Recently, I was astounded at the amount of anti-Vista sentiment at the National Auctioneers Association convention. Vista isn’t evil. It’s a much more secure operating system than XP and I rest easier at night knowing that most of my users are using Vista instead of XP. I have a bunch of complaints with Windows in general, but Vista is better than XP for the average user.
Vista has Windows Mail, which is a new name for XP’s Outlook Express. It’s the Microsoft equivalent of Thunderbird, and I can find no substantive feature differences between Windows Mail and Thunderbird in the limited investigation I’ve done. Out of the two, I’d use Thunderbird because it has an open-source community behind it.
Thunderbird is awesome, but it is email only. There are other functions of Outlook, like contacts and calendar, that Thunderbird lacks in its basic installation. If you use an Exchange server or a hosted Exchange service, which is a practice that unfortunately is still hard for me to not recommend, Outlook is about the only way to go. The closest product to Outlook as far as features go is a product called Evolution, but it only works on Linux.
My recommendation is to become one with the Google Apps suite. Their calendar is superior to that in Outlook, their email is the best anywhere, and they’re Docs and Spreadsheets package is getting more robust all the time. I wish we had taken that route instead of going with our hosted Exchange solution. Google Apps is the only realistic and free calendar-sharing system, and it also happens to be the best. Google’s Gmail product can be used by your domain, so you keep your email address, use Gmail’s absurd nearly 7 GB email limit, use Thunderbird to check your mail, and everything is in one place. It costs nothing and is a viable solution for everyone in your office to be better connected and better informed with schedules, contacts, etc.