Top alternatives to Microsoft Outlook

Top alternatives to Microsoft Outlook

Summary: If you're using a Microsoft Windows operating system there is also a good chance that you use Office and Outlook as your email client. But is this really a choice?


Novell Evolution 2

Originally built for Linux systems by Ximian (purchased by Novell), Evolution is an open-source package and so comes standard with Linux systems using GNOME, including SuSE and Red Hat. (Fedora Core also comes with Evolution included.) Ximian has also been ported to the Mac (by Novell) and Windows (by Tor Lillqvist) markedly broadening its appeal.

This review focuses on a Windows version, which comes with an MSI installer produced by DIP Consultants. Our brief overview of the Linux version uncovered no significant differences between the platforms.

The user interface is not like any other product reviewed here, but there was certainly a feeling of deja vu with Microsoft Outlook in mind. Ultimately there are limits to the practical ways in which the data handled can be presented, so it does not pay to be too different from the opposition. Users will not want to spend too much time learning new procedures.

Its search and filtering functions both have an impressive array of options. When filtering incoming emails it is also possible to launch applications, play sounds or pipe an email to another application. Messages can be marked with colours and priority tags.

Evolution supports both tasks and memos. Memos are notes to which a date and category can be applied. Tasks allow for more detail in terms of project management, having the option of start and finish dates as well as status tags (in addition to the category tags). Having both may seem like overkill to some users, but it's great to have options.

Evolution has not yet been assessed by the Email Standards Project, but testing by Enex suggests that it would be classed as "poor". There were significant failures in the formatting of some HTML/CSS elements, resulting in much of the styling of some messages appearing as raw source at the end of the message.

Aside from the basics of POP3 and IMAP support, Evolution can integrate with Microsoft Exchange and Novell GroupWise servers. It also supports Hula and Usenet News feeds. Evolution also includes support for work groups by allowing shared online calendars.

The software is promoted as being able to kill Outlook on the basis of virus immunity. Evolution would not be alone in this claim, though, as many other alternatives also have the advantage of low profiles to malware. Aside from bugs Microsoft may have in its software, miscreants target it because it is the biggest.

Evolution is harder to update than Microsoft products, but this is less of a concern given the rare need for security updates. Spam filtering can also be undertaken with Evolution. From a functional perspective there is little else that distinguishes Evolution from Outlook — apart from pricing and servicing.

In true open source style, there is no help file included in the base install. When online FAQs were investigated, still more open source quirks were found. While a commercial application might explain that a feature cannot be customised, it is sometimes suggested that an Evolution feature can be adjusted if compiling from source.

Also, rather than directing the user to a user-friendly GUI, you might instead be asked to edit a configuration file. Open source typically has a "can do" approach to new features — if you need more, you can do it yourself. Support is available voluntarily in forums. If you have paid for SuSE Linux, presumably Novell will offer some advice for installations on this platform. There is no fee for using this product, but technical knowledge will probably be required to maintain it.

(Credit: Michael Palamountain/

(Credit: Michael Palamountain/

(Credit: Michael Palamountain/

Topics: Microsoft, Browser, Enterprise Software, Google

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  • Lotus Notes Mail file screenshot is R5

    The screenshot of the Lotus Notes R8.5 mail file is showing an R5 mail file design, not a R8.5 The calendar is showing R8.5.
  • GMail

    What's the problem with not having control over the google mail servers when you host your own domain using You can just migrate your business elsewhere if google don't offer a good service.
    You fail to mention that you can archive all your mail in any client since they provide imap access. Gmail is also accessible via mobile and messages are saved offline when using the Gmail app for Symbian.
  • Anti-MS sensationalism

    Why replace six of one with half a dozen of something else?

    I'm not against competition and all for choice but every time articles like this appear the only compelling reason a change is encouraged is because Big Bad Microsoft has their product on computers by default.
  • Anti-MS sensationalism

    Hear hear. I am sick and tired of reading these computer magazines/blogs. They all repeat the mantra "microsoft/windows is evil". Bah humbug to all of you Mac users. I love my windows and live mail, messenger,photos,blog etc.
  • Notes 8.5 rocks

    We're at 3000+ user organization that uses Notes and we've recently re-committed to the platform. We're upgrading to v8.5 (the latest) and those execs who are running it now (to "kick the tires" so to speak) really like it, especially how it's drastically improves the UI. We're quite excited about it.
  • re: Lotus Notes Mail File screenshot is R5

    What you're seeing on the Screenshot is the IMAP Mail Template. I saw a post elsewhere about this to say that it hasn't been updated yet. Shame they didn't use the 8.5 template.
  • Top alternatives to Microsoft Outlook

    Great article

    Revealed several interesting points about what solution chosen
  • IMAP Template ?

    You don't need to use any special template for IMAP support so I don't see that as a valid reason for using an old screenshot.
  • IMAP Template?

