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Coming Soon in Evolution 3.4

I’m overdue for an update on what the Evolution team has been up to lately.  This development cycle should be interesting, as we have several projects converging for the next major release in March: Evolution 3.4. It’s still pretty early in the 3.3 cycle, so everything is still tentative at this point. But here’s some of the major features we have cooking, in addition to our steady stream of bug fixes and incremental enhancements.


New D-Bus Service for Email

Srinivasa Ragavan is working toward breaking email handling out of Evolution and moving it out to a separate D-Bus service as we do currently for address books and calendars. That will allow for things like new mail notifications without having to have Evolution running, and also provide a more formal way for other Evolution-Data-Server clients to access mail stores.


Evolution, Meet WebKit

Dan Vratil has taken on the task of porting Evolution’s email rendering from our old and outdated HTML engine (“GtkHtml”) to the more modern WebKit/GTK+. Dan tells me he’s taking advantage of WebKit’s full support for JavaScript and CSS (which GtkHtml lacks) to make rendering more efficient and to unify the email, contact, task, and memo previews with a shared style.

We’re treating email rendering and email composing as separate projects. Right now it’s looking like we’ll continue using GtkHtml for email composing in Evolution 3.4, but fear not -- we’ll get to it. We’re as eager to drop GtkHtml as anyone.



Automated Account Setup

Punit Jain is merging the automated mail account setup feature from “express” mode into the regular Evolution Account Assistant. This is the feature where you give Evolution your email address and it checks the address’s domain against a database of known service providers and can often populate all the server details for you, making account setup quick and easy.


Goodbye GConf

Rodrigo Moya has been porting all of Evolution’s simple GConf keys to dconf and fixing up our code to access the new keys via GLib’s own GSettings API. So one less package dependency for Evolution 3.4. As for the not-so-simple GConf keys, see below.


New Backend for Microsoft Exchange

David Woodhouse and his team at Intel, along with Chenthill Palanisamy at Novell, have developed a new Evolution backend that can talk to Microsoft Exchange 2007 and 2010 by way of Microsoft‘s “Exchange Web Services”, a publicly documented SOAP-based API.

The new backend package is called “evolution-ews”.

In order to avoid all the craziness of the GNOME 2-to-3 transition, the backend was originally developed exclusively for Evolution 2.32. Chenthill has been busy porting it forward to 3.2 so it can start syncing up with GNOME’s regular release schedule.

Hopefully Microsoft will stick to its Web Services interface for a good long while so we can stop having to write new Exchange backends every few years.  :)



New Backend for Kolab Groupware

Christian Hilberg and his team at kernel concepts and tarent GmbH have developed a brand new Evolution backend for Kolab Groupware servers.

The new backend package is called “evolution-kolab”.

As with “evolution-ews”, the initial development was targeted at a fixed and now older version of Evolution, and Christian is ready to begin forward porting it and eventually syncing up with GNOME’s regular release schedule.


Saner Account Storage

As for me, I’ve been toiling away for most the year on those not-so-simple GConf keys I mentioned earlier -- the ones that we stuff account information into in the form of XML blobs.

Evolution’s account storage will soon move to plain text files in a simpler .ini-style syntax. Account data will be easier to read, easier to edit, easier to back up, easier to copy to other systems.

We’ll also introduce another new D-Bus service to manage these account files and also centralize some account-related background jobs that Evolution currently handles (but shouldn’t) such as GNOME Online Accounts monitoring.

I could ramble on about this but I’ll save it for a separate blog post.



As you can see, quite a lot going on at once. Any questions, feel free to email me, or email Evolution’s development mailing list, or jump on Evolution’s IRC channel: #evolution on GIMPNet (irc.gimp.org).

Comments

(Anonymous)

what about UI

The only thing I'd wish for is to split the user interface in it's components. Mail, calendar, contacts, etc.

(Anonymous)

Impressive

Wow, that is an impressive amount of news.

(Anonymous)

Why not transition the account information to GSettings as well, and in the process transition it to separate keys rather than serialized XML?
It's not going to be serialized XML.

(Anonymous)

GSettings?

But will you use GSettings's .ini file backend? Sounds exactly designed for this use case.

Re: GSettings?

I thought so too at first and even tried using its key file backend initially, but eventually realized it's not the right tool for this particular job.

Evolution accounts are not at all uniform, and thus defies definition by a static schema, which GSettings requires. The hacks I was having to come up with to work around the strict schema requirements were not worth it. Using the GKeyFile API directly is a much more natural fit.

(Anonymous)

Multiple identities?

Those are cool features and kudos to all who are working hard on creating them. I haven't checked Evolution since the release of Fedora 15 but does it have multiple identities yet?

Re: Multiple identities?

Not yet, but the new account file format will make possible such features in future releases. Maybe as early as 3.6.

that's great!

I'd like to finally see an old bug fixed: Evolution (not) being small screen friendly.
I'd like to see a little, detailed, cosmetic makeup to main window.
"Preferences" window has to adapt to vertical screen size and not to go out of it;
it has to not hide options but to add a scrollbar.

cheers, good luck and thanks!

