Blog Post

Linux and GMail

I have spent a bit of today playing with the various email clients on Linux today. I use GMail with IMAP for all of my email. Why you ask, especially when there are so many other options? Easy, convenience. I don’t have to set anything up, works with my phone, computers, TV, and then some. I also like how my calendar, contacts, and email are all in one place, and can be viewed, edited, or used from all of the devices I just listed above without having to install a single application. Convenience. I wanted to see how the desktop clients were going these days in regards to email so I played with Evolution, Kontact/KMail, and Thunderbird.

All 3 left a bad taste in my mouth. They all connected with GMail just fine, without having to do more than giving it my GMail address and password. Evolution was probably the fastest on the initial import of email out of the 3. KMail was by far the slowest. Evolution took about an hour, Thunderbird was about the same, and then there was KMail. It is now 19:00 and I started the KMail one at about 16:00, so almost 3 hours. Once KMail got up and running, you would hover over a message and a popup would display with information pertaining to the email. Everything was correct except for the body. The body was for an email in some other folder who knows where. Other than that, they all did what they are supposed to do with GMail.

Well how about with Google Calendar or GMail Contacts? Yeah, not so great. One would work great with contacts, but suck with the calendar, or one would work great with calendar or suck with the contacts, or one wouldn’t work with either. So, I have concluded thus far for me, that Mutt combined with a script or terminal command worked better than the GUI solutions. So I guess the Mutt slogan is 100% true then:

All mail clients suck. This one just sucks less

I just went in and did an apt-cache search gmail and this is what it told me:

Each red dot in that image signifies a GMail notification application. Well, it seems the Linux world has plenty of GMail notification applications and no GMail application. I think it is maybe time you stop being opportunistic with the notifiers. I wish I had some more time, as I would love for something like sparrow or Mailplane for Linux. If you want to be opportunistic, there you go. I think an application like either of those 2 would be great.

That’s all, just wanted to have a little fun today and it has been a while since I blogged, so I figured I would bother you all really quickly πŸ™‚

EDIT: I Google’d mac gmail and realized they are as bad as Linux when it comes to the notifiers too. I didn’t Google windows gmail because they don’t matter anyways πŸ™‚

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  • Pro tip: is the the gmail application.

    • Ben

      Have to agree with Jorge. The reason there’s a shortage of desktop clients for GMail is that GMail’s user interface is so compelling already. Why bother?

      • Michael

        Especially now that they support drag and drop file attachments and you can embed images straight in to the email body. Also search indexing happens on a remote server (or farm of servers) and doesn’t waste your resources.

        • AHH! Drag and drop was something I was actually kind of interested in. I don’t do many file attachments, but on a dual monitor setup, I do tend to from time-to-time want to do that, and I can’t do that with Mutt πŸ™‚ Thanks for that heads up!

    • I think I have to agree with you, but after seeing the stuff the Mac folks have, I am a little envious.

      Here is another thing, if you are going to use a web client, why not use hotmail then? All of the latest reviews are about how hotmail is doing this and that better than gmail now. Maybe I just need to have my workflow adjust, as I was always use to just having Mutt fired up, and thought maybe I should jump into the future here and get out of the 90s πŸ™‚

    • Anonymous

      I also agree with that, but what about offline reading and writing?

      (I know… I know… who’s offline nowadays? but planes, you know…)

      • Yeah, but these days being offline every once in a while is a good opportuntiy to read a book.

        My computer’s basically a brick to me without the internet regardless of what mail client I use. And even if I had pure offline mail, not having the rest of the web there for references when responding to emails sucks.

  • AnonSphere

    What’s wrong with Thunderbird?

    • 1) It uses mbox and not maildir, which makes backups a pain and TBird to be slower overall
      2) Contact sync with Google is supported by plugins, and every review of the plugins available pretty much say the plugin sucks

  • Anonymous

    Make sure you are using IMAPX and IDLE support in your evolution configuration. It makes a huge difference.

    • Does Evolution use that by default do you know? IDLE I am guessing it Evolution’s definition of ‘Disconnected IMAP’? Evolution was peppy. The one thing I remember from 2 years back about Evolution, is that it did Exchange better than Outlook πŸ™‚

      • Anonymous

        AFAIK, IDLE = Disconnected IMAP, and it is not enabled by default.

  • mutlu

    Richard, when you say that “they all connected with GMail just fine,” do you mean the connecting per se or the handling of email in general? I have never been satisfied with the way GMail labels are handled. All email programs I have tested thus far duplicate an email assigned to two labels.

    • Connecting definitely. Handling I am iffy on. In order for me to be satisfied with Mutt with the handling, I had to do a ton of tweaking, and it is the type of tweaking that I haven’t been able to find within a GUI client.

      That is a valid point with the duplication. Something that has always annoyed me. I have worked my ass of on my GMail filters to try and prevent the duplication, but I haven’t won that battle (yet?).

