Best alternatives to Microsoft Outlook, part I

Scott spanbauer By Scott Spanbauer

If you’re longing to leave Outlook, alternative e-mail and calendar programs could lighten the load on your wallet — and on your PC.

At least one free personal information manager replicates most of Outlook’s features and adds some handy tricks users of Microsoft’s PIM can only dream of.

Is your Outlook starting to look bleak?

When Microsoft Outlook debuted just over ten years ago, e-mail was still just one of those applications that we used occasionally throughout the day. Kind of like that newfangled Web thing. Today, e-mail is most PC users’ #1 application.

Outlook was one of the first programs to integrate mail with a calendar, contacts, to-do lists, and notes into a personal information manager. Microsoft’s approach to the art of the PIM is now so finely tuned that many of us would gasp like fish stranded at high tide were it suddenly taken away.

For that very reason, I gave up using Outlook as my daily PIM last year. For one thing, I didn’t want my mail, calendar, and contacts trapped in a proprietary data file (the notoriously huge .pst file). For another, I wanted the always-available online storage that Gmail provides and the ability to see my mail, calendar, and contacts on any network-connected PC.

Dropping Outlook was actually quite painless. While it’s not always easy to get your data in and out of the program, Outlook supports standard mail-server protocols and calendaring systems. This allows you to use it with Gmail and other e-mail and Web-hosted services.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2008-07-31: