Replace Outlook with Evolution: A Linux Groupware Suite

For many users, Outlook is the de facto standard email client...if you're on Windows. And why not? It's an all-in-one groupware suite that can manage your email, your calendar, your tasks, your contacts, and much more. It's easy to use and, for the most part, reliable. But what if I told you there was a better solution, on the Linux platform, that can do nearly everything Outlook can do? On top of that, it can even connect to an Exchange Server! AND, there is a version for Mac and Windows.
The groupware client I am speaking of is Evolution. This Microsoft Outlook killer was created by Miguel De Icaza to serve as the GNOME groupware suite. Evolution will be automatically installed on any modern GNOME desktop, so there's no need for you to do any further installation - Evolution is there and ready to blow your mind.

Evolution offers the following features:

  • Email
  • Shared (and private) calendars
  • Tasks/Todos
  • Contact management
  • Support for S/MIME
  • Pidgin integration
  • SpamAssassin integration
  • Fully GNOME integration
  • Offline IMAP support
  • Integrated GPG
  • Support for Groupwise and Evolution built in
  • Multiple account support

As you can see, Evolution offers everything you would want/need in a groupware suite. To top that off, the interface is very user-friendly.

To open up Evolution look in the Internet entry in the GNOME start menu. In that entry you should see the Evolution shortcut. When you fire up Evolution for the first time you will have to walk through a very simple setup wizard. This wizard will set up your default email address. Don't worry, once you have completed the set up you can go back into accounts and set up as many email accounts as you wish.

Evolution Mail client

Evolution Mail client

Evolution will default to the Mail application. As you can see, in the image to the right, The Evolution Mail client looks very familiar. The Evolution UI was created in such a way that users would have an instant familiarity. If you have used Outlook, the learning curve is practically /dev/null.

And Evolution is very easy to configure. From the Edit menu you will find the Preferences entry. Click that and the Preferences window will open up offering you every possible configuration you will need. The Preferences window is also where you add new accounts.

Evolution Preferences Window

Evolution Preferences Window

In order to set up a new account you only have to click the Add button and proceed through the setup wizard again.

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Another feature unique to Evolution is the plugin system. If you open the Edit menu you will see the Plugin entry. When you click on this entry you will open up the plugin window where you can enable/disable various plugins included with Evolution. But don't think you are limited to only the included plugins. Doing a Google search you will see that there are quite a few worthy plugins to add. One such plugin is an RSS reader for Evolution. Some of these plugins (like the RSS reader) can be installed easily. In Fedora I simply run yum install evolution-rss and the plugin is automatically installed.



RSS Reader

RSS Reader

The image to the left shows the gHacks RSS feed in Evolution. An outstanding news feed read in an outstanding groupware client.

Final Thoughts

I have been using Evolution since it's beta release days. It was an incredible piece of software from the beginning and remains an incredible piece of softare. If you are looking for an open source groupware suite, it is time you evolved.

Update: The Evolution website is no longer available, and we have removed the link pointing to the website as a consequence.

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Responses to Replace Outlook with Evolution: A Linux Groupware Suite

  1. Danny February 9, 2009 at 2:41 am #

    I've tried Evolution and tried to like it, but it doesn't sync with any of my cellphones. That's a deal-breaker.

  2. Avatar February 9, 2009 at 4:42 am #

    Miguel DE Icaza. he is Mexican not italian

  3. Urban Strata February 9, 2009 at 5:04 am #

    Yes, Evolution is nice, but it doesn't yet connect to Exchange 2007 (which requires MAPI), and as Danny noted it doesn't yet sync with most mobile devices (only Palm OS). Until those shortcomings are resolved, Evolution has too many deal-breakers.

  4. votre February 9, 2009 at 6:14 am #

    My biggest complaint is there not being a way to automatically save a copy of an e-mail to your sent folder like you can in Thunderbird if you're using IMAP. Seems you have to be wedded to an Exchange or Novell server to do that.

  5. Nathan February 9, 2009 at 5:51 pm #

    The main reason why people still use outlook is because either they don't know any different and a substantial amount of people have a hotmail account. And no one wants to use their terrible web-interface

  6. Urban Strata February 9, 2009 at 6:40 pm #

    @Nathan:

    Totally untrue. The main reason people still use Outlook is because their work requires it along with an Exchange server. There's currently no better way (and I mean better as in simpler and easier, not better as in "good") to access Exchange than by using Outlook.