      • My main use-case for filters (aside from a few things like “Action” items, which it sounds like KMail can handle nicely with “Important” flags instead), is for tagging things like mailing lists, Facebook notification archives, and what-not, and all of those are set to “skip inbox”, so they don’t end up duplicated. As with many things, finding a work-flow that suits both you and your interface can alleviate a lot of pain. That said, I have a love/hate thing with the label system as well. πŸ˜‰

  • Richard, I’m not certain how far it goes, but it sounds like Selkie from the KDE Silk initiative might be able to provide a similar experience to Mailplane.
    Just a thought based on what I’ve read…

  • I love to use Gmail with web client but as an android user i can say that it’s possible to create some application “gmail-style” that is just as fast, easy and powerful as gmail-web.
    With the benefits of web and local application.
    Please somebody do it and, why not, the same thing for google reader please πŸ™‚

  • P@sNox

    You could try the akonadi gooogle resource.
    It provide contacts & calandar resources for Kontact ( KMail/KAdressesBook).
    I used them until kde 4.5, but now it seem the kde 4.6 port is bugguy ( parse error ) and cause memory leak in xorg / plasma. So i deactivate them.
    But it’s really a kool and easy thing to setup.
    They are available in (XYZ)ubuntu repository.


    • Yeah, I have been trying it. 4.6 isn’t working at all for me. I have dropped the akonadi database, rebuilt it, you name it, and it still doesn’t work :/

  • Anonymous

    I’m desperately looking for sparrow or a sparrow like for linux.

    I even made mockups that looks like that some years ago… but writing an email application is sadly not just writing some UI.

  • Null

    Gmail now supports desktop notification for mail and chat. As long as you have gmail open you will get a desktop notification outside of the browser window. Personally, I pin my gmail window and have Chrome remember the open tabs for next run. Even if the browser is minimized or you are working in another workspace you’ll see the notification.

  • roentgen

    You might want to consider that Gmail is slow as hell thru IMAP compared to a in-house IMAP server – 10 times slower. I wouldn’t blame appications that much.

    Besides that Gmail’s implementation of IMAP is quite far from standards.

  • For Thunderbird/Google contact sync, try the thunderbird addin zindus.
    It works really well.

    • I am trying this with another GMail account for our cycling team. It works, it works well, and it is fast out of the box. Good heads up on this, googling never found this, so I appreciate it.

  • Unfortunately KMail with Akonadi is sooo sloooow. πŸ™ It is somehow impossible to subscribe to popular mailing lists with KMail2, well, KNode ist better, but it is not nice that it worked with KMail1.

  • JeanAustinr

    Google Chrome is still the application I use to check my Gmail. Nothing beats this all-around web browser.

  • Anonymous

    You could take a look at specto for notification, It does a good job for emails … and there seems to be a version that integrates with the indicator messages . You can also add other kind of watches.

  • Toobuntu

    I always preferred claws-mail because it is highly configurable (there are even “hidden” settings you can set in a dot file, like showing new messages in boldface). It used to have issues with IMAP, but, from scanning the changelog, it looks like it should handle it better now. The main reason I prefer claws-mail is that it defaults to MH, where each email is stored as a separate text file. By contrast, Thunderbird uses mbox, which stores each folder’s emails in a single file, which is why it needs to be compacted every so often.

  • I would also like to a neat gmail client… Loading gmail is often slow and it doesn’t work offline… I would love to read my email in a robust desktop app, but I can’t leave the UI that gmail gave me… And the other email clients belongs to the 90’ties…

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to write a client myself… Though I’m been dreaming about doing so for quite a while…

  • Zimbra Desktop rocks.
    Of course, it rocks even more if you use it with the Zimbra server, but it does do synchronization pretty well with gmail etc

  • Toto

    What does it has to do with KDE ? Or even with FOSS ? Go run your proprietary cloud hype on Android and leave the planet free from all this madness. Please.

    • Pull your bottom lip over your head and swallow. Please!

      • Sorry, but I have to agree: GMail is not better than any other proprietary EMail-application, e.g. Outlook, it is probably worse, you are not even using free protocols and storage-formats.

  • Pingback: Linux and Gmail II - Zimbra Desktop - Richard A. Johnson's Blog()

  • I use gmail with Kmail and have no problems… which KMail version are you using? Also, the screenshot is correct (apt-get cache search) but the text before it isn’t (apt-cache search) πŸ™‚

    • 4.5.94, which is the 4.6RC. I have a lot of email, so it is naturally slow, plus the Google connection for calendar and contacts do not work. I have done everything. Thanks for the heads up on my typo, fixed that πŸ™‚

  • Pingback: Linux and GMail Part III - Thunderbird - Richard A. Johnson's Blog()

  • One year later, no mailplane or sparrow for Linux.Β 

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