Roundcube vs Horde – Which Webmail Client Is Better?

emailicon   Roundcube vs Horde   Which Webmail Client Is Better?Back when I purchased a virtual server for my website, I was presented with the opportunity to start up a series of email accounts for the site, that use the same domain name of the site. This is something that many people consider to be an element of professionalism and quality when dealing with any organization, so I was happy to elevate my email usage to that level.

What I wasn’t quite ready for was choosing an email client that I wanted to use to access those emails. While desktop clients like Thunderbird or Spicebird are great full-featured email clients for when you’re home on your computer, it’s nice to have a webmail client that is nearly as powerful for organizing and responding to your email when you’re away.

There are a few top contenders in the world of webmail clients, that can handle any email account just like your desktop clients do. Horde is one of the first webmail clients that I used when I was writing for one of my first blogs back in 2006 or so, but I always found it to be a bit clunky and confusion. When I decided to go to webmail for my own website’s email management, I used Horde because it’s what I was used to.

However, on a whim, I took Roundcube Webmail for a test drive and was so impressed that I just had to take some time to compare and contrast the two webmail clients head-to-head.

Horde Vs. Roundcube – Head to Head

First, I wanted to point out some of the pros and cons of Roundcube. I have to say that I wish I’d tested it earlier. I love the simplicity of the interface, yet it offers enough features so that it is comparable to using a decent desktop client.

If you take a look at the main interface below, you’ll see what I mean. It becomes especially apparent when compared to Horde, which I’ll do in the second half of this article.

webmail11   Roundcube vs Horde   Which Webmail Client Is Better?

The Roundcube interface is clean, and the it’s clear what each icon does. If you want to filter out emails, it’s obvious where to go. If you want to reply-all or delete an email, the icons are about as clear as can be. You see an instant count of new mail in the left nav pane, and resizing the panes for a clearer view is as quick as clicking and sliding.

The Roundcube webmail client has no problem displaying HTML messages, while also protecting you with security settings like blocking remote images until you allow them to be downloaded.

webmail2   Roundcube vs Horde   Which Webmail Client Is Better?

For slightly more advanced choices, like viewing email headers or downloading the email as a file, you just click on the settings icon and it’s all right at your fingertips. No hunting, clawing and digging through a mess to figure out how you do it. Everything feels intuitive and just a few clicks away.

webmail31   Roundcube vs Horde   Which Webmail Client Is Better?

Settings for your individual email accounts and the folders you use to organize your mail are easy to set up in the “Settings” menu. In one place, you can set up preferences for your webmail client, create and organize folders, and organize the “identities” that you want to use to send out emails from the client.

webmail41   Roundcube vs Horde   Which Webmail Client Is Better?

Email composing is also a very organized and clean affair in Roundcube. It features a nice WYSIWYG formatting bar that most people are accustomed to these days if you’ve used any sort of web based content management tool. You can quickly change from plain text to HTML format with the fast drop-down selection, and you can add attachments using the clip icon above, or by pressing “+” to add files on the left Attachments pane.

webmail51   Roundcube vs Horde   Which Webmail Client Is Better?

As you can probably tell, it didn’t take me very long to realize that I really like RoundCube. There weren’t any features that I used in Horde that I thought were missing in Roundcube, yet the interface was much cleaner and much simpler.

Taking a Look at Horde

Making such a comparison wouldn’t really be fair unless I showed you what my experience with Horde is like. Just looking at the main display, you can see how the interface looks a bit less professional and completely cluttered with redundant links and icons. The links in the left navigation pane aren’t really clear either, as to what exactly they are for.

webmail61   Roundcube vs Horde   Which Webmail Client Is Better?

Viewing rich-text or HTML emails is also a hassle, as Horde always seems to want to default to plain text. As you can see with the email below that has an attachment and is also sent from someone that uses a rich-text email client, I couldn’t even see the main message text unless I open it in a new window that can handle it.

webmail71   Roundcube vs Horde   Which Webmail Client Is Better?

The one thing that horde has going for it is just how customizable it is. Clicking on Email Options, you’ll see a window filled with all sorts of settings you can change including server settings, how you can organize and filter email messages, and more. However, finding where to change the setting that will do what you want it to do is not an intuitive process, and sometimes it’ll make you want to slam your head against the computer monitor a few times.

webmail81   Roundcube vs Horde   Which Webmail Client Is Better?

What I do like about Horde is its advanced filtering abilities. It comes with a Whitelist/Blacklist feature that when enabled allows you to blacklist certain email addresses completely. You can decide what gets done with those emails – either delete them automatically or move them to a junk folder. Setting up new filters isn’t too complicated, you just click “New Rule” and the form is a fairly simple one.

webmail91   Roundcube vs Horde   Which Webmail Client Is Better?

