Current Favourite: Outlook 2003
Publisher: Microsoft
Retail Price: Bundled with Office 2003 (£286.96)
OEM Price: Bundled with Office 2003 OEM (£133)

What did we do before email? For some people, email is an essential business tool yet others say it impersonalised business and creates a massive time drain on their staff. It allows relatives to keep in touch with each other across the global without the long-distance telephone costs. Plus, how else would we order our herbal viagra and penis enlargement surgery?

Just as Microsoft Office delivers the de facto programs for word processing, spreadsheet work and more, it also delivers what as become the standard for email on the Windows platform: Outlook. It's younger brother, Outlook Express, comes with Windows but full-blown Outlook adds task management, scheduling, calendar and other functions to the standard email and contact list.

Over the years, the poor security and powerful in-built scripting has resulted in a plague of viruses and exploits for Outlook. Users forced to remain loyal because corporate policy forces the use of Outlook have little choice but to be ever vigilant and install patch after patch in an effort to avoid digital death. Home users have greater freedom and there are a number of free alternatives to Outlook 2003 for both Windows and Linux.

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Microsoft Outlook - email, contact book, task management and calender all in one

Alternatives: numerous
Publishers: various
Price: Free!

Mozilla Thunderbird
The most obvious choice will probably be Mozilla Thunderbird. This is a companion programme to FireFox, which many of you will probably use on Windows instead of Internet Explorer. Thunderbird is available on Windows, Mac and Linux and is free and open source.

Thunderbird is more specialised than Outlook, handling only email functions with rudimentary address book abilities. It has, however, arguably better SPAM filtering and more flexible layout and server options. Thunderbird includes tools to transfer your mail settings and messages across from Outlook, making for a quick and easy migration. You can also use it to download your Hotmail messages.

If all you want is email, you can easily replace your use of Outlook on Windows with something web-based, like Google's Gmail. This works perfectly with FireFox on Linux, and provides you with more than enough functionality and storage space to keep your online comms in order. Two gigabytes of storage should keep you out of trouble too.

If you're replacing Outlook wholesale, you'll want a more comprehensive replacement. Why not change your working style and go web-based? Zimbra is an open source, Ajax-created email and PIM application that you can access from any computer with an internet connection. It allows you to have an online mail client, like Hotmail or Gmail, and combines this with an online, shareable calendar and Windows-like functionality for dragging and dropping throughout the application. It also includes Apple-like 'smart folders', where you can have saved searches of mails filtered by rules - something Outlook still doesn't support.

It's an incredible piece of software that might just convince you to abandon Microsoft.

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October 14 2021 | 15:04