Time to ditch Outlook? Eight alternatives tested

Time to ditch Outlook? Eight alternatives tested

Summary: ALERT: You're reading the ancient 2005 version of this article! There's a new one, published in February 2009.


ALERT: You're reading the ancient 2005 version of this article! There's a new one, published in February 2009. Click this link to find out what the best alternatives to Microsoft Outlook currently are.

Outlook has been copping some heat lately, largely for attracting virus writers, while Thunderbird has been getting all of the good press. We examine the two products, and other e-mail clients available today, so you can see if replacing Outlook really is an option.

If you are setting up a new office, updating or upgrading, or even trying to save some money, it can be worthwhile looking at your options for your e-mail client software.

Many people won't give much thought to e-mail client software, thinking "I use Outlook Express -- it came with Windows." or "I am a Mac user, I will use the standard Mail package". But a business cannot really afford such a laissez-faire attitude toward its computer operating system. What a business should be thinking is: what features do we need from our e-mail software? Do we need integrated e-mail/organiser software? How vulnerable is the software to malicious attacks? How much are we willing to pay for something different?

In this review you will find e-mail packages that run the gamut of options.

Some of the packages reviewed are more than simple electronic mail facilitators (such as Barca, the Bat, Outlook, Eudora, and Lotus Notes), and some are complete personal information manager's (PIM's) that include calendar, planner, and diary functions. Others are pure, plain-and-simple, e-mail clients. In fact, the programs we reviewed that are purely e-mail programs, are actually free.

"Wait a minute!" I hear you say. "Free software? What's the catch? Advertising, poor quality?" Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is often simple altruism (yes, it does exist). Pine and Pegasus, for example, are the products of university staff who have perceived a need at their local campus. Having arrived at a solution the creators apparently saw no reason why others shouldn't benefit from this work, and as such both programs are available for free download.

Equally, Mozilla Thunderbird is part of the Open Source project which operates from similar ideals. Open source programs are available to all for free distribution and even modification -- since the original source code is available. Pine and Pegasus are not open source in this sense. The fourth free product is Calypso and this is another kettle of fish. It was shareware, but became freeware when a later version became available. If you like this version you might like to pay for the next one.

Topics: Collaboration, Browser, Hardware, Microsoft, Reviews

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What? can't search in Lotus Notes? The author didn't look to hard. I started playing with Notes v 4.6ish and it had full text indexing of the mail and attachments back then
  • Notes has excellent searching. `While there don't seem to be functions for mailbox searching and mail-merging' - Searching in Notes is probably the best and fastest of all these clients once full indexing is turned. Even without full text indexing it still can search all mailboxes. Just go to all `all documents' and find as a basic way of doing it.

    Have seen mail merging done without any agents of thrid party app's, its in the help.
  • The author says that Pine is the only alternative reviewed available to Unix users and then proceeds to review Mozilla Thunderbird which operates on all systems.

    Completely omitted were many other Open Source utilities available to package for Windows using the Cywin compiler.

    Why even mention Pine and its availability on Unix if the Linux community is being ignored here? The author should wake up and smell the Open Source.
  • Thanks for the great article. After reading it I also tried many of the mentioned clients. I have to say that I also like Thunderbird the most. It looks very nice and I can customize it with another theme. Colorfull lines indicating different levels of quoted text are also great. Other features like quick search and advanced features are also very useful. It also imported my OE mail just perfectly and now I am a very happy user of Thunderbird. Oh I forgot to mention junk (anti-spam) filter. It is working perfectly so far. If you are still using Outlook Express and you haven't tried anything else I highly recommend you check out Thunderbird. I'm positive most of you will quickly switch to the more advanced and safe e-mail client.
  • Thank you for alerting us to the problem. Lotus Notes does have mailbox search functions and we have amended the review accordingly.
  • Evolution is free and very good too.
  • So has anybody heard of GroupWise? Seems to be a glaring omission, particularly given Novell's recent Suse acquisition and release of open source software.
  • What no comment about Incredimail
  • Reading these reviews, it's obvious security & function count for very little.
  • another alternative

    I've been involved with beta testing something called OfficePax. Its something worth the while looking into. However, its not all that practical for personal use and it's not FREE (but beta version is, so get it while it lasts)
  • free software is not the same as freeware

    In the editors choice, Mozilla Thunderbird was refered to as freeware. Please note that Mozilla Thunderbird is free software, this is not the same as freeware.
    Below is an <a href="http://www.fsf.org/licensing/essays/categories.html#freeware">explination</a> from the Free Software Foundation's website:<br>
    The term ``freeware'' has no clear accepted definition, but it is commonly used for packages which permit redistribution but not modification (and their source code is not available). These packages are not free software, so please don't use ``freeware'' to refer to free software.
  • Evolution

    Evolution is not bad at all, the big problem is that in a corporate world the connector to Exchange is a pile of crap, therefore limits its value to any deployment
  • No we haven't

    Being a recent Open Source product doesn't suddenly make it good. At less than 2% of the worlds email users it's real value belongs to days gone past when Novell mattered to the world.
  • Yes, I've heard of groupwise.

    It's been out now about 10/11 years (maybe longer), its novell's mail / group collaboration software, My experiences with groupwise have always been positive - its feature rich and can save you a lot of time when working with teams.
  • hackers,spammers and wiretaps

    thanks for all of the help you all did for me!I had massive amount of difficulties if you remember me.
  • Incredimail

    I have been on the computer for about 12 to 13 years. 10 of those years I have had Incredimail.
    I found it to be fantastic and I seam to miss out on a lot of the bugs and nasties that float around.

    Well that was until I paid for the gold version this year 07.
    Had heaps of problems with the bought one but the free is great go get it wish I could go back to the free but ones bought you cant go back.
  • no one email client is like Outlook Express

    many and many times I searched for a valid alternative to Outlook Express but I found that there is not an available equivalent software.

    I especially refer at the fact that with Outlook Express I can use very powerful features, such as signatures and identities. With signatures I gain a lot of time because I can save in files unlimited predefined answers for common questions customers send me about my business.

    And with identities I can manage several emails account in an unique email client.

    In my knowledge, no other email client has these features. If you know someone, please notify me.
    • See Jeffrey Paesch&#39;s comments above.
  • Depends on your server configuration

    We run Domino and have indexing disabled for performance reasons and as a result Thunderbird can't search - it's not the fault of the client.
  • Barca Pro

    I have downloaded Barca Pro and found its GUI very intuative and yet similar to Outlook, However if you are a Heavy Outlook user and have many calendar entries, TRY synchronizing the CALENDAR, its a nightmare.
    Each calendar entry has to be INDIVIDUALLY imported, and that was the nail in the coffin.
    Otherwise its a great program when starting off.