Another useful feature in Horde is the “Organizing” section. When you expand it, you’ll see that it’s basically a little planner with an address book, a calendar, notes and tasks, just like in Microsoft Outlook (but nowhere near as many features). It does a fairly good job letting you organize your meetings and take notes in the same place where you get your incoming emails. And it’s nice to have the ability to quickly view your calendar at the same time you log in to check your email – one stop shopping.

webmail101   Roundcube vs Horde   Which Webmail Client Is Better?

Of course, if you already use calendar/planner software like Outlook or Google Calendar, then the Horde “Organizing” feature is pretty much useless.

Needless to say, I’ve now switched over from Horde to Roundcube. It saves me a lot of time when I can receive and respond to rich-text/HTML emails more quickly, and it’s just nice to work in an environment that looks and feels more organized and clean. I have yet to find a feature in Horde that I miss in Roundcube.

Have you ever used either Horde or Roundcube? What’s your own opinion of one or both? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Credit: Email via Shutterstock

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17 Comments -

0 votes

Jan Schneider

This is far from a fair comparison. You are comparing with a completely outdated, years old Horde version.
And actually the Roundcube screenshots look very old too.
This article is misleading at best.

0 votes
0 votes
0 votes

Ryan Dube

I don’t mean to put down Horde…but I still see even your new screenshots as far more complex than an inbox needs to be. Are all of the links, dropboxes and menu items really necessary? Why not consolidate and simplify a bit?

0 votes

People’s Voice

I have to say Jan, Horde is a great application. However, Horde appears to have been lead primarily by developers. Developers are known to fall short when it comes to User Experience and feel their way makes the most sense. I, too, am a developer who has been coding for 20+ years and know that is the truth. I see your application’s powerful design. I also see its weakness. Upgrade to a better gui logic (prototype, jquery, etc…), improve the layout, skin it modernly, and ajax the hell out of this thing. Then I would consider you guys a clear winner.

0 votes

Rick

Sorry Jan,

But Horde is VERY ugly. Even the v2 dev release clearly looks like its been ‘designed’ by a developer. This happens far too often in software. A prime example is cPanel, which falls majorly short when it comes to UX.

I too am a programmer, and recognise my own limitations. Dont design if you are a programmer. No matter how good you may feel it is, its really not. A 3rd party designer is ALWAYS better.

In my personal opinion Horde is ugly as hell and always has been. Sure its a fantastic piece of software…but very ugly and not at all user friendly.

0 votes

Istivan

What about using gmail (POP3 or forwarding)? Having gotten accustomed to Gmail over the past years I find every other option inferior.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

You mean bring other email accounts into Gmail? Forgive my naivety with Gmail but I thought you could only export mail out of Gmail using POP3…can anyone offer insight on the other direction. I’d love to do that…like you I really like gmail’s webmail interface.

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Tom

Why not just use Google Apps for your domain? It’s free (for up to five users), integrates nicely with Android, and the bundled collaboration tools like calendar are great extras.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Thanks Tom – you’re the second to suggest that. I’m definitely going to take a look.

0 votes

Jack Cola

Using Roundcube like Ryan suggests means that you can take control fully of your emails. You don’t rely on Gmail. Plus, you can get as much space has your host gives you, so you can have very large mailboxes.

0 votes

Deadend

Horde and roundcube are not worth mentioning anymore since google apps is there.

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Ryan Dube

Thanks – could you elaborate?

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Guilherme

I love the roundcube interface. Horde is just too crowded, both powerful, but roundcube’s interface wins me.

0 votes

roundcube

both installed on my server and i think roundcube is better but still need more features such masseges flow control when you compose to alot of addresses and need more security so roundcube win sorry horde :)

0 votes

steward

When roundcube decides your cookie or session is invalid it can take anywhere from one to twenty minutes to get back in (depends on how familiar you are with clearing cookies for one domain only on the current browser).

It’s hell on wheels. I cannot wait to ditch it.

0 votes

martin morey

Thanks for the useful review. My mail hosting (with OVH) offers Roundcube and Horde. I’ve originally installed Horde and now had a family rebellion from my daughter and wife who find Horde too fiddly (they use outlook OWA at work and cant see why they have somthing different at home…) so Roundcube might be the answer. The other alternative is either pay to trade up to hosted Exchange/OWA, or maybe to try GoogleApps as suggested here. Anyway, thanks – you’ve helped me understand the options better. For the record – Horde works well, but… it’s fiddly and I’ve invested some time in configuration already.