Evolution vs Kontact - Part 2 - Kontact & Conclusion

Evolution vs Kontact

Welcome back to Part 2 of this series - pitting GNOME's Evolution Personal Information Manager (PIM) suite against KDE's Kontact.

If you haven't read Part 1, please take the time to do so, as I'll be making quite a few comparisons between Evolution, covered there, and Kontact.

Now, we continue with KDE's Kontact.


Kontact logo


Kontact Interface

Kontact's interface has some similarities with that of Evolution. One of the most striking differences is the fact that in many areas there are three sidebars.

On the far left you have a sidebar for switching between the different sub-applications - Mail, Contacts and the like, and then in Mail, you'll have another sidebar for your mailboxes and then a main area split into a message list and the preview pane.

The addition of this triple-vertical-pane approach for me makes the interface a lot more cluttered and less easy to pick up straight away.

Certainly, though, it feels less like an absolute copy of Outlook than Evolution; it feels like an application developed for KDE, rather than a clone of something else that is just ported over. Where Evolution feels a bit like a GNOME slant on a Windows app, Kontact really does feel very much an integral part of KDE.

It's worth mentioning as well that Kontact is quite literally, a collection of distinct KDE apps that are simply stitched together into a single application. Unlike Evolution, it is possible to launch each component, or 'part' in KDE terminology, as a separate application on your desktop.

Kontact's Settings dialogue


One thing that really bugs me about the KMail part of Kontact is the fact that by default, it only shows you messages in plain text view.

Kontact KMail Plain text message view

I fully appreciate why you'd want to send email as plain text and why you might prefer reading email as plain text, but the fact that it is so incredibly difficult to read an HTML-formatted message out of the box is infuriating.

In terms of searching, KMail sadly lacks an advanced full text message search as far as I can see. The toolbar-based search works fine, though, if you only need to search message subject or sender.

Calendaring and Sharing

The Calendar module is similar to Evolution's, although it does sport the three-pane layout which I don't like. You can share events with others through the context menu; starting a new message with an attached .ics of the event. This works more smoothly than Evolution - and you can actually type a message in the body!

Kontact's Calendar

Interestingly, this time I experienced a crash importing an ICS file into an existing calendar, but I had no problem making a new calendar with my exported events from Google Calendar. In addition, the Google Calendar specific CalDAV support didn't work either.

ICS Import Crash report

Extra Features

I'm going to diverge from my self-imposed structure for just a moment here. One of the best features of Kontact is that it is relatively easy to bolt a new KPart into the application. I particularly am impressed with the Feeds module; a example of this - taking the standalone Akregator application for KDE and putting it into a Kontact.

Having support for RSS news feeds in an application like this I think is an excellent idea, allowing you hopefully to bring together all of the information you care about into a single applciation.

Kontact's Feeds module

There are also several other modules available that Evolution lacks, including a Journal and support for Usenet newsgroups.


Within the suite itself, Kontact has a similar level of integration to Evolution. You can obviously send a calendar event in Mail, access your Contacts from any part of the app and so on.

A nice feature which increases the utility of the suite is that any alarms you have set for events in your calendar can erm... go off even if the application is closed. The Calendar - and therefore alarms - part of Kontact is handled by KOrganiser, which runs a daemon which sounds the alarm even without needing Kontact open.

Kontact also feels very much like a first-class citizen on the KDE desktop. It behaves like other KDE applications do and brings a lot of functionality together to try and become the information hub of your KDE desktop.


So regardless of their desktop environment, which of these suites solves this PIM problem better? Of course, a lot of this is going to come down to personal opinion.

I think mine is clear, however. Despite being a KDE user for most of my time on Linux, I have found that I do prefer Evolution.

Yes, yes, I don't like how it feels very much like an Outlook clone, but the interface is just a whole lot cleaner than Kontact. KDE's philosophy of giving the user endless configurability makes Kontact's interface (and particularly its configuration) very cluttered and confusing unless you are already familiar with it.

The feed reader functionality in Kontact is excellent, however, and adding this into a single 'information dashboard' I think could be extremely useful. Unfortunately, this doesn't make up for the fact that the rest of the Kontact interface feels too complex and sometimes a little bit... well... old-fashioned (plain text email? I agree, but I do need to read HTML mail sometimes).

If you are a die-hard KDE user and you are very familiar with the way that KDE interfaces tend to work, you may well find Kontact to be the better choice. Particularly if you have already put a lot of investment into KDE applications, the integration of them into a single suite is very useful and an admirable achievement.

For me, though, Evolution wins this PIM battle. It might be a bit Outlook-alike (if you'll excuse the pun), but it just... feels better.

Not that I'll be switching to it. Despite writing this article and having had a good play with both, I actually still prefer keeping applications of this nature separate, so I'll be continuing to use Thunderbird for my IMAP email when I'm on Linux (under KDE, I might add).

