The other day I made a test-drive of another E-mail client written in Java — Columba 1.0. At a glance, it appeared very friendly and well-though out, but soon… Here come my (unpleasant) notes, so if you a fan, you can skip the rest of the post as it won’t add any confidence and make you proud of the product.

What catches an eye is the similarity of the user interface with well-known Outlook replacement — Ximian Evolution. It’s crystal clear that it was modeled completely after the mentioned giant. Probably, it’s a good move — although, I’m not sure.

Classical first time run setup was pretty friendly and effective. It was traditional: user names, address, in and out server etc. What was funny is that B. Gates was used in all samples for name, organization and e-mail address fields. I consider it a little boyish to show your bad attitude in this way, but anyway…

Finally, it’s ready to go. The first mail fetch went fine and pretty fast. There was no mail in my inbox, though. As every normal user, I decided to send a letter to myself to test editor and sending / receiving performance. When I recalled that my mail server port number is 26 (not usual 25) Columbia was already making attempt to connect. After about three minutes or something of patient waiting I began my tries to terminate the connection attempt, hopelessly clicking on “Cancel” button, but it didn’t listen. After several tries I went to console to kill the app in a most rude way (with ctrl-c) and found lots of error traces there. Never mind. What was really disconcerting is that the application showed no traces of my unsent letter, upon restart. It wasn’t in the Outbox folder, it wasn’t in the Sent folder, it wasn’t anywhere! It was completely lost for this world. Hey, guys, have you ever heard of transactions? Take a closer look at how it is implemented in Evolution. The e-mail clients are NOT ALLOWED to lose user mail under any circumstances.

Well, to tell the truth, after tweaking the SMTP port it managed to send my test letter to myself. I even received it back, but when I deleted it, something really odd happened. The Trash folder counter showed 2 items (there were none before I deleted the test letter). In the Trash folder I could see only 1 item, but the counter showed 2. The same picture was with the Templates folder after I saved a test template — one item according to my eyes and two of them according to the counter.

The next thing I did was importing of existing mail folder from my Evolution account. It’s a pity that you can’t import more than one folder at a time. I have 20+ folders there and it could be a pain in the neck should I decide to move all of them. After my 400+ letters were imported (it took about 15 seconds, which is pretty slow, IMO) I began to play with them. Point is that after importing you have all your mail in unread state. That’s certainly interesting strategic move to tell me that I have 400+ unread letters. “Select All” command worked find despite all expectations, but the next command produced some weird results. When I commanded to mark everything as read, having everything selected, it marked everything except for 3 apparently random letters. I repeated the command and it made no actions. Those 3 letters were still unread. I had to walk through them and mark them individually. Was it a joke or easter egg?

After this last trick I reallized that this version is no way 1.0 and it’s too far from it. The authors claim that they were in development for 3 years before releasing it. Well, it looks like they need a little more time to polish all rough edges, as it’s dauting to grant the control over my e-mail accounts to their creation. Sorry to tell that, but it’s true — I have to put it aside and continue using Evolution as my primary mail client.

OK, enough for today… I like Open Source software very much. Not because it costs nothing, no. You can throw spam at me if you have no cracked software installed on your workstation. The beauty is in the concept — everyone is free to contribute and add own two cents to evolution. The whole world has united to push it forward in order to make impossible things real. So don’t take my post as something voting against Open Source and initiative as a whole. It was my experience with this product only and, in fact, I gave it a whirl, expecting to find some good replacement to Evolution I use today. It didn’t happen, sorry. I’m sure they will do better next time! They have no other choice.