    Outlook 2007 costs $100, according to CDW.com. How many average Joes do you think are spending that much on an e-mail client for personal use? Not many, I'd bet. Outlook dominates because corporate IT requires it.

  7. WykidTECH February 9, 2009 at 10:59 pm #

    I love Evolution, seriously. However, its random close-ups and lack of syncing with my T-Mobile MDA was indeed a deal breaker for me. I use Outlook 2007 and it's hard to beat the integration with the MS Office 2007 suite and (more importantly) my MDA. Is Outlook perfect? No. I would rather use Evolution as I would rather use Linux, but truth is I need something that is going to work more so than not.

  8. Chris Wuestefeld February 10, 2009 at 12:01 am #

    Suggestion: provide a link to the app's web page.

    See here
    http://projects.gnome.org/evolution/
    and here for Windows
    http://www.dipconsultants.com/evolution/

  9. jack February 10, 2009 at 1:26 am #

    sorry - i forgot to add links. i added one into the article.

    as for syncing - i hear ya. but to be honest, the poor syncing isn't a fault of evolution, that is a wide-spread Linux issue. many times the syncing problems can be traced to a distribution using a bad version of one of the sub-systems used for connecting the device. i have found Fedora to be one of the worst for syncing and Ubuntu and Mandriva to be among the better distributions.

  10. Dominik March 17, 2009 at 7:13 pm #

    SOGo (http://www.scalableogo.org/) is an open-source groupware server which works with an AJAX web interface and "thick" clients such as Evolution and Thunderbird ...

  11. GreenOwl April 10, 2009 at 7:19 pm #

    I switched to Linux (Ubuntu) and Evolution over 6 months ago and love 'em both. Could not get Evolution to sync with my windows based smartphone (AT&T Tilt). Switched to a Palm Treo 680 and it syncs just fine. Evolution seems much more stable than Outlook was and I wouldn't go back.

  12. Skids June 3, 2009 at 2:54 pm #

    Outlook killer? What a fool.

  13. Skids June 3, 2009 at 2:55 pm #

    poor syncing isn’t a fault of evolution, that is a wide-spread Linux issue.

    One of many which means Linsux will never be accepted in the real world. Dream on fools.

  14. Skids June 3, 2009 at 2:56 pm #

    Outlook 2007 costs $100, according to CDW.com

    Untrue. Outlook is actually free.

  15. Skids June 3, 2009 at 2:58 pm #

    "The main reason why people still use outlook is because either they don’t know any different and a substantial amount of people have a hotmail account. And no one wants to use their terrible web-interface"

    No, the truth is people know what works reliably and isn't coded by some monkey in his momma's basement. Outlook users are years ahead of and Linsucker.

  16. the professor August 14, 2009 at 6:45 pm #

    "Outlook 2007 costs $100, according to CDW.com

    Untrue. Outlook is actually free."

    hey monkey Boi Skids can you get me 100 copies for my office then please :D

    idiot.........................................

  17. Flatline February 1, 2010 at 7:00 am #

    Outlook's biggest advantage is Outlook Anywhere: a secure, encrypted RPC-over-HTTPS connection to Exchange from anywhere in the world without VPN requirements. For on-premise or hosted Exchange, there is no substitute that I'm aware of in the Linux space. If there existed a Linux alternative, that could make many Linux fans smile. Its probably one of the main reasons that a free, amazing office suite like OpenOffice won't gain steam. If OpenOffice had an Outlook substitute capable of RPC-over-HTTPS, it could possibly crush MS Office.

    And as of the release of Exchange 2007, Outlook licensing is no longer "free" with Exchange, although some hosted Exchange providers will add it into the deal under Microsoft's SPLA licensing model.

  18. ilan | linux April 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    Flatline:

    Almost every IMAP server for linux has IMAPS (secure) support. As for secure calendar and contacts eGroupware supports XML-RPC which you can access over https.
    I'm sure that encrypted access is not the biggest advantage of Outlook/Exchange. For a lot of companies Exchange "just works" and they are willing to pay for it.

    Ilan

  19. Lorin Kundert June 10, 2010 at 7:43 am #

    Not even close to being an Outlook killer, Kontact would be better suited for that.

  20. Rick July 1, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    Both Evolution and Thunderbird have a serious problem with the text editor - lack of
    flexibility and proper formatting. Neither of these programs come close to Eudora or
    Outlook in this area.

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