Encrypting email in Evolution

Jack Wallen
Jul 22, 2010
Updated • Nov 28, 2012
Email, Encryption

Evolution is an outstanding groupware suite with one of the finest email clients in all of Linux-land. For many users the standard email setup is great. It does everything they need: it sends and receives email (even HTML email if you so desire). But for others a little extra is needed...especially in the form of security. One way to secure your emails is to add a layer of encryption to them. This can be in the form of a simple signature or as much as a fully signed and encrypted email. Believe it or not, this is quite simple with the Evolution email client.

In this article I am going to show you how to take your encryption key and add it to your outgoing mail with Evolution. I will show you how to set up both signing and encrypting of email.

Your key

If you do not already have a key, I highly recommend you use Seahorse to create one. For more information on Seahorse you can read my article "Create, sign, and publish your PGP key with Seahorse". When you create that key you will do so with a name associated with it. You will use that name for Evolution. If you don't remember the name you used you can see it by opening up Seahorse, clicking on the My Personal Keys tab, and see the name as listed.

Once you have that key you are ready to set up Evolution.


Figure 1

Once in Evolution click on Edit > Preferences. From the Preferences window select the account you want to associate the key with and click Edit.

In this tab you will see a section where you can enter your PGP/GPG ID. This is where you enter your name from you key (see Figure 1). Once you've done this, you have a few options to choose:

  • Always sign outgoing messages: This means all outgoing messages (new messages, replies, forwards) will have your PGP/GPG signature attached.
  • Do not sign meeting requests: Probably a good idea if you are going to using Evolution inside a company where others use Outlook - otherwise Outlook will see this as an attachment and add it to the invitation.
  • Always encrypt to myself when sending encrypted messages: This will send an encrypted copy of the email to yourself when.
  • Always trust keys in my keyring when encrypting: If you know your keys in your keyring are valid you can select this which will allow Evolution to skip the keyring check of those keys.

Once you have all of this set up, you are ready to go.

Sending signed and/or encrypted mail

When you create an email in evolution you will notice a Security menu in the menu bar. When you click that you will see four entries, of which only the top two (PGP Sign and PGP Encrypt) are of interest to you now. Say you want to sign that outgoing email with your key. To do this check the check box associated with PGP Sign in the Security menu. Say you want to encrypt that email. To do that check the check box associated with PGP Encrypt in the Security menu.

You must know, however, that when attempting to send out an encrypted email, Evolution will query key servers to see if there is an associated public key with the email address. If no public key is found on a key server then you will not be able to encrypt that email. You can, however, sign all outgoing email.

Final thoughts

If you are seriously concerned about your privacy, and you use Evolution, I highly recommend using this feature. Even if you are only signing your emails, those receiving your email will be far more secure in knowing that email definitely came from you.


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  1. Joe said on April 30, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    A major concern that you didn’t mention: what if two people use the same filename? I assume this will simply overwrite the earlier file, rather than adding an incremental number or using some other method to avoid overwriting.

    To avoid that, you have to “add ingredients” using the big blue plus sign in the “File Name” area when setting up the Dropbox section of the recipe. I had mine use sender address, time received, AND file name (in case someone sends the same filename twice and I want both copies, which could happen if they use some boilerplate name like “NewDocument1”).

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 30, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      Is not Dropbox using copies of files automatically in this case? But good point, need to investigate this.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on April 30, 2014 at 11:55 pm

      I have tested it, only on Google Drive but still. Same name attachments are stored as well. You end up with several same name files in the same folder structure but that is okay I guess.

  2. Blue said on May 1, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    They are poor variations of cloud storage (Google Drive, Dropbox or Microsoft’s OneDrive.) because they have specific limitations which do not make them idea as a cloud storage even for personal use. They don’t allow executable files (EXE, COM, BAT) to be uploaded or saved on their servers. I have purchase a few programs from online sources and want to save them in a cloud for easy access on the go. “Google Drive, Dropbox or Microsoft’s OneDrive.”, do not allow executable files so aren’t really a good choice for cloud storage or drop box option.

    So MediaFire or Firedrive to the rescue. Both allow executable files uploaded, saved and shared (Mediafire checks copyrights of the files shared). Plus for programmers, who need to allow a few individuals to download a specific file or folder to beta test a program, Mediafire and Firedrive are great resources. Firedrive allows online chat and messaging between Dropbox and shared file users. But as they are based in UK their download speed is not consistent for all Canada/USA users.

    1. Joe said on May 1, 2014 at 10:31 pm

      I’ve never seen that limitation on Dropbox – I’ve been storing dozens of .exe and .bat files there for years. I thought maybe you were referring only to the web uploader (I never use it – my files are all uploaded from synchronized folders), but I just tested it and it works. Maybe you should give Dropbox another look.

  3. Joe said on May 1, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    Another limitation: it apparently can only pull in one attachment. I usually wouldn’t have a use for this, but right now I am accepting job applications via email, so I was excited to try it out. I’ve received two so far, and both used multiple attachments for cover letter, resume, and references. In both cases, only one attachment made it into Dropbox. The recipe “ingredient” in IFTTT is “FirstAttachmentPrivateURL”, and there are no options other than “First…”.

    Of course, if you are asking people to send attachments, you could always specify to include just one file per email.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 1, 2014 at 11:16 pm

      They could also pack multiple files into a single archive.

    2. Garrett Williams said on December 10, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      Because of this, I chose to have IFTTT just save all attachments instead of filtering to a specific sender or label. Multiple attachments worked just fine after that, though of course now I have various other attachments mixed in.
      I know this is an old comment, but it seems this solution should be mentioned.

      My main issue is that it doesn’t have the option of overwriting the old file, which puts a roadblock in my automation, as updated files must have a consistent name. Likely adding yet another online service to the mix to remedy that.

      @Martin: While a too-technical step for many people, asking for a zipped file might be a really nice test of computer literacy if hiring for a very technical job.

  4. Nathan Smith said on March 14, 2015 at 6:25 am

    “You can change the folder path where those files are transferred to however”

    Do you just change one or more?
    File URL
    File name
    Dropbox folder path

    My dropbox folder name for example is John Smith……………however the path to get there is John Work/Clients/Jane Client

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