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Opera Mail in Opera 10

By Dave Redfern (Writer),

Published: 05 November 2009 01:12 in Software

Tags: mail, opera, review,

Looking for a new mail client that's light-weight yet feature rich? Perhaps you should give Opera Mail a look.

I have been looking for a new mail client for quite a while. The previous client I was using was Evolution. This started out with Xandros Desktop (v2) and I transferred all my previous email into that. Since then, I have been moving my Evolution message store from version to version until I ended up back in Windows (for my sins). Fortunately there was an Evolution for Windows port, except it has never been quite "right".

With a recent re-install to Windows 7 I looked again at email clients. The basic requirements were it had to be multi-platform for when I inevitably move back to a Linux desktop and it had to be able to import my existing Evolution mail without too much hassle. Finally it would not be Thunderbird for a variety of reasons but mostly because I really don't like it!

After trawling and trying a few demo's (even the Thunderbird 3 beta) I finally decided to bite the bullet and try Operas built-in mail client.

I had previously dabbled with it but never dared to use it - primarily because I did not want my email and web browsing to be in the same application. So taking care to ensure my backups are all working and that the mail would remain on the server (I use POP/SMTP) I started the process of getting Opera Mail up and running.

Creating accounts is very straight forward. Tools -> Mail and Chat Accounts. If there aren't any it will start the wizard immediately, otherwise a list of all accounts will be given. It's then the usual matter of selecting the type of account to create and entering the details. To begin with I used only a single account to see how it would go.

Setup was very straight forward and by default Opera opts to leave the messages on the server (good).

I use SSL/TLS connections to my mail server and this did not phase Opera, it took it in its stride and happily downloaded the messages I had waiting. These were then dumped into an "Unread" "folder". So far so good.

I played with the views to get the more Outlooky style folders - mail list - preview setup going instead of the default mail list above the preview (stupid on a 24 inch monitor). Again, pretty straight forward and a case of going to the View toolbar icon and selecting the view. It would have been nice to have had a few more options, but it's a limited, simple mail client.

I then decided to try and import a small part of my mail store. I had already seen that Opera Mail will import generic mbox files, so I tried out my smallest mbox folder. It imported immediately and created a "localhost" source for the mail - and there were the messages. It seemed to work, so it was then a case of trying something larger so next went my main mailbox.

It took a few minutes, but all messages were imported and all seemed present and correct.

Finally after another 10-15 minutes playing around I set about actually setting up the mail properly. This meant re-creating all the email accounts and importing all the messages. It all went very smoothly without any issues.

The next step was sorting the mail. You see Opera Mail is not like most clients. It doesn't really have "folders". No it uses a filter system so you filter by criteria and that is your folder. Virtual Folders in Evolution (saved searches) is the closest example - except even the accounts are filters and not folders. It actually seems to work pretty well but it was rather laborious having to re-build the filters from Evolution.

After my mail was imported I then had to check it which turned out quite a few interesting anomalies. It turns out that Evolution had not in fact been deleting mails over a previous period. So I had to manually go through some 400 odd messages to separate the spam from the ones I wanted and then the ads I didn't want.

Finally I had to import my contacts, and this was by far the most annoying step. Operas contacts system is pretty basic - but it will only import Opera Address format contacts. There are no other options. I Google'd to see if there were methods of converting my exported Evolution contacts in a vcf to an Opera adr file and fortunately someone had created a PHP script to convert from CSV to ADR. I just need to convert the vcf to CSV (again another Google and another PHP script). I had to customise the conversion from CSV to ADR quite a bit and I still need to clean up the contacts, but they all came in largely OK.

I've now been using Opera as my mail client for a little over a week and my general impressions are very good. It is light, quick - very quick. It gives you a single "Unread" view for all your accounts and I like that searching my email has become so much easier. There are still quirks with it, but for my basic needs it is great.

Some other nice little features are the Attachment filters where you can filter email by Images, Music, Documents and such like. Unfortunately it does not seem to inspect imported email for attachments only downloaded messages, but no matter it is useful and something I have not seen before.

My only concern now is if I decide to move platforms - how well will Opera Mail move with me? Evolution seemed to be largely OK when I re-opened the files in Windows so it will be interesting to see how Opera fairs.

All in, despite my apprehension I am impressed. I have always liked Opera (the browser) and now I have my mail in it too. I would like it if you could run it separately but it covers everything I need. It's taking a little while to get used to the filters, and I am having to retrain a couple.

So if you are in need of a new mail client and already use Opera, give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.

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