The other day one of my customers was grousing about Outlook. "Is there any alternative?", he asked.
The short answer is no, not really, especially when you have users already accustomed to using Outlook. No matter what charms another email client may offer, it will be missing something that Outlook has and your users just can't do without. Even unsophisticated users who have never taken advantage of Outlook's rich feature set will groan over changes that are more cosmetic than functional. For example, they may complain bitterly that the alternative proposed doesn't separate today's messages as Outlook does by default.
The myriad menu choices may cause headaches for support staff, but taking away shiny toys, even unused shiny toys, is never popular. After all, they might use Outlook Journaling someday - even if they have no idea what it is now!
Hopeless romantic that I am, I suggested Kerio Webmail as a possible alternative. It has some attractive features:
- It's free
- It is cross-platform, working well with all common browsers
- There's nothing to download
- There's nothing to install
- It offers drag and drop simplicity to users - it is designed to look and feel like a desktop client
By the way, even if you have no interest in using Webmail, you should fire it up because it is the easiest way to configure clients. Without even logging in to webmail, there is a link below the logo that will assist with configuring Windows, Mac and Linux clients. That link is also available at https://your_server/integration and can additionally be found within the settings panes when logged into Webmail.
Using Kerio Connect Webmail
As noted above, this works with all current and common browsers. If you do happen to be using something odd or old, you can click the "Use Webmail Mini" box before logging in. That lacks much functionality, but will let you at least access your mail with anything that can do basic html.
Most users will have a more capable browser. Their screen will include calendaring, full drag and drop, right click actions and the other behaviors you'd expect from a desk top client.
The Webmail user can customize their settings - not to the extent available in Outlook, but they can adjust the position and visibility of the reading pane, set vacation reminders, create spam filters, whitelist recipients and more (see Kerio Webmail Manual for details).
Webmail users aren't losing much. They can use free/busy scheduling (including resources), share and subscribe to calendars, mark email as Spam, access contacts and more. Keep in mind that filter rules applied in Kerio WebMail affect desktop clients and also. The interface is easy to learn and equally easy to support. Webmail is not for everyone (especially those already accustomed to Outlook) but it is definitely not weak or lacking in features.
You can test drive this for yourself at Kerio's Demo Page. Username: admindemo
Password: readonly will get you in. If the language is not correct, click on Settings (upper left) and change it.
A few other Outlook alternatives: http://maketecheasier.com/5-great-alternatives-to-microsoft-outlook/2011/06/21.
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© 2012-03-21 Anthony Lawrence