Fixing the Evolution Composer

By | February 18, 2007

Back when I worked for Ximian a common complaint we heard was that Evolution wasn’t good for sending formatted text because it always word wrapped it causing lots of errors.  This was pretty frustrating because it wasn’t true, but since we heard it all the time, it was obviously too confusing.  Here’s the dialog.  Can you guess how to preformat text from this screenshot?

Evolution Composer

If you guessed that you click on the dropdown that says: “Normal” and select “Preformat,” you’re right!

Most people seem to assume that the second toolbar doesn’t do anything when you’re not write an HTML mail.  But that’s not true.

I recently filed this bug report against the Evolution composer. The problem is that the composer is too confusing to use.  Here is the composer editing an HTML message:

Evolution Composer HTML Mode

I propose that the main toolbar lose the “insert” capabilities that only work in HTML mode and gain a toggle button which switches between HTML and plain text mode. When the button is pressed in, you’re sending an HTML message.The secondary toolbar should only contain the controls that are currently active. So text color, font size, font decoration, and font style will not be shown in text mode. And instead of “normal” the default mode should be named for what it actually does: “Word Wrap.” Something like this:

Revised Evolution Composer Text Mode

With this scheme, HTML mode looks like this:

Revised Evolution Composer HTML Mode

See the bug for more mockups.

4 thoughts on “Fixing the Evolution Composer

  1. Pingback: Ben Kahn » Blog Archive » Hello Planet!

  2. Vortex

    I currently think about switching from Thunderbird to either Evolution or Sylpheed Claws, but the Evolution Composer pisses me off (Sypheed Claws in its instance has other flaws).

    Not only the issue you decribe here, but if you select “Preformat”, you get no word wrap at all, even at the right window border! So if you reach the right border, the whole text will scroll leftward and, back at the beginning of the next line, your long lines will reach over the right border.

    That’s not acceptable at all. :(

  3. xkahn Post author


    What you are asking for is format=flowed support in the Evolution composer. (Evolution supports READING such messages, but doesn’t allow CREATING them.) Preformat is working as it is supposed to — for example, people pasting source code into an email message need to make sure that lines don’t wrap.

    However, you are right. This is a nice option for some people who don’t want to be limited to 70 column text, but don’t want to worry about horizontal scroll bars. A discussion of the feature is here:
    (Dan’s Mail Format Site | Body | Line Length)

    There is a (very old) bug requesting this feature in Evolution. It isn’t very popular at the moment:
    (Bug 200423 – flowed text support)

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