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.
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.