Book Review: Kontact Compact

Posted by tadelste on Feb 21, 2006 7:39 AM EDT; By Hans Kwint
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A lot of people say, Linux doesn't break through because it lacks an equivalent of MS Outlook. But, in a forum post, I read, Kontact can do a lot of the tasks Outlook can. A bit later, I found on the KDE site, the German publisher Bomots offers a (German) book about "Kontact", KDE's Personal Information Manager (PIM). I decided, it's time to see if this book, "Kontact Kompact" by Andre Schreiber, is usefull for people looking for a 'replacement' of Outlook, and people willing to learn Kontact.

I am one of these people willing to learn Kontact, since I never used it before. I understand that people say some difficulty exists in selling book son Open Source software. Perhaps the presence of documentation included in most software programs deters users from buying books. And if documents is not included, you can usually find it online, especially with regard to Open Source projects. So, what I wanted to find out for myself is this book adds value to the 'free' electronic documentation? And is it worth translating to English?


The book isn't real expensive, in contrary to a lot of other books on software; it's only ~13 Euros. For this price, you get a paperback of medium size with around 133 pages. So, I would say, the price is good. The only thing is, since I travelled by train a lot and put the book in my overfull bag a few times, the book gets a little damaged, like all paperbacks. But, a damaged book is better than an unread book, and if you are a bit careful, that's no problem.

The story on the back of the book whets our appetite: It tells us Kontact is an alternative for Evolution and it mentions there's a chapter about how to get KDE to work with MS Exchange and eGroupWare. The book itself is rather complete for a paperback; it contains a table of contents, a preface, appendices about Kontacts configuration, and an alphabetic index.


When starting to read, it stands out, the pictures are a bit too small / unclear. This may be because of the paper chosen, but it's a pity the pictures in the book aren't a bit clearer, since the pictures really add value to the book, especially if German isn't your first language. The language used isn't that difficult, but I had to use a dictionary to look up some specific terms. The language isn't aimed at absolute beginners, as the writer expects the reader to know how to work with a computer. This is actually nice, since there isn't much space waisted with boring descriptions of obvious things.

The first chapter offers a Quickstart, which gets you on the road with Kontact very quick. I would say, this chapter doesn't contain much useful information for people familiar with KDE, because they can figure out the simple things themselves, but it is usefull for people who don't learn new software that fast. So, lets continue to the more interesting chapters.

The second chapter is really interesting, it is about appointments. It shows how to make them in Kontact, but far more interesting, it shows how to synchronise with Exchange, eGroupWare and even IMAP on the end of the chapter. I would say, it is the most valuable chapter of the book, since this is the item most persons are interested in. It's too bad I wasn't able to test synchronizing with Exchange according the chapter in the book, since my schools Exchange Serve won't let us connect laptops with it, and my whole school runs on MS. The part about "ToDo's" is rather straight ahead, but the paragraph about reminders is interesting.

The following chapter, about KMail, offered me a solution for a strange problem I had: my mail was displayed in HTML code, and I couldn't get my normal layout again. Neither could I find how to fix the view in the Kontact Help, so as you see, a book about software can be a complement to the help files. Really interesting is the part about filters (to filter e-mails), since this is one of the important feature of a PIM. The chapter also helps us to fight spam. The writer must now Kontact rather well, since chapter five (about contacts) describes a rather hidden feature, about the ability to look an address up using online maps. For the rest, chapter five isn't really shocking. After that, the book gives us some Drag and Drop tips, which I would consider handy.

The next two chapters, about Akregator the RSS reader and journals, aren't that interesting, but after that, chapter nine is about synchronizing with PDA's. It offers a real nice list of things to check if synchronizing doesn't work. The last chapter, about newsgroups, also discusses one of the most handy features for busy newsgroups: how to filter interesting messages out of the hundreds of messages that can appear on a newsgroup.

Appendix A tells more about configuring Kontact and its plugins, and appendix B has some Internet addresses to look for more help.


I would say, the book definitely adds value to the online documentation for people who are new to Kontact, apart from the straight-ahead chapters. The online documentation is more fragmented and more elaborate, and it is often more convenient to work from a book when configuring software. For people already familiar with Kontact, the book doesn't add that much value. However, this book will probably be most interesting to IT-decision makers, who want to know how Kontact compares to Outlook, and find out what features Kontact offers, without trying Kontact on a real PC. So, for IT-decision makers and people new to Kontact, I would say the book is worth the price, and the book deserves translation to English.

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