Evolution vs Kontact - Part 1 - Evolution

Evolution vs Kontact

A Personal Information Management (PIM) suite is supposedly a single application that gives you your email, contacts, calendar and other important information. Bringing Mail, Contacts, Calendar and more into one application is something that many find useful.

On the Linux and Unix platforms there are two main competitors in this space - Evolution 2.24.2, for the GNOME desktop and KDE's Kontact 4.1.3. I'm going to take a look at both programs, side-by-side and compare them.

Regardless of which desktop environment these applications are designed for (Evolution for GNOME and Kontact for KDE), which application is, for lack of a better word, 'better'?

In this two part series, I'm going to look at each app and focus on the interface, email (particularly searching and organising), calendaring (with a focus on sharing), and integration (both within the suites themselves and with the desktop outside of them).

First, to GNOME's Evolution.


Evolution logo


Evolution Interface - Mail Pane

If you've ever used Microsoft Outlook before, the Evolution interface is perhaps more than just reminiscent. Throughout, Evolution heavily emulates the way Outlook operates, meaning that Outlook users should quickly find their feet in the client.

It feels well laid out; a sidebar to the left shows you your mailbox list in Mail, calendar list in Calendar etc. and to the bottom of the sidebar you can switch between the components - to go from Mail to Contacts for example. The right hand area is dedicated to whatever you're actually doing - the message list, for example, in Mail.


Evolution has some powerful email search functionality. You can use the Search Box in the toolbar to search for a message, however this only searches the Subject and Sender of the message. Fine for many tasks, but not always enough.

There is also an Advanced Search feature available on the menu, however, that offers full text searching of messages. I found it to be powerful and fairly fast, even in a mailbox with tens of thousands of individual messages.

Advanced Search dialogue in Evolution

Finding that one message you're looking for quickly is an important feature of a mail client. Evolution largely gets this right. It could be easier to do a full text search, but provided you know where to look, you won't lose something for long.

Calendaring and Sharing

The Calendar module works well, again, being extremely similar to that of its Microsoft Office counterpart.

Evolution Calendar module

I had problems using the Google Calendar CalDAV support with Evolution. I think the fact that the username contained an '@' character was causing issues, so I was a little disappointed not to have that functionality. Importing an .ics iCalendar file worked fine, however.

Sharing events by attaching them as an .ics file to an email is quickly and easily done through the context menu. This worked well and I was able to share an event with myself on another calendar system. When you share an invite in this way, however, you rather curiously can't edit the message body - meaning you have to send a blank message. Rather irritating.


The integration within the components of Evolution itself is good. You can, as I mentioned, send a Calendar event directly via email, but also you can do things like highlight a snippet of text in an email and make a Task directly from the context menu. Little touches like that make Evolution a well integrated suite of PIM functionality.

Evolution also has very strong links with the GNOME desktop and other GNOME applications. For example, you can access your calendar events directly from the GNOME date/time widget in the panel and it supports syncing with your Pidgin IM contacts.

Calendar menu integration with Evolution

You also get a nice mail notification on receiving a new message that fits right in with the rest of the GNOME interface, appearing as a bubble in the notification area of the panel.

New Mail Notification

To Be Continued...

Join me in Part 2 tomorrow for my thoughts on Kontact in these areas and which application, in my opinion, is the best PIM on this platform.

Part 2 now published

Oh and by the way - a very Happy New Year from all at FOSSwire.com (yes, we're a little late to it)!

Avatar for peter Peter Upfold - http://peter.upfold.org.uk/

Peter Upfold is a technology enthusiast from the UK. Peter’s interest in Linux stems back to 2003, when curiosity got the better of him and he began using SUSE 9.0. Now he runs Linux Mint 9 on the desktop, runs a CentOS-based web server from home for his personal website and dabbles in all sorts of technology things across the Windows, Mac and open source worlds.

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Discussion: Evolution vs Kontact - Part 1 - Evolution

  1. Binny V A (guest)

    # Posted on 02 January 2009 at 04:53 PM

    Waiting for the Kontact part - that's what I use(KMail and Korganizer).

  2. Bart (guest)

    # Posted on 02 January 2009 at 07:13 PM

    About the notification of new emails. In my experience, Evolution has to run to have this notification working. But then it's well, kind of useless, since evolution is open anyway. If it is possible to get this notification working without having evolution itself opened, I'd appreciate a howto to get it up and running.

  3. Peter (guest)

    # Posted on 02 January 2009 at 09:01 PM


    I imagine this does have utility if you leave Evolution open (perhaps on another desktop) but don't have it active at the current time; i.e. keep it in the background.

    As far as I know there's not a way to have this functionality separated from Evolution itself.

  4. Adrian (guest)

    # Posted on 03 January 2009 at 10:54 AM


    I don't know what distro you use, but there is something for GNOME called "mail-notification". It does not depend on whatever mail client you use. Like the Evolution plugin, mail-notification displays an icon together with a bubble notification in your notification area. I always turn off the bubble notification, though. You can also get it to play a sound when new mail arrives.

    I think that it was created by the same person (Jean-Yves Lefort) responsible for the Evolution plugin.

    "Mail Notification can monitor multiple mailboxes concurrently, and supports Evolution, Gmail, IMAP, Maildir, mbox, MH, Mozilla products (Mozilla, SeaMonkey, Thunderbird, …), POP3, Sylpheed, Windows Live Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail mailboxes."

  5. Bart (guest)

    # Posted on 03 January 2009 at 12:38 PM

    The mail notification integrated in Gnome, only connects with evolution when evolution is running. I checked it before.

    The normal way of working with evolution, would be to add all your accounts (like gmail, other e-mail accounts) into evolution, and then have evolution to manage it all, through which notification would be possible. Now it's the other way round. The e-mail notification has to have the accounts listed in it's preferences. When trying to add evolution as the source of the e-mails, evolution has to be running.

  6. Adrian (guest)

    # Posted on 03 January 2009 at 03:00 PM


    In Fedora 9 and 10, mail-notification is separate from evolution. There is a package called mail-notification-evolution-plugin, but I'm not talking about that one.

    I use mail-notification to check my gmail as well as my other accounts. I don't add gmail to evolution (I use Thunderbird for reading those) and evolution is not running in the sense that it appears on my panel - I know, it is integrated into the Gnome calender applet, but that still does not explain why it works for my Gmail account that I have enabled in Thunderbird.

    P.S. I see that it is not a Gnome-only application: Description: Mail Notification is a status icon (aka tray icon) that informs you if you have new mail. It works with system trays implementing the freedesktop.org System Tray Specification, such as the GNOME Panel Notification Area, the Xfce Notification Area and the KDE System Tray.

  7. Technoslick (guest)

    # Posted on 11 January 2009 at 11:56 PM

    Google Calendar and Evolution can be synced using ScheduleWorld (on the Web) as the go-between. It's a one-click sync once setup. To sync my Google Calendar, Evolution and my Sony Clie TH-55 (via USB cradle), I start at Google or the Clie, then sync to the other afterward. Two steps and all three stay nicely in sync.

  8. # Posted on 12 January 2009 at 10:06 AM

    [...] to Adrian who pointed out this app in the comments to a previous post, noting its Evolution support. Like this article? [...]

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