Evolution is the most mature email client for the GNOME desktop environment. It’s a substantial Microsoft Outlook alternative that includes added functionality such as a calendar, a place to write memos, and a to-do list.

Evolution supports Microsoft Exchange out of the box, opening it up to wider corporate use. This is the key reason many people turn to Evolution over most of the other Linux email clients.

With all of these features baked-in, Evolution is one of the bulkiest options on this list. For some, that’s a big plus. You can manage much of your communication and organization from a single piece of software. If you want to tweak something, there’s a decent chance you can.

On the flip side, Evolution can feel like a bit much. This amount of features means dealing with added clutter. But if you’re looking for something akin to Microsoft Outlook, that comes with the territory.

For a number of years, Evolution was the default email for Ubuntu but a few years back Ubuntu moved to Thunderbird as the default email app. Evolution comes with an integrated Calendar, Task Manager, Contact manager as well as memos. If you are used to working with Outlook this is the closest you will get on a Linux system to Outlook.

Some of the Evolution futures include:

  • Evolution manages multiple POP, IMAP, Microsoft Exchange, and Office365, and local email accounts.
  • Evolution integrates calendar, address book, and email.
  • Powerful HTML support including small HTML “templates” (to frame an inline image, for example).
  • Flexible filters and virtual folders for message organization, classification, and prioritization.
  • Evolution integrates with SpamAssassin for junk mail filtering, can train the Bayesian part easily.
  • Messages can be flagged (for follow-up, for example) and can be assigned colors.
  • Evolution supports both OpenPGP and S/MIME for secure messaging.

The fine folks at Ximian and Novell, as well as the Gnome community set out to create for Linux what Outlook is for Windows: a powerful combination of calendar, address book, and email client where you end up spending all your time.

The result is impressive: Evolution looks and feels like Outlook, and it has excellent email features. There is, for example, the concept of “Virtual Folders” in Evolution that automatically collects all mail matching specific criteria, one of the best ways to organize lots of mail. Or PGP/GnuPG integration as well as S/MIME support, powerful HTML support with useful templates, and junk mail filtering using the mature and capable SpamAssassin.

Evolution integrates well with the Bayesian part of SpamAssassin, making it easy to train the filter with the rare mistakes it has made. Plain text support has not suffered either, and Evolution can protect you from so-called web-bugs (hidden images in emails that compromise your privacy) by not downloading remote content.

That Evolution lacks support for format-flowed messages is a minor point and a matter of taste. Support for powerful message templates may be a more pressing need.

For the longest time, Linux was the anti-hero in the operating system world–fundamentally it functioned, but did so with enough variance to make it different. So when Evolution came out, looking (for all intents and purposes) like MS Outlook, I had a hard time accepting the very idea of using software on my Linux desktop that could have been mistaken for something created by “the competition.”

Time passed. What was once important didn’t exactly hold nearly the weight it originally did. Out of nowhere, what took over was a need to get things done with a modicum of efficiency. Instead of concerning myself about the similarity with a Microsoft product, I simply needed an email client that would function in such a way that would help me through a busy day. And so, I revisited Evolution and found it had evolved into just that.

If there’s one area where the Linux desktop needs to continue to focus, it is within the realm of business. LibreOffice does an outstanding job of filling the office suite void, but the business desktop is incomplete without a solid email/calendaring/contacts/todo solution. Thunderbird has tried to fill that slot, but having to add various and sundry plugins, so that it can serve as a somewhat passable solution isn’t enough. KMail is okay but really needs to serve its purpose on KDE. Beyond that, where do you turn? Geary is dead, Elementary Mail is email-only, Nylas’ calendar plugin isn’t enough, and Claws Mail is far too complicated for the average user.

That’s where Evolution really shines. For any Linux user looking for a business-capable email client (one that can easily connect to both your Google Mail account and Office 365), you will not find a more apt client than Evolution. And that, my friends, is one of the main reasons why Evolution should be considered as the distribution-wide default. If you’re looking for an all-in-one groupware tool, one that doesn’t require you to install various plugins to get the functionality you require, your best bet is Evolution.

You can install Evolution with the EWS plugin (Connector for Exchange and Office365) right from the Ubuntu Software Center. You can also follow our install guide for step by step instructions on how to get Evolution working for you in your system.