Kontact: A Review

October 30, 2006 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Kontact, Review | 17 Comments

Related tutorial: How to Setup Kmail with Gmail

Applications is what will bring people to Linux. It already has stability and security. Stable eye candy isn’t far away with XGL-Beryl/Compiz and such. I’m sure Linux has seen a rise in popularity partly due to Firefox. I can’t count the number of people who discovered Amarok audio player, and never wanted to leave Linux purely for this reason. The OS (regardless of distro) still has a little way to go with usability for the average user who knows just enough to be dangerous on a computer, but beyond that things are shaping up just fine.

But Firefox and Amarok aren’t the only apps to wow people with. The open source world looks to be succeeding in the e-mail realm as well. Introducing Kontact, KDE’s Personal Information Management application. Not only does this app blow the pants off other open source e-mail efforts (Thunderbird and Evolution), but it blows the pants off Outlook.

The layout is user friendly, the memory utilization is great (unlike evolution and Thunderbird), and functionality is top notch. The art work seems to be great and eye pleasing as well. Though the main toolbar icons could use a little more work to help tell the difference between then all when they’re set to small. I’m quite surprised this application hasn’t made the buzz that say amarok has, or firefox, or even gaim for that matter.

Email (Kmail)

Lets get to the main application in this container that makes or breaks this product and that’s Kmail. Kmail supports both IMAP and POP3 accounts which both work with SSL and TLS, you can turn on Automatic PGP and GnuPG encryption as well. A built in spell checker comes included. A system tray icon that can display pop up notifications and sounds when new mail has arrived (something Thunderbird lacks in competition with Outlook). It included functionality for pipelining for POP3 (faster mail download on slow responding networks).

With built in spam filter bogofilter, as well as anti-virus integration with Clam, Kmail has security in mind, and at times maybe a little too much. It gives you the choice to view html and images in each e-mail to ensure malicious code cannot run unless you allow it to.

It’s filtering system is as powerful as anything you’ve become accustomed with Outlook or Thunderbird as well.

Importing mail from other clients is also a breeze. You can currently import mail from Evolution, OS X mail, Opera, Thunderbird, Bat, Outlook, Pegasus, Lotus Notes, and Sylpheed while keeping mail folder structure intact.

The ‘as you type’ search dialog makes searching through folders an ease, and coupled with every possible column you may need to access information about each message.

Handling multiple identities could use a little work. You currently have to make each identity point to a particular folder in order to keep identities seperated. This should be done by default, but beyond that it handles multiple accounts very well.

Used in KDE, drag and drop integration works very well when composing messages. Though signatures could use some work to catch up with Outlook’s functionality. The ability to have small images in a signature would be greatly appreciated.

Contacts (KAddressbook)

Contacts are easily maintained with Kmail’s address book. This was integrated into Kmail and into KOrganizer well before Kontact was ever created. It imports and exports most address book standards, has support for LDAP servers, integrates with Kopete (an instant messenger that i feel isn’t no where near complete but stands to rival all messengers in the future)

Korganizer (Calendar)

Coming complete with groupware functionality, this calendar system easily rivals Outlook’s as well as Sunbird/Lightening. Included in the ability to export to iCal and vCalendar formats .

Akregator (RSS/atom Feeds)

Something I always felt best belonged in e-mail clients rather than browsers or even stand alone apps, is RSS readers and this application surprised me when i saw how well it handled feeds. With integration with Konqueror (KDE’s web browser– could use a little work on the web browsing end in terms of appearance and usability, but it does the job) it allows each feed to be viewed in tabs right in Kontact if you wish to view more of the particular feed entry than what is showed. Nice to see the tabbed feature was made useful within this application.

Knode (Newsgroups)

This application within the Kontact container is equipped with every feature you’d expect out of a typical news reader. It supports multiple servers, MIME multipart messages, display of attachments, and search and filter functions.
The Rest

The summary view can display new mails, your day or week’s appointments, notes, information about your Palm Pilot, a “Weather” plugin for Kontact‘s Summary View adds an area in the view labeled Weather Information. This area contains the information for currently configured weather locations.

