Review: Manage your communication with EssentialPIM

If you want to have an Outlook-like product without the Outlook price tag, EssentialPIM is a solid offering with a small Exchange server caveat.

For most workplaces, Microsoft Outlook acts as an epicenter for your communication and organization needs. You get your email, calendar, and task list all wrapped into a solid package. There is one possible conundrum if you are a more budget-conscious type, and that is in the $109 price tag that comes on a new licensed copy of Microsoft Outlook 2013.

You also could be someone that isn't a fan of how Outlook works and want a tool that is more or less a basic "Personal Information Manager". If this sounds like what you are thinking about, Astonsoft might have an excellent software package that isn't pricey and nicely featured to boot.

The interface is nice and clean, with a sidebar that resembles Outlook 2010.

The essentials

Product Information

  • Title: EssentialPIM
  • Author: Astonsoft Ltd.
  • Supported operating systems: Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8
  • Price: Freeware

EssentialPIM is, as the name implies, a tool for organizing your life in business and even personal endeavors. Much like its larger competitor Outlook, you can manage your email, set up appointments on your calendar, take notes and track tasks as well as manage passwords. There is even a mobile version for Android and iOS, which can sync up to the desktop app and help you keep track of everything, whether you are at the office, at home, or on the go. In addition to the traditional installable version, a portable build of the software is also available if you want to stick it on a thumb drive for quick, convenient access on any computer.

Setting up appointments is a cakewalk.

As I worked within the app, I liked how EssentialPIM was easy to configure. For instance, setting up appointments on your calendar is easy as starting a new appointment action and filling in the appropriate blanks. You can also categorize the dates by color coded context clues as well as setting alerts, event priority (high or low), and completion status. If you need to quickly change the time or day of the appointment, you can drag and drop the event block to any other part of the calendar, much like you can in Outlook.

Email worked just as I expected, with the ability to add webmail accounts fairly quickly using both POP3 and IMAP4 for web server connection options. Unfortunately, I didn't see an option to use an Exchange server for the mail, despite the fact that Exchange can be used for your calendar, notes, and tasks. Presumably, because this app is designed to be less comprehensive than Outlook, that integration was left out for other apps to take over instead.

Speaking of synchronization, the aforementioned Exchange support as well as the capability of syncing with Google, CardDAV, CalDAV and numerous others is one of the extra features provided only by the paid Pro version of EssentialPIM. Not only that, but if you upgrade, you can also sync a backup database to the cloud via DropBox, incorporate custom filters, views and have global search. This and even more can be had for as little as $39.95. Thankfully, if you prefer the free version, you can at least sync to iPhone and Android and not have to pony up for that capability.

Bottom line

Regardless of whether you use the freeware version or opt for Pro, EssentialPIM is a worthy piece of software that helps you manage your mail, contacts, appointments, notes, and tasks in an intuitive and effective manner. This is especially important if you are looking for a desktop-style PIM app for Windows that still sticks to a traditional classic desktop UI style, unlike the Windows 8 UI tablet look and feel adopted by Outlook 2013. If you want to give Pro a spin to see if the extra features could be worth it to you, a free limited trial is offered for download.

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By Matthew Nawrocki

An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Cus...