There are a lot of reasons to use Outlook. With few exceptions, Outlook is a fairly decent PIM (personal information manager). If your business relies on an Exchange Server, Outlook is definitely the best PIM for the job. Sometimes Outlook isn’t the perfect fit for everyone, so today I’m exploring some fairly decent Outlook alternatives. Because Outlook is primarily a Windows application (the new version of Mac OS X not withstanding), the list of alternatives here will be focused on Windows, although some of them may also work on Mac OS X or Linux.
Evolution for Windows
If you’re looking for an open source alternative to Outlook with all of the bells and whistles, I swear by Evolution. I use the Linux version, but it also works on other platforms. Evolution works with my IMAP and MS Exchange account(s), plus it has other Outlook functionality such as Tasks, Calendar, and of course Microsoft Exchange two way sync support. The Evolution interface is ugly, but it does indeed work well.
When you’re looking for something free, transport friendly, and able to work easily out of the box, Lightning is very close to perfect as an alternative to the Outlook calendar function. To make it perfect, you really need to consider using the “Provider for Google” add-on to make it feel complete, which also means you need to use Google Calendar. This way you have the ability to keep things in-sync with your mobile devices and Google Apps as a whole. The downside might be that Lightning is not that great for mobile users who can’t or would prefer not to sync to Google. As long as you’re willing to use Google Apps, Lightning is a great companion calendar solution to an IMAP or POP email client like Thunderbird.
EssentialPIM – One of the more attractive solutions out there, EssentialPIM provides you with all of the nice feel of a modern release of Outlook, without having to spring for a copy of MS Office to get it. EssentialPIM will sync nicely with services like Google Calendar, but does not work with MS Exchange. So if MS Exchange is important to you, then you may need to consider Evolution instead or go back to using Outlook outright.