    You know that and I know that but it doesn't mean that they know that. If you are looking at a list of templates and you are setting up an IMAP connection what are you likely to use? A Template that say MAIL (8.5) or one that says Mail (IMAP). And (again from the authors point of view) you wouldn't have any reason to believe that the templates would ultimately look any different in use. I'd be more inclined to give IBM a hard time for having different looking templates than a reviewer using the wrong screenshot. From his point of view it is the right screenshot.

    At the end of the day and in spite of that the review favours Notes and that's pretty good.
  • Oh Come On

    Anti MS Sensationalism? Hardly. The article is about alternatives to Outlook. Not because it's bad - it's not. The people that use it think it's great (like yourselves) and that's not something you can always say about Notes Users especially if they came from companies that used Outlook (believe me I know!). What the article says is that of the alternatives Notes is the best if connected to a Domino Server. It doesn't say that any of the alternatives is better than Outlook and that only a couple of the alternatives even deserve to be compared to Outlook.
  • Thunderbird "features"

    You didn't mention it, but in my version of Thunderbird ( the up and down arrows in an open email header to take you to next/previous message don't work. I can't be the only one to notice. Since it is freeware, this may be on their list as an SEP (software enhancement proposal, or, someone else's problem) An annoyance, but not crippling.

    The other point I didn't see is the reason I got Thunderbird in the first place - the availability of a widget to grab Hotmail messages down from the server. Mozilla and MS have a cat and mouse game going, where MS keeps disabling it somehow, and Mozilla finds a workaround.
  • Mail interface alternatives

    I work with a lot of different companies. They use all sorts of products. I like Domino most because it is consistent, and largely backward compatible. MS can not say this... Well They could say it, but they can't do it. Others... well they are a small minority. There likely isn't any need for backward compatibility... or not much of one. Apples to apples ? Domino is not just email. Go to the site and look for yourself. MS has been trying to do what Domino does for many years now. Always playing catch up. But not a bad mail client. That is for sure. Long as you don't plan to migrate to a new version....
  • Kmail

    I use Kmail, which is the email component of Kontact, with Debian 5.0, and I have no problem seeing embedded images in HTML emails.
  • Thunderbird +iCal = Lightning Add-On NOT Sunbird

    You are totally missing the boat here. Thunderbird has a great add-on called Lighting which essentially is a component that integrates all the Sunbird features natively in Thunderbird.
    In addition, you are not mentioning (or may not know) the tag and search feature(s) which totally blows Outlook out of the water. You clearly have not truly tried Thunderbird. ...go deeper, immerse yourself shall see.
  • Some notes

    - Prices are badly compared, ex. Thunderbird is only a client application, GroupWise is a complete mail solution and the price includes server & support.
    - GroupWise Instant Messenger is a great IM application that integrates well with the GroupWise mail client (start chat from contact, see contact status, ...)
  • you have to be kidding Slowtus Notes gag

    what they leave out here is Notes is a resource hog,, you will sacrifice hours of each persons time each day to use notes over lightning quick outlook/office. You will also have to have whole departments of help desk people to support notes in your organization so if your goal is to grow hardware footprint, grow support helpdesk foot print and waste hours of your peoples time, look at notes...otherwise stay with a phenominal product MS office/.exchange/outlook. I have never in my life had to log a helpdesk call on outlook or office, I have had to do so regualrly on sucks.
  • Zarafa is another good alternative

    I have set up a test server running Zarafa and integrated it with Openldap. The setup procedure is much easier than Zimbra and everything is so much easier to understand than Zimbra. MAPI supported.
  • Outlook

    Given the breadth of products you studied, it's a pity you didn't include Microsoft Outlook itself as a reference point. That would help people answer the most interesting question of all - are the alternatives better?
  • Outlook/Exchange

    Agreed. Outlook and Exchange are still number 1 here, and it's because (despite their problems), they're still the best.

    I think the Notes client is worse than the GroupWise client (although GroupWise has had problems on the server end).
    As has been mentioned earlier, Lotus Notes sucks big time (big usuability problems, the single-threaded UI of the Notes client, the larger number of help desk calls, higher staff requirements, maintenance issues, etc.), and saying it's good enough for IBM is just pathetic - it's their product! (I'd like to see the numbers when you remove sites where IBM is the outsourcer. I wouldn't use Microsoft as a reason to recommend Exchange/Outlook, nor Novell with GroupWise).
  • Proprietory Storage

    I use Notes @ Work and have done since v4.5. I'm now on v8.5. The usability of Notes used to be absolutely appalling. 8.5 is the first version I've used where I feel that Lotus 'get it'. They still don't have proportional scroll bars but a lot of the of the other niggles are getting fixed. And best of all, it's reliable on Linux. At home, I use KMail on KDE/Linux and am very pleased with it. No worries about HTML rendering and the main point for me is that I can get at my e-mail with any text application I choose. It's one of the main reasons I dropped Outlook. Any sign of disk corruption and It's a nightmare to recover Outlook data. (sharing data wasn't too tasty either, from what I remember)