Why eM Client isn't replacing Outlook for me

I am a longtime Google Apps (IMAP) email user and am very pleased with how Google Apps email integrates with Outlook 2007. Given this good track record, I recently decided to use Google Apps to store my contacts, calendar and tasks as well.

Unfortunately, syncing my contacts, calendar and tasks between Google Apps and Outlook was somewhat problematic, especially since it involved my PC, my laptop, my Android phone and my new Nexus 7 tablet…four devices in all. Even using the official Google Apps syncing utility, it was a hassle using Outlook as my primary productivity management software since my Android devices don’t use Outlook. Clearly, I need a program that offers tighter, native, integration with Google Apps without the hassle of having to route everything through Outlook.

So why didn’t I just use the Google web interface for all my productivity needs and send everything straight to the cloud? Because I can’t tolerate most of the Google interface. Gmail’s web interface is an incoherent disaster, with faint fonts, even fainter text boxes, cartoonish graphics, wasted screen real estate and too many vertical scroll bars. Meanwhile, Google Contacts only offers a primitive listing of contacts with very few additional display options, and it has the same problem with faint fonts, cartoonish graphics and vertical scroll bars. Google’s web-based calendar display is passable, and I am actually very pleased with Google tasks widget. However, the poor Gmail and Google Contacts interfaces make it impossible to use the web interface for these critically important productivity functions.

Despite these gripes, I am pleased at how my email, calendar, contacts and tasks sync to my computers and Android devices using Google Apps. (My only complaint relating to Google’s syncing with Android is the inability to disable “conversation view” in the Android Gmail interface, which makes it difficult for email productivity.)

So, for my Windows 7 computers, I looked and looked for an acceptable standalone interface that offers tight integration with Google Apps. I tried Postbox, Zimbra, GMDesk and others. None of them came close to Outlook’s capabilities, but eM Client came closest. However, even eM Client has far too many limitations to serve as an Outlook replacement.

I will elaborate on a few key limitations here and hope that perhaps eM Client’s customer support people, or other users, can help me figure out some fixes or workarounds so that I can feel comfortable replacing Outlook with another Windows client. Or else perhaps someone can point me to a standalone client that can serve as a worthy replacement for Outlook.

Here are my major gripes with eM Client, coming from the perspective of a longtime Outlook user:

Inability to open multiple instances in eM Client: I can’t open more than one instance of eM Client. This eM Client limitation requires constant, inefficient, mousing between contacts, email, calendar and tasks menus. I am used to having separate instances of Outlook open on my computer, with quick and easy switching (using alt-tab) between each function. All this inefficient mousing with eM Client is a big deal-killer.

Poor syncing of groups/contacts in eM Client: when I add a contact in eM Client, the existing Gmail group (or category) for this new contact often displays as unavailable in eM Client. However, categories I have deleted through Google still show up in eM Client, and categories that I have created through Google fail to show up in eM Client. Even if a category is displayed in eM Client, it doesn’t sync properly to Gmail and Google contacts, creating duplicate entries and needless, time-consuming work to fix categorization problems between eM Client and Google. This lack of two-way syncing between groups (or categories) in Google and eM Client is a major, major productivity time sink and is a big deal-killer for eM Client.

Poor customization in eM Client: most menus cannot be customized in eM Client…you have to be happy with the standard menus that eM Client offers. Having customized Outlook with many handy icons (showing various views, searches and other settings), I feel very constrained with eM Client’s inability to customize almost any menus.

Inability to set default category in eM Client contacts: I learned the hard way that contacts added through eM Client do not have any default category. Interestingly, these contacts without a category sync to my Android 4.0 (ICS) phone, but NOT to my Nexus 7 (Android 4.1, Jelly Bean). This problem relates to eM Client’s poor syncing of groups and contacts that I describe above, along with its inability to provide any kind of customization. It was a time-consuming hassle to figure out this syncing problem with eM Client, and has not been resolved…it must be fixed manually every time I add contacts through eM Client, which I have stopped doing.

Address cards view: I use Outlook’s address cards view constantly and was pleased that eM Client appears to have a similar view. Unfortunately, the eM Client address cards view is “one size fits all.” I cannot change the details that display with eM Client’s address cards, nor can I change any other display options, such as modified date or the size of each card. Likewise, when entering new contacts, the default phone numbers are “work” and “home.” I need to toggle eM Client’s menu each every time I add a new contact to enter the “mobile” phone number, as most of my contacts use their mobile phones more often than their home phones. These many limitations are yet more deal-killers for eM Client.

Email views in eM Client: it is very difficult to toggle between the various views in eM Client’s email menu trees, and I feel constrained every time I tried to view my unread messages in one account or another, and then to quickly view the previously read messages in that same account. It is very clunky.

Email search function in eM Client: fail. It is a hassle to create search folders for a quick, one-time search of messages in eM Client. Fail.

Awkward combination of keyboard shortcuts and menu items: eM Client does have keyboard shortcuts for most functions where I can’t assign a custom icon. However, since I have to mouse so frequently between eM Client’s various programs (email, calendar, contacts, etc.), it would be nice to be able to have some icons for something like marking an email as unread since I already have my hands on the mouse. Instead, I find myself having to do awkward combinations of keyboard shortcuts and then mousing on icons to accomplish some simple tasks in eM Client. Fail.

I am not a Microsoft fanboy and if I could find a worthy replacement for Outlook that truly integrated flawlessly with Google Apps, I would install it in a New York minute. Any ideas?


You bring up some excellent points.

I too am getting frustrated with the lack of customization available in the same areas you mentioned.

So far my Google calendar sync works great, have not played around adding contacts and seeing how they sync.

My main reason for searching for an Outlook replacement was that IMAP in Outlook was hit or miss. Sometimes it would communicate properly with the server, other times it would not, thus forcing me to a Webmail account to “clean up” my inbox since “cleaning it up” in Outlook would not hold the changes. So far eMClient has been flawless in this regard.

I believe they have a new version (5) coming out in a few weeks - perhaps (I hope) that will allow a lot more customization.