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Free Outlook Alternative on Ubuntu Linux

“Outlook alternative”, I typed into Google wondering if there is a substitute for Microsoft Office Outlook on Ubuntu. This, I thought, was the first hurdle I would have to jump before I can implement Ubuntu on my office machine full time.

Of course, I was wrong to think that that was the first hurdle, because connecting to the Microsoft Network is the first hurdle, but an alternative to MS Outlook is the focus of this post so I’ll stick to my erroneous statement for now.


How often do we asks questions of which we’ve had the answers in front of us just the previous evening? Well, that was the case with this question of is there an Outlook alternative on Unbuntu, because not only is the answer “yes there is”, but it is in fact already installed with the default Ubuntu installation and sits in the drop down menu top left of Ubuntu desktop. It’s called Evolution and it looks almost exactly like Microsoft Office, with email, calendars, scheduling, filters, synchronisation, the works.

I can, however, only swear by these facts based on what I’ve read, and seen in screen captures, because I couldn’t actually use mine. I ran the Live CD of Ubuntu in my office computer (which you can do without having to install anything) and I didn’t have the instructions handy for how to connect to the Microsoft Network and the Microsoft Server (without which you can’t progress).

But, am I told through various articles not only on Ubuntu’s Website, but various other websites across the net (interesting comments), Evolution can do what Microsoft Outlook can do, it can connect to the Microsoft Exchange and, as you might have suspected, it’s free.

At this point, I have to apologise for my previous Ubuntu post’s title. I’m a Linux Noob, not a Windows Noob. I’m actually quite proficient on Windows, in fact, I guess when a person has known about Linux and the many, fabulous variants for as long as I have, but have resisted it all this time, you could call them a Windows BOOB. I am thus a Windows Boob, but a Linux Noob.

So with my current burst of Ubuntu Linux induced enthusiasm, which is leading to delusions of grandeur, I have daydreams of converting our entire office network to a no-to-low cost Ubuntu haven of open source software, saving the company gazillions in licensing fees (and virus clean-up fees) in the process. This is severe pie in sky though, because we just shelled out thousands of Ringgit for over 200 Dell computers, which came pre-installed with Vista, but were downgraded to XP with great effort.

That aside, I believe we’re shelling out thousands of Ringgit more for an Exchange 2007 server to compliment the thousands of Ringgit worth of Microsoft Office 2007 software, and on top of that, we just acquired, and are in the process of installing, a multi-million Ringgit Property Management System, which I don’t doubt for a moment doesn’t run on any flavour of Linux.

Taking and devouring the last slice of this pie in the sky is the fact that our IT guys barely know how to deal with Spam and rid our network of viruses (and keep it keep it off), so unless management’s keen to let go all the could-be MCSE’s and hire BOFH’s, a Linux based working environment just isn’t going to happen anytime in the next decade.

But have dream, will dream.

Which brings me back to hurdle 1 and hurdle 0.5 – connecting to the Microsoft Network and replacing Microsoft Outlook. The only thing I had time for was to do a bit of research on how to connect Ubuntu to the Microsoft Network, and apparently this article on the Ubuntu website gives instructions on exactly how to do it.

But, as a Linux Noob (and Windows Boob), I couldn’t really grasp it on the first go, so I’ll have to do a tad bit more research on the subject before I can consider hurdle 0.5 jumped. Once I’m connected to the network, and then hopefully the Internet as well, I should be able to jump hurdle 1 fairly easily.

Hopefully my Ubuntu adventures will benefit somebody else too. Actually, I’m sure I’m not the first to trot this path, so perhaps a little more searching around on the forums are in order.

6 Comments

  • lunatic4ever

    6 February 2008 at 23:13

    You don't really need to have Active Directory connection to be able to read your exchange mail in evolution.

    You can either use IMAP in evolution but that is just for mail, or you can use the Evolution-Exchange plugin.

    Then you have enough functionality to replace Outlook (I use it every day)

    One condition, OWA need to be enabled for Evolution-Exchange.

    to connect, just fillin the name of you front-end server (with OWA installed) just like you would type it in a web-browser (http://OWAFE/exchange)

    and give your pre-win2000 username…

    Should do the trick…

  • 1Earth

    6 February 2008 at 23:42

    Thanks Lunatic4ever

    I just posted how I got Microsoft Network to work with Ubuntu, and I also managed to get Evolution running by just entering the details I took from Microsoft Outlook (and we luckily do have OWA enabled).

    There's only one bit that doesn't seem to work, and that's the Global Address List – it keeps on asking me to authenticate when I click the To: button, but fails regardless of the server address I put there. Any ideas?

    Other than that, it works perfectly – thanks for your feedback.

  • leftystrat

    11 February 2008 at 21:42

    I just became 99% Windows-free and had to navigate this hurdle. I find that Evo works, most of the time. Address List access started out asking for authentication but calmed down and now either works or it doesn't, depending on the day, the weather, and the Dow Jones index.

    Aside from the previously mentioned connector, you might want to experiment with different logins to achieve less bothersome usage.

    Instead of

    lefty

    try

    lefty@domain

    or

    domainlefty

    Password doesn't change.

    Oddly enough, this isn't an Evo problem – it's totally MS. You have to jump through the same hoops if you're on a different domain but need to access the Exchange server.

    My coworker has this working perfectly. I'm ok with mail, but can't write to my own calendar.

    I'm also having a blast trying to administer the network (I gave up and use tsclient to hit the servers) and get files to or from my Treo (PalmOS).

    What a long strange trip…..

  • Robbie

    6 December 2008 at 18:35

    Thank you for this post. It helped me out immensely.

  • 1Earth

    6 December 2008 at 23:17

    Good work – glad it helped. In the meantime I've also discovered Zimbra Desktop, which could well be better than Evolution once they work out all the bugs.

    Not sure if it can interface with Exchange Servers though, I'm not on an Exchange network anymore, so no more experimenting.

  • Chris

    3 June 2009 at 10:49

    I hope Evolution works out for you, but it was anything but an "Outlook replacement" for me.

    While it did sorta connect to Exchange Server, it was so slow downloading email (even more-so than native Outlook) as to be useless. It also doesn't support *all* Outlook features, such as Notes.

    I would also say the UI looks nothing like Outlook. The basic layout is similar, but it has a distinctly 2003-era Gnome look and feel, which is no where near as polished as Outlook, or even Thunderbird.

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