I'll start by saying that I'm an Outlook-lover... at work. When it comes to using Outlook on a non-Exchange environment, I've learned how to be very, very frustrated. Between constantly corrupted PST files and a mass of other issues, I finally ditched Outlook at home for good and move to something else - Windows Live Mail.
Before I took that leap, I looked at a number of other options and, actually, have used a few other products in the past. However, these past forays into Outlook alternatives never lasted that long and I always found myself moving back to Outlook, mainly due to its versatility and ease of use. One product that I used for quite a while was Thunderbird. I gave it a fair shake and, frankly, ended up not liking it that much; no good, concrete reasons except that the interface seemed clunky at the time. A lot of people do like it, but it just didn't work for me.
When the time came to replace Outlook for good, I didn't look too far from the Microsoft tree, although I would have had I found something that I liked. Ideally, I wanted to find a client that could:
- Handle multiple email accounts with ease, including my Gmail account. I have a large number of accounts that I need to check regularly.
- Double as a newsgroup reader. I also subscribe to a ton of newsgroups and I like having them all in one place.
- Be able to handle RSS feeds and integrate with my Internet Explorer-bases RSS feed.
- Work with full-text search. I can't get along without being able to search my email!
I also wanted something that was reasonably easy to use and that didn't frustrate me at every turn a la Outlook in non-Exchange mode. There are probably a whole lot of products out there that would fit the bill, but once I found Windows Live Mail, the search was over.
The interface change does take some getting used to; I use Outlook 2007 all day long at the office and love that interface, so Windows Live Mail's relatively bare-bones look is a bit of a shock at first. And the dearth of a toolbar full of icons at the top of the screen was a little different at first, but quickly overcome.
After about 6 weeks of use, I have a number of IMAP accounts, a POP account, an HTTP account, about two dozen newsgroups and a few RSS feeds configured in Windows Live Mail and, overall, I'm extremely pleased with the product. While I'd never even give Windows Live Mail a second look at work (they'll rip my Exchange-connected copy of Outlook 2007 from my cold, dead hands), it's solved my home messaging problems fabulously and it's free to boot!