Since my office workstation is dead, I have to use a terminal for the time being. While I have all the functionality available, things don’t feel the same, as I have to configure and reconfigure things to my likings. One of my biggest frustrations was with email.
Email is an important part of my job. I get a few thousand emails daily. These include alarms and notifications, mailing lists, reports, log analyzers, tickets and requests, and correspondence with colleuges and customers. I have a very fine tuned system that helps me to process all of these messages in a reasonable amount of time. By reasonable I mean less than two hours per day.
With my workstation going down, my excellent email system became unavailable. I had to switch to an emergency set of tools. And that wasn’t as easy as I thouhgt it would be. In fact, I realized how complex my email setup was, but I thought that I could manage without it, albeit in a wider time span.
The company default for email is MS Outlook. I’ve logged in to our Windows terminal server and started MS Outlook to see if I can use it at all. I needed about two minutes to figure out that it is as far from a useful tool for me as my singing abilities from something one would want to display publicly. Grouping, sorting, and marking are non-trivial and slow. No anti-spam built-in. No thread support. Quoting is very limited. Keyboard navigation is almost non-existing.
So, three minutes later I was logged in to our Linux terminal server. Two choices were in my mind – Evolution and Thunderbird. I didn’t want to start with Evolution since I tried it few times before and was very disappointed with the stability of it. It used to crash on every other action of mine. Thus Thunderbird.
Thunderbird promted me with an easy and standard-looking wizard for account setup. I went through it and had my Inbox displayed to me very shortly. So far so good. I started going through a pile of email that I already had to process from the weekend. Thunderbird was much faster than MS Outlook that I tried earlier, but still way too slower than my usual Mutt setup. I quickly found how to rearrange and sort the messages the way I wanted, but it still didn’t show any threads. Quoting was much better though. Oh, and it has the anti-spam built into it.
I decided that I’ll stick with Thunderbird until my machine will get back. But than I started to notice bugs. Lots of them.
At first, the anti-spam filter misbehaved. It did exactly the opposite of what I wanted it to do. It marked all legitimate messages as junk mail, and all junk mail as non-junk. I reset the adaptive filter, but it didn’t help. Screw that. I already spent enough time on configurations.
Since I had my Inbox full of SPAM messages, I was going very fast through it, pressing the Delete button. Every ten or so messages, Thunderbird would lose focus of the message list window part. Meaning that the cursor indicating the current mesage would totally disappear and Delete button would not work any longer. I had to click on one of the messages again to reactivate the whole thing. The only way to bypass this behavior was to press the Delete button slower, leaving intervals between pushes. That slowed me down a lot!
Than I noticed that the whole deletion thing works very strange. While I deleted about 600 messages, only 40 appeared in the Trash bin. Random ones. Not that I missed anything, but it looked strange.
When I went through all my emails, I closed Thunderbird and went for the break. When I came back 10 minutes later and fired it up again, it wouldn’t start. Actually, it started, but it keeps showing me the busy cursor and doesn’t want to do anything. It seems that something is wrong with my profile settings or something.
Evolution was my next choice. I started it up and again got the wizzard for account configuration. While going through it I noticed that it supports MS Exchange natively, so I decided to go for this option, instead of the usual IMAP choice.
After I configured everything, I got a list of folders on the Exchange server and counters of new messages, but no message list. I cliked here and there, minimized and maximized it and finally, somehow, I managed to get it. At least it didn’t crash…
I went through my new messages, reading, replying and delete as usual. For some strange reason, the counters of new emails in the folder weren’t updating. I also was getting a whole bunch of “No such message” errors. This was happening when I accidentally clicked on a message that was marked deleted. I don’t know why Evolution was showing it to me, if the any action regarding the message would result in the error message. Yes, I tried the undelete operation too. Didn’t work. Strange logic.
Than I found out how to refresh the counters. I had to press the Send/Receive button. So much for the native Exchange support.
While my own email setup is very specific and fine tuned, I failed to use the common software for the simple things. Either bugs or lack of features stopped me from being productive. As I find myself in this situation, I am very curious if anybody at all uses these tools for managing moderately high amount of emails (say a couple of thousand messages per day or more).
Please use comments for the feedback.