PC-BSD Day 12: A closer look at Kontact
On day 9 i tried my hand at KMail. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t overwhelming either. Having used Thunderbird for quite some time (with a small collection of extensions) it appeared a bit bare. KMail is a lot faster to load though and that is a boon when you are running everything in a virtual box.
The KDE desktop has two major items that really add some spice for the desktop user: the KOffice workspace and Kontact. Maybe it is not correct to call them parts of the KDE desktop, because they need to be installed. There is no real counterpart of these two on the GNOME desktop. GNOME Office is far from an integrated set of applications. Evolution could be compared to Kontact, but only up to point.
Kontact appears to be a shell that wraps around various separate KDE based applications, that can also be used as standalone programs. There is KMail, KAdressbook, Akregator (RSS feeds), KPilot (PDA synchronisation), KOrganizer (calendar), KNotes (memo notes) and KNode (newsgroups). The taks bar on the left side provides quick access to each function, which is loaded in the main screen.
It could be me, but I have the impression that Kontact has a cleaner and brighter look and feel than for instance just KMail. The level of integration with other parts of the KDE desktop is remarkable. For the article I wrote yesterday I found some RSS feeds that I wanted to keep. Konquerer informed me that there were feeds on a webpage by showing a radio button in the lower right corner. Clicking on the button revelead the option to add the feed to Akregrator. Once you see an article in the feed that you like to read it become a matter of double-clicking the link and Kontact/Akregator opens a new tab. No, it won’t open Konquerer or any other webbrowser, just the tab. It’s a bit slow at first, which almost made me think something was wrong.
Kontact/Calendar is a straightforward calendaring application. There is even a plugin to link to Exchange 2000. I work with Outlook at my workplace and I haven’t found a single function lacking in Calendar yet. Kontact/Contacts again is clear enough. It can be linked to an LDAP server, which should be interesting for organizations that want to go open source all the way.
Overall, I am mightily impressed with Kontact. It is fast, it is clean, it fully functional as a personal information manager. KDE has the reputation of being ridden with possibilities to set options and change them. Kontact indeed has quite a few of those, but when you consider that you actually managing multiple applications through one interface and that everything is neatly organized the issue disappears. I do believe that presenting Kontact as the default PIM for desktop users beats offering Evolution.
Planning the rest of the month
There are a few things I want to try in the coming weeks. For one, I am testing PC-BSD in a virtual environment and it would be nice to check the performance on a real harddisk. I wouldn’t mind giving it a spin on my laptop and see how it handles the wifi stuff, but that will have to wait. My laptop needs to be returned to the manufacturer.
Secondly, I want to see how easy (or difficult) it is to install PC-BSD next to Windows and Linux. How good is the installer for that task and will I be able to boot into the other OS via the boot loader?
Networking is another one on the list. How well and how easy can I connect to the various shares? Can i just as easily adjust fstab to mount those shares at startup? That will bring me to a brief tour along the differences between *BSD and Linux. Then we have the suggestion by Manolis to alter the PACKAGESITE environment and in that way getting more recent packages. That’s the really nerdy stuff, at least for me.
Other than that I will be exploring the various other applications that come with the KDE desktop. And I shouldn’t forget GNOME. Can I add it just as easily as all the packages? Anyway, feel free to point out some other experiments.