Spicebird: More Open Source Competition For Outlook - InformationWeek

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3/21/2008
11:14 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Spicebird: More Open Source Competition For Outlook

There's been a lot of discussion about which open source application works best as a replacement for Microsoft Outlook: Evolution, Ximian, Thunderbird, and so on. Let's add another contender to that list, shall we? Meet Spicebird

There's been a lot of discussion about which open source application works best as a replacement for Microsoft Outlook: Evolution, Ximian, Thunderbird, and so on. Let's add another contender to that list, shall we? Meet Spicebird, currently in beta 0.4 form.

Developed by Synovel, Spicebird's based on the Thunderbird / Sunbird / Mozilla axis of mail and messaging components, and pulls all of these functions together into one program. Mail, RSS feeds, calendaring / agendas, contacts, task management, and newsfeeds are all under a single roof.

The app uses a tabbed interface that's reminiscent of Firefox, so I didn't need to do any guesswork to figure out where everything was. There's also an applet / plugin architecture (again, from Mozilla), so the program's again extensible in a way that Firefox users will be familiar with.

The core mail client is derived directly from Thunderbird, so those familiar with that program should be able to jump right in and get going.
The applets page is a lot more malleable and immediately useful than the same page in Outlook.
(click image for larger view)


The core mail client is derived directly from Thunderbird, so those familiar with that program should be able to jump right in and get going.
(click image for larger view)


The applets page is a lot more malleable and immediately useful than the same page in Outlook.

I gave the 0.4 beta a quick whirl, and while I liked what I saw I immediately ran into some rough patches. For one, importing mail from Outlook is still flaky -- it got the folders but not the mail itself -- but my contacts imported without a hitch. I also liked the RSS feed organizers and other "gadgets" for the Home tab; the way this pane is set up is a lot more immediately useful for me than the same thing in Outlook.

There's a lot of little things about Spicebird that I know are going to annoy me, though -- most of them behaviors inherited from Thunderbird. Biggest offender: the "Ctrl-Q to quit" command, which I've used to close the whole program by mistake more than a couple of times.

Welcome to beta software! Here's your hard hat. Still, I'm eager to follow future editions of the program, and I'm planning to take a long, careful look at the 1.0 milestone when it drops -- and also pay attention to how the revamped Thunderbird project feeds into it or parallels it.

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