Other functionality is included with Journal, To-do List, and a section for taking down notes for the day. Kpilot features functionality to import and export for most palm pilots and pda’s.

And all of this is only the tip of the iceberg with the functionality of this app. It’s a powerhouse that only Outlook rivals and yes I said Outlook rivals kmail, not the other way around. Definately underrated even in the Linux world as far as e-mail applications go and furthermore under-rated as an e-mail app as a whole.

And looking to the future with the QT libraries being made for Windows, and KDE already able to run (very alpha) on Mac OS X Kontact could very well be a (to be cliche) revolution in e-mail client applications. Hopefully we’ll see Kontact do for Linux what Amarok and Firefox has.

Now if we could only get a full featured office suite. (and no OpenOffice as much as i like it doesn’t cut it, neither does Koffice.)

Digg This

Edit: It has been asked here, on other blogs, on digg.com among other places how to view and send e-mails using HTML rather than PlainText. While this is highly advised against, Kmail can do it.

If you go to Settings –> Configure Kmail—> Security button on left side bar –> Reading Tab –> Check the box that says prefer HTML to Plain text.

and voila done. You may need to right click on the toolbars for the Compose window to show the formatting toolbar.

And there you go. Enjoy.



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  1. Yes, Kontact is an excellent app, and I use it every day. Superior to Evolution and Outlook in most ways.

    Two gripes:

    Minor gripe: Icons in LH panel take up way too much space. This should be cut down by 2/3rds

    Major gripe: Unfortunately, our company (and thousands of others) have joined the Borg and has an army of worker supporting Exchange. Thus, it is entrenched and this will not change soon. Kontact does work pretty well with Exchange using Cached IMAP, /except/ the calendaring (group scheduling doesn’t work right) and Exchange address book integration (Although LDAP works great).

    If these could get fixed, I expect many of our Evolution users would switch to Kontact.

  2. Exchange is MS’s saving grace when it comes to e-mail and even office suite dominance.

    If Koffice could be semi usable, or even OpenOffice could trim its weight a bit and add some functionality, pretty up it’s gui.. then we’d have something.

    There’s plenty of alternatives to Exchange. Such as:

    I’m just glad exchange is imap and pop capable. It allows third party clients in, but unless you’re in a smaller business.. you really don’t get a choice on what apps you use day to day.

  3. Wait a minute. You stated that “functionality is top notch”. There is a difference in features and functionality. The menus and options are so over-cluttered that basic tasks become a headache. This is where the simplicity of applications such as Thunderbird and Evolution leave the contact suite in the dust.

    Kmail does not interface with Exchange gracefully and many settings are required to get it to work with LDAP successfully, such as knowing the Base DN, Bind DN, Search paramaters, port numbers, etc. Even once this LDAP search information is setup, you have to tell the other applications in Kontact to use this information as it doesn’t default to these settings.

    Korganizer has a ways to go in terms of supporting Exchange as well. One has the ability to import an exchange calendar, but modifications are made locally, and not on the server. Even importing from exchange has issues, such as events being off-time, and altering timezones doesn’t solve the problem.

    Kopete works fine with AIM until someone wants to send you a file, which isn’t supported.

    The Kontact suite needs to undergo some major revisions in improving the user experience before anyone can consider it real competition to other applications. I know that this comment seems harsh, but it comes from someone who used the suite in a business environment for several weeks before abandoning the system. Actually try using it, and you will run into these same issues.

  4. Can you list reasons why “OpenOffice […] doesn’t cut it”? One of Europe’s most respected computing magazines (c’t from Germany) regularly does side-by-sides and reviews of OpenOffice and MS Office, and they often come to the conclusion that OOo has nothing lacking in the spreadsheet, word processing and presentation applications. The only big gripe they have is the lack of pivot tables in Calc and the unfinished feel of Base, but they normally limit the reviews to the core three office applications since (I think?) Access is not included in a basic MS Office license anyway.

    c’t is well-regarded and known for thorough reviews and articles with real depth, so I’d be curious. The only Microsoft product I’ve ever used is an old Win XP Home, and that only to play games on, so I can’t compare the two on my own. What are the things you believe are needed for OOo to be “full-featured”? How do you define full-featured?

