July 18, 2012, 9:40 PM — If you've been following along, you know that I'm divorcing Microsoft Outlook and finding a new home for my contacts, calendars, tasks, and email. Before doing so, however, I made sure to back up all my important Outlook data.
Before we talk Outlook replacements, I want to share a couple recent findings. First, suspecting that Outlook 2010's slow, buggy performance was endemic to my PC, I installed it on another system and migrated my PST file (which contains all my data).
Turns out I was right: The program loaded in a matter of seconds instead of minutes, and email indexing worked just fine. Although I'm still peeved by Outlook's performance (or lack thereof) on my primary PC and its hideously complicated settings menus, I've probably been a little harsher than necessary. When it works, and when users take the time to learn and master its many features, Outlook can be a definite asset to a small-business user.
Second, I've come to recognize that few (if any) substitute programs are quite as robust as Outlook when it comes to email, contact, and calendar management. (I still think it's terrible at managing notes and tasks, however.) I know this because I've evaluated a lot of them, and each one has just a couple little flaws that can be hard to swallow.
For example, one of my leading candidates is Astonsoft's EssentialPIM Pro (newly updated to version 5.0), which reminds me of an older, simpler Outlook. It's a clean, uncluttered, and powerful information manager, one that can sync with an impressive variety of services and devices.
In fact, if you want to keep Outlook up and running while you transition to EssentialPIM, you can set up a two-way sync between the two programs. It can also sync with the likes of Google, Yahoo, and Tooledo, as well as Android, iOS, Windows, and even Palm devices.
As an iPhone user, that iOS sync is a big deal for me; I've found few other programs that can do this. (Android users have it easier, as they can sync their contacts and calendars with Google's Web-based services.)
So what's the problem with EssentialPIM Pro? Not the price: It's quite reasonable at $39.95. But it's a bit weak on the email front, lacking a global-inbox option for multiple accounts and a right-hand reading pane for messages. Plus, it doesn't mark a message as read when you reply to or forward it -- a ridiculous oversight that inexplicably plagues other mail clients as well.