Re: that's great!

Express mode was supposed to address small screens, but it needs more love.

And granted, the Preferences window is many years overdue for a revamp.

Re: that's great!

The small screen express version was actually pretty good in 3.0 but the imap side of things seems to have regressed in 3.2 in that it doesn't fit on the screen, nor have scroll bars to deal with it. I generally end up forwarding an X session over a ssh session to configure the netbook, its a pain.

But evolution keeps on improving which is awesome! Thanks

Re: that's great!

Moving accounts to easy-to-read plain-text files will help us justify removing some of the more esoteric IMAP options from the UI. We can then direct users of these options to edit the account files directly, perhaps via the user docs. (How many users need a custom shell command to talk to their IMAP server?)

That should help reduce the window size.

Re: that's great!

I can't promise anything, but we plan to work on Express mode at Intel a bit in the near term.

Re: that's great!

\o/

(Anonymous)

webkit

isn't webkit already integrated in evolution? I thought it made it to 3.2

Re: webkit

Nope, still using GtkHtml in Evolution 3.2. :/

(Anonymous)

Re: webkit

I really hope you manage to squeeze webkit composing in. GtkHtml has horrible bidi support, which makes Evolution next to unusable for speakers of rtl languages.

Re: webkit

Additional volunteers are always welcome.

(Anonymous)

Akonadi?

Is there any plans of using akonadi as a backend anytime soon? it would concentrate efforts with kde, and provide a lot of syncing features for free, along with a lot of other advantages.

Re: Akonadi?

In other words scrap Evolution-Data-Server and start over? Nope, no plans for that.

(Anonymous)

Re: Akonadi?

Maybe it's interesting then to do a backend for it, or at some point integrate the two? It seems kind'a wasteful to have two frameworks doing the same caching and synchronization stuff on linux... Akonadi has gtk bindings, afaik, for that reason - so others can write mail/contact/calendar/etc apps also in GTK...

At the very least some collaboration on a common dbus api should be done. I am quite annoyed having Evolution not supply any data for the clock on a Plasma desktop and not sharing the contact data etc... That's silly, we are creating separate silo's this way and locking people in.

Re: Akonadi?

Although, it should probably be possible to write an Akonadi back-end that talks to the Evolution D-Bus service. That would make it possible to access your Evolution emails from Akonadi (KDE) apps.

(Anonymous)

MAPI

You can use MAPI to communicate with Exchange, then you can also communicate with open source servers such as Zarafa.

(Anonymous)

GMail better integration

Hi, I would like to see more features allowing tighter integration with Google Mail. Now IMAP implementation has problems (worst of which is not respecting dates in messages - all messages exported to GMail are shown with date of the day they were exported!), and based on that I don't even believe Contacts and Calendar can be used with GMail, not speaking about Tasks... Without reliable GMail support, there is no reason for me to use ANY desktop application.

(Anonymous)

XML vs .ini

Is't it going backwards to move from XML to some freeform ini-files? Should't the configuration be vai gui's? And I think (not a real programmer) it is easier to implement ui for XML-format. Freeform ini means no any other application can be used to tweak evolution settings. So it is even more difficult than now to integrate components in linux desktops:-(

Re: XML vs .ini

Exactly the opposite, in fact. XML is overkill and libxml2 is a pain in the ass to deal with for simple groups of key/value pairs.

(Anonymous)

ICS Calendar Support

I gave Evolution a try earlier this year and although I liked the program it did not support the main thing I look for, support for reading and writing to .ics calendar files. Get that feature in place and I probably would drop Thunderbird.

Another feature that would be great to see is being able to sync to a BlackBerry device.

Re: ICS Calendar Support

Sounds like you didn't look hard enough.

(Anonymous)

Re: ICS Calendar Support

Let me correct myself, it doesn't support connecting to .ics calendar files by http:// or ftp://. It only supports webcal:// and caldav://. When setting up a new calendar inside Evolution, the option "On The Web" should support all the ways of connecting to a web hosted calendar file, http, ftp, and so on.

Re: ICS Calendar Support

Try the "On This Computer" calendar type, check mark "Customize Options", and then point it to your .ics file.

(Anonymous)

Free/busy with mapi working?

I used Evolution for long time before our company moved to E2007. Because mapi has not been working until now (I hope), I have been using Thunderbird with DavMail for calendar access.
After upgrading to Ubuntu 11.10 I started testing with Evolution-mapi again. Have had some lockup and waiting moments. I have quite large maibox.
But Free/busy lookup does not work.Just upgrade to 3.2.1. Free/busy view seems to be just waiting for ever and shows "No information" pattern.

Should free/busy check work (I found nothing with google so other maybe do not have the problem or do not use evolution with mapi.)?

Re: Free/busy with mapi working?

I don't know. Perhaps try asking on our mailing list:
https://mail.gnome.org/mailman/listinfo/evolution-list

(Anonymous)

What's the status of all this, now that we're much closer to a 3.4 release date?
The larger items are not finished yet and got pushed out to 3.6:

* D-Bus Service for Email
* WebKit
* Saner Account Storage

June 2012

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