Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Simple Forum

On day 16 I was pleasantly surprised by KMail and it’s import options for e-mail boxes. This isn’t the first time I looked at Kontact and it’s components, but I decided to dig a little deeper and answer the question whether Kontact is a good personal information manager for novice DesktopBSD users.


What is the idea behind Kontact?

First of all. If you want to install Kontact, don’t start looking for a package called Kontact. It’s called kdepim and you can install it via package or ports. If you want to find more information online about Kontact you can go to two websites: the KDEPIM website for developers and contributors and the Kontact website for users. It’s always a bit of fun to see the marketing machine churning out business lingo and the Kontact machine has done it’s job as well:

The KDE Kontact Personal Information Management suite unites mature and proven KDE applications under one roof. Thanks to the powerful KParts technology, existing applications are seamlessly integrated into one.

The components of KDE Kontact are tailored to work well with each other. This results in features like intuitive drag-and-drop between appointment handling, task lists and contacts. KDE Kontact supports various groupware servers. When using these servers your workgroup has access to features like shared email folders, group task lists, calendar sharing, central addressbooks and meeting scheduling.

In short: KDE Kontact delivers innovations to help you manage your communications more easily, organize your work faster and work together more closely, resulting in more productivity and efficiency in digital collaboration.

The mission statement for KDEPIM is even better:

We intend to design an extensible cross-desktop storage service for PIM data and meta data providing concurrent read, write, and query access. It will provide unique desktop wide object identification and retrieval.

Integration and cooperation between the various components is at the heart of development.

First stop – the Calendar or KOrganizer


In order to compete with Outlook the open source desktop needs a good calendar application. Not just a decent application, but one that is rock solid, easy to use and feature-complete. At first sight, Calendar seems a bit barren but looks are deceitful. For one, Calendar can be integrated with various mail- and groupware servers that you normally would find in a business environment. Think Novell Groupwise 6.5, think Microsoft Exchange, think Citadel, Kolab, eGroupware, and Suse Linux Openexchange.


And Calendar doesn’t stop here with making an impression. Just try to add new events and set the pattern of recurrence. Maybe I missed it in other programs, but I could easily set the recurrence pattern and select the days of expection. It shouldn’t be a problem to import calendars from other programs since Calendar supports both the iCalendar and vCalendar standards. Should you wish to migrate from Outlook to Calendar, you can use the Outlook2vCal tool to get all your appointments in vCalendar format.


One thing I couldn’t test -but which would be very important in a business environment- is the ability to synchronize the data with my PDA. Kontact uses Kitchensync to take care of that. If you want to test it out, first check the device compatibility list.

Mail or KMail

On day 16 we already took a closer look at the mail component. I went over the configuration screen and was amazed by the available options. I guess I still have to get used to the KDE way of doing things. The security settings alone would require me to read up on things.


Mail supports anti-spam and anti-virus programs, though there are not part of the program itself. The respective wizards -found under Tools- ended in messages that no spam detection or anti-virus tools were detected.

A bit of a disappointment – Contact or KAddressbook

Where Calendar left a good impression, Contact left me wanting. Oh, Contact can also hook up to various groupware servers and it is possible to import contactfiles in various formats (like Microsoft Exchange, Eudora and CSV). Adding new contacts is very simple and you can store quite a lot of information here, including various security settings and crypto keys. The field “Blog feed” is original and seemed quite Web 2.0 to me. It seemed like a good idea to keep track of the online activities of your contacts with their own weblogs.

From that perspective I found it disappointing to see the end result of adding a new contact. I expected to see a live feed, not the URL of the blog.


Maybe in the next release.

News or KNode

There was a time I kept track of various newsgroups intensively and even today I glance at them from time to time. When you click on News, you immediately see the window to add the account information. It’s simple and straightforward with a familiar interface.


On the other hand, Usenet seems to become more of a place to find new music, video and/or software instead of finding information. News doesn’t support binary downloads or the so-called .NZB files (or did I miss something?).

Some smaller and/or minor components

A few years ago I read Stephen Covey’s “The seven habits of highly effective people” for the first time. Let’s say I was in need of a better method for time management. One thing I learned was that simple to-do lists are not sufficient, because those lists tend to get longer, not shorter. Franklin Covey, the company, has a nice program that wraps itself around Outlook. It’s fun to organize your life around a list with A, B, C and D priorities. If you stick to it.

Anyway, let’s not drift to far from the subject at hand. Kontact has a To-do list component, you can add sticky notes (KNotes) and keep track of how your spend your time (KArm). If you need them, they are there. Personally I found them to be a bit behind some of the other components.

Perfect round up – Feeds or Akkregator

Strange enough there is no information about Akkregator on the KDE PIM or Kontact webpages. With Akkregator you can keep track of various newsfeeds and it was here that I expected the blog feed from the contacts to appear. What I really like is the integration with Konquerer. When you land on a page with an RSS feed, it takes only a click to add that feed to Akkregator.



Is Kontact a good PIM for novice DesktopBSD users?

This is one those questions that you really, really want to answer with “yes”. Kontact has some very strong components like Calendar and Feeds. Mail is fine, but not overly distinguishable from other programs. Importing your e-mail from other accounts is a strong point though. Contacts is a weak component. Overall, Kontact is fast and responsive and the integration is marvelous. It is highly configurable and that would be fine for quite a large group of users. When I look at it, the answer to the question is: “almost”.


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