Switching from Ubuntu to Fedora, and Thunderbird to Claws MailTue, Jan 5, 2010 in Desktop Open Source
This weekend I backed up all my data, repartitioned my hard drive, and re-installed. I needed to do this because the only thing I had on the laptop was Ubuntu, and sadly, the reality is sometimes my clients use things that require me to use Windows (and sometimes a virtual machine won’t solve that). So now I’m dual-booting Windows. I think the last time I did that was sometime before 2001, so I’ve regressed 9 years.
I took this opportunity to switch from Ubuntu to Fedora. Why? They both released new versions almost at the same time, and I grabbed the live CDs and noticed that Fedora just worked better – better support for dual monitors, for example. And some things about Ubuntu have always irked me, such as “sorry, can’t play WAV file, that’s a proprietary codec, you must install some big package of proprietary codecs.” WHAT? When did a codec become necessary to play a PCM file? Codec stands for “code/decode” and that doesn’t make sense for PCM. Anyway, these are small things, but sometimes they add up. I did not do a default install of Fedora. I don’t trust ext4, and ext3 works fine for me, so I stayed with that. I also disabled SELinux right away – no thanks, *shudder*.
The much bigger switch was ditching Thunderbird in favor of Claws. I last used Claws back in… 2003, maybe? It was called Sylpheed Claws then, and was GTK1 or so. Now it’s much nicer looking. Anyway, Fedora installed Thunderbird 3, and after giving that a small test drive I decided that my long-standing love/hate relationship with Thunderbird was due for a change. I just need a mail client that can open a yes/no dialog in less than 1.5 seconds – is that too much to ask? I’m much happier with Claws. I use email a lot, probably something like 350 emails per day, and I’ve already found Claws more capable than Thunderbird in every way but one: I can’t quite figure out how to get the functionality I got from Thunderbird’s quicktext extension. Everything else is amazing – I don’t need extensions, everything’s built in by default. I use filters extensively, and the filtering and searching in Claws is much nicer than in Thunderbird. There are a handful of other things.
One notable thing is an archiving feature. I like to move emails to a folder after I’m done with them. I had sort of a hack in Thunderbird. The key combination Ctrl+Shift+M moves the selected message(s) to the same folder used for the last move operation. This worked acceptably well, until I moved a message elsewhere and forgot that my “archive” key combo no longer sent my messages to the archive. In Claws, I set up a custom action and attached it to the Y key, and voila I have real archiving functionality (without pressing 3 keys, too). I also remapped keys so it’s more vim-like. Gmail is the client I use for my personal accounts, so now I have consistent keystroke commands between both emails and my favorite text editor.
Another notable thing is that when I send an email, the sending process happens in the background. This is so much nicer. In Thunderbird, I’d Ctrl-Enter and then have to alt-tab my way past the sending dialog and the compose window, back to the main window to keep working; in Claws, I press Ctrl+Enter to send, and I’m immediately back at the main window. This might seem silly, but it’s actually a big deal. It helps me process email quite a bit faster.
I'm Baron Schwartz, the founder and CEO of VividCortex. I am the author of High Performance MySQL and many open-source tools for performance analysis, monitoring, and system administration. I contribute to various database communities such as Oracle, PostgreSQL, Redis and MongoDB.