  5. […] read more | digg story […]

  6. I agree that Kmail is top-notch, though it could use some work in the templates department. One good feature you didn’t mention is the cached IMAP support, which stores all your IMAP messages locally. I also like the ability to assign sounds to incoming messages via the sorting rules.

    Akregator is also an excellent RSS feeds reader. It lets you set each feed to show either the summary or original Web site, on an individual basis, and works entirely from the keyboard (no mousing necessary).

    Both applications, however, tend to crash a little too often.

  7. I really enjoy using Kontact, especially as I’m not a fan of Evolution, but it does really fall down when it comes to handling IMAP.

    Apart from being very slow (almost unusable unless your IMAP server is networkalogically quite close,) it also suffers from inconsistencies, for example, I have several folders that I can’t stop Kontact from checking for new mail everytime it starts or does a mail check.

    Despite the convenience of the application as a whole, I keep going back to Mutt, purely because of its performance (or Kontact’s lack thereof.)

  8. I use Kontact all the time. It’s OK, and if KDE is your desktop, Kontact is worth considering as your email client if you want more than just email.

    “…you can turn on Automatic PGP and GnuPG encryption as well.” – have you actually done that? Tell me how, in a short paragraph…

    To-do lists are a bit suspect… as are the multiple reminders in a single window – what if i want to acknowlege some of those in different ways. Sometimes I seem to be not reminded of things.

    Stickie notes are integrated, but somehow it’s hard to actual find the damed things on your desktop.

    The news reader (KNode) cannot reassemble file contents where the contents span many posts.

    The Kalendar is nice. But it’s fugly when trying to use it as a groupware app, even when compared with Outlook sans Exchange.

    Each version gets better, albeit bigger, more complex, and occasionally less stable for a release or three.

  9. Kontact has been my long time favourite, especially the KMail part of the PIM application. I would love to use KOrganizer and KAddressBook as much as I use KMail, but still had no time to setup my current iPaq 6510 phone to sync with Kontact, same as with my older iPaqs (except older Palm T).

    As a recommended list of add-ons for KMail, my long time favourites again have been spamassasin (anti-spam) and clam (anti-virus).

    Regarding memory usage, I think I don not agree with you. As per my knowledge the memory usage are roughly same, compared to Evolution and Thunderbird. I use Evolution @office, and on older PC than that I have at home, and it works fine. Though again I find Kontact as better PIM.

    BTW, here is a big question (and probably stupid one):

    HOW can I compose e-mail in HTML format by default in KMail (like in Evolution). I prefer to send and receive e-mails in HTML rather than plain text. Can someone guide me on this issue.

    On whole, a good and descent review … kudos 🙂

  10. […] Complete Review […]

  11. If Kmail does not offer the ability to delay the sending of messages. It is not worth a dime, just like Thunderbird.

  12. […] Applications is what will bring people to *nix. It already has stability and security. But what we need is functionality other OSes cannot provide. Firefox and Amarok aren ’t the only apps to wow people with. The FOSS world looks to be succeeding in the e-mail realm as well. Introducing Kontact, KDE’s Personal Information Management. Outlook beware.read more | digg story Links […]

  13. Analyst wrote: “If Kmail does not offer the ability to delay the sending of messages. It is not worth a dime, just like Thunderbird.”

    Kmail in its latest version, at least, does have a “send later” option, both on a one-shot basis and as a default option.

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  15. One other point you don’t mention that is in Kmail’s favor is its support for the maildir format. Putting each message in its own file instead of one big file, or series of big files (as you must for Outlook, Thunderbird, and Evolution) has performance, reliability, scalability, and usability advantages.

  16. […] Complete Review […]

  17. […] e-mail realm as well. Introducing Kontact, KDE’s Personal Information Management. Outlook beware.read more | digg story Filed under Blog by […]

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