The Evolution email client now uses client-side decoration (CSD).

I checked in with the latest development builds of Evolution ahead of the GNOME 43 release just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything major and guess what? I was missing something major: the introduction of header-bars!

I don’t feel like header bars are as controversial now as they were a few years back, but such is the path of progress: people don’t a change, get used to a change, adopt the change as a new baseline normal, and then kick when things change again — rinse, repeat, ad infinitum.

That said, even those normally averse to CS may find the actual implementation here more palatable, as it doesn’t ditch its menubar to make way for buttons.

Evolution Adopts Headerbars

Fans of the Evolution groupware suite will be able to enjoy the newly updated header-bar UI in the next stable release, Evolution 3.46. That is due to ship alongside GNOME 43 later this month (September), and will be available to install on Ubuntu 22.10 from the repos.

Evolution is a solid and reliable software suite with a legion of passionate users. Those all-in on the GNOME ecosystem, and who rely on this software for their communications and productivity will appreciate the approach taken by developers as it compliments Evolution’s existing identity rather than remoulds it:

screenshot of Evolution 3.46 with client-side decoration header bars
Evolution 3.45.3 (and yes, the menu bar can be hidden)

While I don’t think the design above is going to be winning any prestige software design awards it is a thoughtful translation of the modern GNOME approach to toolbars with a software whose expansive features is accessed through menu bar.

That’s the important thing; one has to remember that Evolution is an established piece of legacy software with a swathe of features, capabilities, and, as a result, responsibilities to users that can’t be “swept away” just to look more like a modern GNOME app.

If Evolution was built from the ground up today, would its design look like this? No, but that doesn’t mean that the CSD has been “tacked on” without care or thought.

screenshot of Evolution 3.46 with client-side decoration header bars
Client-side decorations used in main window and compose dialogs

The header-bar implementation merged in Evolution 3.45.3 (which becomes Evolution 3.46 on release) is the result of months of exploration, debate, testing, iteration, and more, the details of which can be viewed in bug reports, merges requests, and code commits on Evolution’s Gitlab page.

Evolution applies CSD pretty much everywhere, from the main window (which, notably, retains a window title inside of it) to the compose dialog, preferences window, and the pop-up dialogs for adding new tasks, calendar events, and contacts.

For comparison, this is what the latest stable version of Evolution looks like on Ubuntu 22.04 LTS:

screenshot of evolution email client on ubuntu desktop
Evolution 3.44 on Ubuntu 22.04 LTS

So that’s the biggest change coming in Evolution 3.46, when it is released in September. Do keep in mind that everything shown here is under active development and may change (slightly or dramatically) between now and release.

If you’re a long-time Evolution fan I’d love to know what make of the UI changes, so share your thoughts down in the comments!

evolution GNOME GNOME 43 header bars