The Evolution DBus metadata API

I just finished the Evolution DBus metadata API‘s implementation. Information about this work can be found on this wiki page.

It’s currently not shipped as part of Evolution. Instead it’s done as an EPlugin compiled and installed by Tracker if your Evolution’s development package is 2.25.5 or later. At this moment that’s the versions in Evolution‘s and Evolution Data Server‘s Subversion trunks.

This API enables application developers to get notified not just about new E-mails, but also about any state changes of any E-mail Evolution handles. For example whenever the state of an E-mail changes from Unseen to Seen. You are invited to check out this Vala example to learn how to use the DBus API yourself.

Not only does the API give you “I’ll call you” or “pushed” hints about these state changes, it also gives you a lot of meta information about each E-mail: subject, sent, from, to, cached MIME filename, cc, service’s uid, seen, junk status, answered status, flagged status, forwarded status, deleted status, size, tags, keywords and flags.

The API will also inform you about message arrivals and about message expunges. Which are not the same as flagged for deletion.

With this information you have enough to build a simple E-mail client outside of Evolution that uses just this API to get itself informed about Evolution’s E-mails. That’s of course not the purpose of it, but it illustrates the completeness.

The purpose is to let a metadata engine like Tracker and Beagle get themselves fully informed and aware of all the state and metadata of your E-mails in real time. No more scanning of your $HOME/.evolution/mail directory. Which is by the way a for Evolution internal cache format that will change and has changed in the past. Scanning it yourself is for that reason too unreliable to depend on. This EPlugin uses Evolution’s own APIs, and runs in Evolution’s processes, to get the same information out and then pass it to one of Tracker’s processes over IPC.

“IPC??”, I hear you thinking, “isn’t that slow??”. Well we measured it. If a quite slow IPC like DBus can throw all of the metadata of 10,000 E-mails over in less time than Evolution needs to start up, knowing that we throw it over asynchronously with the user interface’s thread of Evolution, they I don’t think you should be too worried about that. But just in case you would still be worried have I specified the protocol in such a way that only the delta of changes since the last time Tracker registered itself are sent. While Evolution and Tracker run, Evolution will communicate new info with Tracker: Evolution pushes stuff into Tracker instead of Tracker pulling things out of Evolution.

What are you waiting for? Start adapting your $HOME/.evolution/mail scanning softwares! Now!