I’ve used email since the early 90’s, back in the days when Netscape Navigator reigned supreme. Things are a lot different today than back then. The Internet is fast, we get lots of email, and most of us access our email from multiple devices. For convenience, many people have stopped using dedicated email clients in favor of the web interface of services like Yahoo and Gmail.
Not me. I still like that dedicated email client on my desktop. Granted, I don’t use POP3 any longer, having switched to IMAP several years ago. (For those who don’t know the difference between the two types of email, IMAP stores your messages on the provider’s server, so you can access the messages from multiple devices. POP3 downloads the email to a specific devices and then wipes it from the provider’s server.) Unfortunately, most of the email clients out there make me feel like I’m still in the 90’s. Clunky interface, bad graphics, and it takes forever to set up the client. This is especially true on the Linux desktop.
That’s why I jumped when I heard about Geary. This is a Linux email client with a modern interface and designed from the ground up as a no frills IMAP email client. And when I say no frills, I mean it. No calendar, no extensions of any kind. Virtually no customization options. But by omitting lots of options and features, this little piece of software does what it’s supposed to do…email…very well.
For starters, setting up Geary is a breeze. For Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook users, simply go to the accounts tab, select the + button to add an account, then put in your email address and password. That’s it! If you happen to have a another IMAP-based email (perhaps a company server, or email included with a web hosting package), then you will need to know the details of your account, such as type of encryption, port number, and server address. But even with these types of accounts, set up is quick and painless (Thunderbird and Claws Mail could learn a thing or two here). Multiple account support is provided, a plus for people like me who juggle personal and work email (I have five email accounts, and Geary handles them all without a problem).
Geary’s interface is the common three panel approach that we see in many web-mail apps, as well as some clients like Outlook. On the left you will find a list of your accounts, with the inbox of each account listed at the top of the column. Below the inboxes you will find expandable indexes of all of your account folders. Select a folder, and the center panel will list the emails present in that folder. Click on an email from the list, and the right-hand pane displays the selected email.
OK, so Geary sets up easy, but so far the interface sounds like most other email clients. Well here’s where the little details in the user interface make this such a great email client. First of all, the sender’s picture is displayed in the email header (assuming the sender has a picture associated with the account). Maybe not a big deal for some, but many (including myself) enjoy the visual interaction. The toolbar at the top of the screen isn’t cluttered with tons of buttons; the basics are here (compose, reply, forward) but nothing else. There aren’t menus on top of toolbars on top of more toolbars (yes, I’m talking about Thunderbird). Only what is needed is present.
Another great feature is support for Gmail labels, which can be though of as categories or tags associated with emails. In the left-hand pane, you will see a list of the labels, and by clicking on a label, you will see all of the emails tagged with that label. This is a feature that not many clients offer.
But the greatest feature has to be the threaded conversations view. This is something that is common on smartphone email apps but only recently has been implemented in desktop clients. If you are unfamiliar with a threaded email view, what you see is not only the current email, but all of the replies pertaining to the original email. How many times have you had to search through your inbox or archives to find the first in a long chain of email replies? Or the middle email? If you frequently collaborate with others (as I do), this feature is a Godsend.
Geary’s other big asset is speed. This email application is lightning fast! Thunderbird users are used to waiting 10-15 seconds for the program to boot; Geary is less than two. And when switching folders, you never have to wait for Geary to load the messages from the new folder; it’s instant.
So are there any downsides to Geary? A few, although for most people, I don’t think they would be a big deal. I’ve already mentioned there is no calendar integration, although there are plans for this in the future. Another feature missing is a contact manager. (When composing an email, you do have a pop-up list of recognized email addresses.) Finally, remember this is IMAP only, and there is no option to store email locally. For some, this may be a deal breaker, as there may be some email you don’t want to store on the provider’s server.
Despite these disadvantages, I think Geary is a great email client. Simple, fast, and easy to use…what more could you ask for?
Here is a link to the Geary homepage if you want to check it out: https://wiki.gnome.org/Apps/Geary
Have you tried Geary? If so, leave a comment below and tell me what you think!
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