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A member of my family has a moderate disability for dealing with computers. He is largely unable to engage technology in general, and most on-screen GUIs are confusing and upsetting. He is, however, able to use email and browse the Internet to a limited degree, and he wants to progress in that.

Evolution works fairly well for the email. But I want to find a better software -- which in this case means simpler, easier and uncluttered.

  • Simpler -- doesn't assume a heavy load of messages or super real-time exchange such as for chat. Doesn't present many features beyond the minimum.
  • Easier -- has a highly fool-proof GUI.
  • Uncluttered -- No sidebar with advertisements. No extraneous pop-ups.

I am certain the Gmail interface would not be acceptable (complex, visually cluttered, a bit hard to second-guess if you aren't computer-savvy). Three years ago I tried Thunderbird, but Evolution seemed to have a better GUI.

I guess I'm looking for the email-browser equivalent of a Jitterbug phone. Perhaps something designed for assistive technology is available. What would you recommend?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Mozilla came out with Thunderbird 3.0 not too long ago, and it seems simpler (once you set it up, of course). Then again, I thought gmail was incredibly simple, so...

My dad is also terrible with computers--although probably not that bad... And he loves his windows live mail box. I've been trying to get him to switch to gmail, but he refuses to try new things. So, if windows live works for him...

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Thanks. I will take a fresh look at TB. I found that Windows Live is Hotmail, and this prompted me to add 'uncluttered' to my specifications. Rotating ads are out. I suppose I could become a subscriber, pay a bit of money to remove ads (assuming one can do that). I have yet to do that but maybe I should consider it. – Smandoli Aug 22 '10 at 14:20
Thunderbird it is. Fast. The GUI isn't perfection, in terms of 'transparency', but it's a good sight better than Evolution IMO. While I am not sure my household member would credit TB directly, this week he had a lot more fun with email than any time I recall previously. – Smandoli Sep 4 '10 at 21:34

I am not sure what exectly your family member needs, but just trying to help think out of the box (as I know about no mail client designed for this exact purpose):

  • what about old-school plain HTML webmail applications?
  • what about something like Modest (which is simple because it was designed to run on small screens--not sure how that scales to big screens...)
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Old-school plain HTML webmail applications: Not sure about that; I am seeking minimalism, but that suggests regression. Perhaps you can speak to that and also recommend a specific app? And I may check into Modest, but it seems to focus on compactness which again is perhaps not quite on the mark. – Smandoli Aug 22 '10 at 3:47
By old-school plain HTML, I think Jan means don't bother with a mail client and just have them use Squirrel Mail or whatever is installed on the server that just has a "New" button and some checkboxes next to existing messages and a "Delete" button and that's it. – maco Aug 22 '10 at 4:50
@ maco -- thanks for clary. This approach depends on my guy liking a browser well enough; and over the last year, there has been improvement there. So maybe ... – Smandoli Aug 22 '10 at 14:31
Maybe you can try to ask this person for input, e.g. what does he like/dislike in Evolution and other programs he uses. I assumed he liked things to be as simple as possible, to minimize confusion, which is why I proposed very simple tools, but of course those are also more limited than something like Evolution or Thunderbird. BTW: Modest might look very simple, but it is based on (an embeded fork of) the same backend as Evolution. – JanC Aug 22 '10 at 19:17

Claws Mail, if you are loking for a client.

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It looks interesting. Can you say a bit about why it would work well for this need? – Smandoli Aug 22 '10 at 3:49
Well, its easy to use and configure and something I like is subscribing to folders feature which lets you label from the application. There are plugins as well – sagarchalise Aug 22 '10 at 7:22

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