Mirko Albrecht is a lazy reviewer, but I don't believe he is unique in having this quality. I am referring specifically to his article in the January 2008 issue, (No. 86), of Linux Magazine, entitled "YOU’VE GOT MAIL", which can be downloaded in PDF format here. The article claims to 'examine the strengths and weaknesses of four popular mail clients: KMail, Evolution, Thunderbird, and Claws Mail.'
Of course, being a member of the Claws Mail development team, I am particularly, (perhaps only), interested in what he has to say regarding Claws Mail, (or The Mail Claw, as the article puts it, sic), but, in passing, I'll point out the first error that I noticed: In the opening, introductory paragraphs he says, 'Some computer users also like to encrypt messages to provide protection against sniffing or to have a digital signature to validate the sender.' Of course, a digital signature does not validate the sender, what it does is show that the signed content has not be tampered with en route. Not a good start. Then we soon realise that the author's preferred application is KMail, his preferred desktop environment is KDE, and his preferred distro is SuSE. Rather than a fair, unbiased review, we get one very much based upon the reviewer's personal preferences. His opinion is the benchmark.
The author doesn't use Claws Mail, and it seems that he fired it up just for the purposes of the article. Unfortunately, it is obvious that he didn't allow himself the time to really explore it and rushed the whole thing. In my opinion, this is not really desirable behaviour from journalism, not for the magazine itself, who paid him for the article and rely upon their journalists for quality writing, and not for the readers and purchasers of the magazine who should get something better in exchange for their money.
So, what's wrong with the information that is given?
• "When looking for Claws Mail packages, make sure you do not confuse them with Sylpheed packages."
This is like saying, when looking for an application do not confuse it with another application that has a different name. Is that stupid or what??
The article actually does its best to engender this confusion. In the title it says 'Claws Mail', when we reach the section about Claws Mail it gives the heading 'The Mail Claw', then it starts by talking about Sylpheed. Next the Overview box has the title 'Sylpheed Claws Overview'. Mirko seems confused, indeed.
• "For example, SUSE users can turn to Packman for packages. Besides the claws-mail package, you will also need to install claws-mail-extra-plugins."
Or they could use the official repository. You don't need to install the extra-plugins package, there's no literal need for this — it depends upon whether you want the extra functionality that these extra-plugins provide. The main plugins, distributed with the Claws Mail source tarball, are actually part of the Claws Mail SuSE RPM package.
• "Figure 10: Claws Mail provides a lean alternative to the three Linux mail global players."
Nothing wrong with the caption, but the image it accompanies shows that Mirko has used his KMail maildir mailbox for Claws Mail. Because of this, each folder has 'cur', 'new' and 'tmp' subfolders; Also because of this, it shows Claws Mail's standard inbox/sent/drafts/queue/trash folders and also normal folders with the names 'drafts', 'outbox', and 'sent_mail'.
• "Figure 12: Claws Mail has much ground to gain. The current version has only rudimentary functionality."
This caption is completely misleading. It actually accompanies an image of an address book dialogue. I believe that the intention was to refer to the address book as having 'rudimentary functionality' but that is not what it says. If you've used Claws Mail then you will know that it does not have 'only rudimentary functionality'.
• "Claws Mail lacks a usable address book, simple integration of GPG, and a spam filter."
Not true! Claws Mail's address book is not as fully-featured as others, but this does not make it 'unusable', this is just nonsense!
GPG integration is as simple as using the GUI to load the plugins, there's nothing too complicated in that it seems to me. Thunderbird needs an Extension for GPG support, but I don't see the same criticism leveled at Thunderbird in this article.
Lacks a spam filter? Here the author is unaware of what he wrote just before, '…there are plugins for integrating SpamAssassin…', he also neglects to mention the other spam filter, the Bogofilter plugin.
• The Overview boxes
KMail gets 5/5, Claws Mail gets 3/5.
Claws Mail has good mailing list support. I believe that, in his rush to finish his article, the author didn't even discover Claws Mail's mailing list support. I believe that Claws Mail's mailing list is at least as powerful as Kmail's and, at the same time, is more flexible.
KMail gets 5/5, Thunderbird gets 5/5, Claws Mail gets 4/5
Having written filter conversion scripts, I know that there are things that Claws Mail can do in its filtering that the other two cannot.
Security GPG/ HTML
Claws Mail 2/5
An unreasonably low score. Claws Mail supports PGP/MIME, PGP/Inline, S/MIME; it also has an anti-virus plugin, using Clam AntiVirus; it has anti-phishing support built in; the two HTML viewer plugins do not load remote content by default. What more do you want??
Claws Mail 3/5
Claws Mail offers a choice of either SpamAssassin or Bogofilter to deal with spam. They can use address book whitelisting, can be trained via toolbar buttons or menu items, can deal with 'unsure' mails, the SpamAssassin plugin can use a remotely running SpamAssassin, can be configured in a number of ways. Claws Mail also offers the SpamReport plugin to report spam to central databases.
• "The difference between the Create Filter Rule and Create Processing Rule in the drop-down list is not entirely apparent. Both take you to the same dialog."
Wrong! They take you to similar dialogues, but the not the same dialogue. The difference between Filtering and Processing is well documented, in the manual and FAQ, etc. The reviewer should RTFM!
• "[Claws Mail] also lacks a couple of functions, such as a tray icon (which you can download as a plugin.)"
Evolution also requires a plugin for the trayicon, but this wasn't mentioned.
The author thinks that when functions are provided by plugins this means the app lacks those functions. Would he say, for example, that the audio player Audacious is useless and can't play any audio because those features are provided by plugins?
The author completely fails to mention the powerful Claws Mail Actions feature.
I could continue with this blog post but I feel that I've already spent more time on this than the author did on his article.
Could there be any morals to draw from this post?
Don't believe what you read?
Don't buy Linux Magazine, its articles are poorly researched?
Clearly, I am disappointed by this slack and lazy journalism.