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.

Home » Articles »

Discussion: Evolution vs Kontact - Part 2 - Kontact & Conclusion

  1. Luke (guest)

    # Posted on 03 January 2009 at 09:26 PM

    Evolution has a RSS module too, it's not an obvious one like it should be, but if you're in Ubuntu start up synaptic and search for the 'evolution-rss' package. It's by no means ideal as the sidebar and message list takes up a good chunk of space unless you open the feeds in a separate 'new message' esk window, but for me as a person who leaves evolution minimized to the tray all day, it's nice having one less program using up what little RAM I have. I'm also in full agreement with you about the layouts of the two programs. Though Evolution does look, and in fact act, quite similar to Outlook, I think that's mostly because that layout has proven to work for these types of tasks. Until our interface changes to say controlling a computer in our heads, this GUI seems to be our best bet for ease of use and efficiency.

    BTW I'm glad you guys have the site updating on a more frequent basis, it was missed for a while there.

  2. Hasan Ökten (guest)

    # Posted on 04 January 2009 at 09:16 AM

    Great post. Thanks

  3. FACORAT Fabrice (guest)

    # Posted on 04 January 2009 at 09:05 PM

    The plain text issue is unfair IMHO as : - kontact allow to view the message as text directly in the body if needed - allow to set by default the view in HTML in the directory or in Kmail pref - this settings si enabled by default for obvious security reasons ( spams, HTML/JS virus ). Outlook allow many virus to spread because HTML was activated by default, and even worst with ActiveX support ! So sometimes just reading an email was enough to contaminate your computer.

  4. David Holden (guest)

    # Posted on 05 January 2009 at 10:22 AM

    One of the main benefits of kmail is it uses standard mbox/maildir to store its mail rather than a "proprietary" format.

  5. Peter (guest)

    # Posted on 05 January 2009 at 10:25 AM


    That's an excellent point and something I didn't look at in these two posts. Especially with POP email, having easy access to your data is a key issue.

  6. Rusty (guest)

    # Posted on 20 February 2009 at 08:54 AM

    I use both GNOME and KDE on my Ubuntu Studio installation, and I'm in love with KDE at the moment, but I go back and forth. What I love about Linux is the fact that even if you have KDE and you prefer Evolution, you can get it without any hassles.

    On topic, I prefer Kontact. Not too sure why.

  7. Reinaldo Bravo (guest)

    # Posted on 03 November 2009 at 02:27 PM

    I have used both as well as mozilla's thunderbird. I tend to switch from KDE and Gnome desktops from time to time and I prefer to use the default client for either interface. I like thunderbird also but it is missing those extra features out-of-the-box.

    At the moment I use evolution and gnome. I find it hard to see the benefits over web-based gmail. They both offer heaps. I guess if I spent most of my time at the desktop then a client will be the best option. I think evolution and kmail still have a way to go as far as user interfaces go but for some reason I trust them a lot more than outlook. Not to mention the free factor.

    Great review.

  8. Dale L. (guest)

    # Posted on 14 January 2010 at 02:39 AM

    Opens plain text by default - a great initiative for security. It shows the developers are thinking. I find that's a very professional approach. I can't really see anything negative about that! Using this as a negative point in your "evaluation" is silly. You could have come up with something worth talking about and/or comparing. The default setup in Kmail is superior. Kmail offers loads more "customization" for flexible user management and preference. It's so easy to setup and define your preferred viewing method. There are some real powerful options under the hood with Kmail - just take the time and explore. Kmail's strong points are not even mentioned here... I find your evaluation is rather superficial or even somewhat biased. Anyways, I prefer Kmail by a longshot and I'm very happy with it. (Kmail in Kontact + Koffice Workspace together) - what a great combination!

  9. Harold (guest)

    # Posted on 15 May 2010 at 06:38 AM

    Good to see an updated comparison of email clients. I find Microsoft Outlook 2010 to be much superior to both Linux clients. Speed of switching from message to message, sorting, setup, virtually everything is much better.

    The most frustrating thing with both Evolution and the KDE suite is how slow they are. I can't seem to get them to download the entire message in background, which means I have to wait for fetch every time I want to read a message.

    Switching from one message to another or searching is agonizingly slow. I would like to see someone build a mail database backend based on MySQL to speed the whole experience up.

  10. Andreas (guest)

    # Posted on 31 May 2010 at 08:38 PM

    Harold said:

    Switching from one message to another or searching is agonizingly slow. I would like to see someone build a mail database backend based on MySQL to speed the whole experience up.

    As far as I know it is planned to use Akonadi even for mail storage in the future. Therefore a database backend is implied :-)

Home » Articles » Evolution vs Kontact - Part 2 - Kontact & Conclusion