After changing my personal emai strategy over the weekend by switching to Gmail, I was motivated to change the way I handle email at work as well. I am currently using Ximian Evolution 1.4 (which has recently become Novell Evolution) on Linux, but I am not quite happy with it. Similar to the way OpenOffice tries (and only superficially succeeds) to emulate Microsoft Office, Evolution emulates Microsoft Outlook. I certainly does a decent job, but at least the 1.4 version that I’m currently tied to has quite a few quirks. My main gripe is the calendar functionality, which is severely lacking, particularly when dealing with meetings or recurring appointments. Evolution 2.0 may solve some of these issues, but due to the Evolution’s tight integration into the Gnome desktop, this upgrade would entail upgrading Gnome as well as X, and these upgrades are not officially supported for our Redhat Enterprise 3.0 workstations and therefore not feasible at this point.

I really like Mozilla Thunderbird as an email (and news) client. Unfortunately, it does not include a calendar feature. The Calendar extension (which is the Firefox / Thunderbird plugin version of the standalone Mozilla Sunbird project) attempts to fill this void, so I decided to give this a shot today. However, I was not able to get it working in a satisfactory manner. The calendar is not properly integrated into Thunderbird, but shows up as a separate window. I was unable to open appointments (i.e. iCal attachments sent via Evolution) in Thunderbird. The only way I was able to view an appointment and enter it on my calendar was by manually saving the attachment and then explicitly importing the appointment using the calendar. This is obviously much too tedious and not feasible. I was also unable to accept a meeting request and notify the meeting’s originator by email. This is too bad, particularly since the standalone calendar application itself looks pretty promising.

To be fair, the calendar extension (as well as Sunbird) is only at version 0.2. It will certainly be worth keeping an eye on this, as Thunderbird + Calendar could be a very good alternative to Evolution once this integration works properly. Until then, I guess I’ll keep using my old version of Evolution.