Kontact: How does it compare to the competition?
With all of this talk about KDE 4.5 lately, I thought I should take a moment to mention a tool that hasn't had much (or any) talk here on Ghacks.
That tool is Kontact. But what is Kontact?Â Kontact is the KDE groupware suite that includes more tools than your standard suite, has a lot of pluses, and a few minuses. But even with its minuses, Kontact is a spot-on tool for anyone needing a solid groupware suite to keep them as organized as possible.
In this article I will introduce you to Kontact and help you decide if it is ready to usurp your current tool.
If you are using KDE 4 you will likely have Kontact installed. To find out go click on Start > Applications > Office and see if it is listed. You might also notice that the constituent parts of Kontact are also listed. That is because you can start each component individually and not have to fire up the who shebang. But let's assume you do want to fire up the whole kit.
Here's what Kontact includes:
- Summary page: Shows the summary for everything you have upcoming.
- Mail: Your email client.
- Contacts: Your contacts.
- Calendar: Your personal calendar (integrates with the Akonadi server)
- To-do list: Your tasks.
- Feeds: RSS feeds.
- Journal: A personal journal
- Notebook: A simple note taking tool.
- Popup Notes: A reminder tool in the form of popup notes.
- Time tracker: Keep track of your time.
That's a lot of features compared to your standard groupware suite. But does it measure up? Just about any user (especially users reading Ghacks) can walk themselves through an application like this and figure out just how toÂ use it. What I want to do is take a look at the KEY components (Mail, Calendar, Contacts, To-do) and see how it stacks up to the competition. Where does it hit, and where does it miss.
The biggest miss here is a lack of Exchange support. GNOME's Evolution already has the ability to connect with multiple versions of Exchange. With Kontact I have found various solutions to this problem (most of which involve a shell script-type solution that no new user would want to try), but nothing built in. The only way you can connect to an Exchange server's email component in Kontact is if the Exchange server has IMAP support turned on.
On the plus side, Kontact's email cleint (Kmail) does have very nice integrated Anti-SPAM and Anti-Virus tools, each in the form of a simple wizard. You open this by clicking Tools > Anti-Spam Wizard or Tools > Anti-Virus Wizard.
Again, the biggest miss here is the lack of Exchange integration. But I have also found Kontact lacking a simple Google calendar plugin.The problem is, This is not to say that Kontact's calendar application isn't worth using. It is. If you are looking for a single-user calendar application that doesn't need to be easily shared, the Kontact Calendar is outstanding. But the minute you need to share that calendar, or add a Google or Exchange calendar, you will soon find the weaknesses of this tool.
The Calendar tool does have some unique features that might appeal to you. In particular are the Time Spent and Timeline views of the calendar. And , when in the Calendar application, you can choose to add new calendars and the list of possible calendars to add looks impressive. You can add from a Kolab server, OpenXchange server, GroupWise Server, local files, and more. But until Kontact has a simple solution for Exchange and Google, it's missing out.
There's not much you can do wrong with a to-do list. It simply a listing of what you need to do. Like most other to-do lists in groupware suites you can take an email and convert it into a task. And you can convert to do items into calendar items.
I was hoping to be able to start using Kontact when KDE 4.5 hit the streets. But truth be told, the lack of integration with critical tools leaves Kontact wanting...seriously wanting. Kontact has a long, long way to go before it is ready for anyone in a business environment. A single user? Sure...Kontact is a great tool for you to use. But the minute you need integration you're most likely going to have to return to Evolution.
A couple of points:
1. The entire suite is undergoing serious revision and will be relaunched this year – the back-end will integrate with KDE’s caching framework (Akonadi) which should simplify connections to different sources.
2. Calendaring: I’ve used Kontact effectively with Google calendar. I recall the process was not intuitive, but it was relatively easy. Something like New Calendar ->from Akonadi resource -> enter Google server/login information.
3. Mail: Exchange support should arrive with the OpenChange protocol – I don’t know the timeframe for that goal.
4. As a general software user, I look for easy shortcuts that make life easier. In 2010, I’m not sure the readers of your blog spend time perusing for programs anymore. For example, when launching a program, KDE’s menus (Kicker or Lancelot) offer a quick search option which works with both program names and functions (Kontact, Email, etc.). Alternatively, there’s a quick-launch option called Krunner (Alt+F2 by default) similar to Gnome Do, which is very powerful (probably worth its own article).
As a follow-up to my previous post:
About changes coming to the suite and the new back-end:
Syncing with google:
About OpenChange: it’s included in KDE-PIM 4.5. The release of KDE-PIM 4.5 was delayed for the reasons you know, but OpenChange it’s already there,
I use Kontact with multiple Google calendars, but yes it isn’t obvious how. Google helps here though :)
Just to add that Kontact integrates with Zimbra very well.
If you really want to replace MS products, Zimbra is a good substitution for Excange and Kontact gets the job done, including calendaring. Sharing your calendar is done through the Server (Zimbra in this case), and that is the way it should be, not through my personal application.
The single biggest problem with Kontact/KMail is inadequate support for HTML mail – one cannot reply to a received HTML email without destroying original email’s formatting (https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=86423) – and the KMail developers have zero interest in addressing this issue for various ideological reasons. This is a deal breaker in any corporate environment, and thus makes KMail (and therefore Kontact as a whole) not suitable for any serious use.
well let me defend pimsters (kde pim devs)…
I assume u refer to Outlook emails… MS had changed html engine used in email formatting from IE to MS Office one… its tremendous effort to design kontact editor to behave like that in Outlook and KDE PIM has simply no manpower… There is affordable solution coming in near future (I hope!)… a fusion of work done by two other teams: rekonq and KOffice with WebKit as a core engine… however even then 100% compatibility with Outlook is impossible…
I like to say that its because MS business strategy not cos “various ideological reasons”
brought up by KDE Pim team… simplifying things is dangerous and makes easy to to drop some important facts
After last release Mandriva I don’t use Kontact (KDE). First and last thing: Kontact Calendar and Google Calendar don’t work like i hope. After every suspend need restart Akonadi and add google login/pass.
IMHO, the biggest problem of kmail/kontact is that it is completely buggy and unmaintained.
The KDE bugtracker is filled with crash reports, most of them several years old, and nobody
is taking care of those.
Enterprise Calendaring isn’t an “option” anymore. For many businesses, placing company data on an external service like google calendar is against policy due to contracts against releasing proprietary client data.
If you need shared, viewable calendars across your organization, MS-Exchange is the most popular solution, but Zimbra and others also provide it. For many businesses, “enterpriser calendaring” is the killer app.