggage and traveling abroad:
I have to admit that, although the desktop sucks from the usability point of view, it can be forced to work for a particular purpose in a given timeframe; thanks to valuable free software projects like Firefox, Thunderbird, Gaim, Workrave, PuTTY, Eclipse, OpenOffice.org, FileZilla, Mono, Planner, Vim, GIMP and some other useful tools. Another positive comment I have to add about Windows is the smooth support for the hardware it's running on, a Dell Latitude D505.
I spend most of my time reading and sending e-mail and I'm a happy user of Evolution since the beginning, but the Windows port of Evolution is not ready for everyday use yet. So I did what everybody else did and temporarily switched to Thunderbird and that's where the royal pain in the rear began. But I'll start with things I liked so far.
I'm addicted to the vertical layout. IMAP performance is very good (specifically filtering on IMAP is very fast since it's processing only header data and can move messages server-side) and overall IMAP implementation is very mature. I guess that's all.
On the other hand, I find mail filtering and searching facilities very primitive. These should cover needs of basic mail users, but hey, that's not me. I have to deal with about 1k messages everyday which is more than a month's traffic of many others.
Thunderbird's mail composer stinks. Really.
It lacks several features Evolution offered from the very beginnings, like text e-mail signatures, proper HTML formatting, message templates, live spell checking and rich formatting in plain text mode (so I can easily switch to bulleted or numbered list mode even in plain text).
The small dock at the top of the window where recipient addresses are displayed is a usability nightmare. I'm using it for a month and still hate it. The attachment pane provides no useful information about the attachment other than the file name. Composer needs a lot of usability love.
Apparently they had to make contacts pane available for the composer in an attempt to fix the issue. I think it's the poor man's solution.
Another point is that, the composer displays wrapped text lines in plain text mode, but the text is submitted completely unwrapped. I'd love an explanation. This looks really pointless to me.
Thankfully it follows the RFC and strips off text signature part followed by "-- \n". On the plus side, it also supports some not-so-useful features like message receipts and message priority.
I don't want to go deeper into Account Settings and Options dialogs, you can set things up once and forget about them forever. But I'd like to note that some settings are very confusing for the average user.
I'd like to conclude with importing features. Thunderbird can import from a variety of applications like Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora and Netscape Mail but not from a standard mbox file. It even stores the data in mbox files, but can't import one? Sounds really stupid. Sure, I can go ahead and append the file to the file holding Inbox of Local folders, but the average user just can't do stuff like that. Why an average user would need to do that is another story :-)
I think I'll be reviewing other mailers, like Sylpheed and KMail soon.