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Updated by Tina Sieber on  January 21, 2017.

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 6 Reasons Why You Should Stop Using Desktop Email Clients in Favour of Web-Based Options 6 Reasons Why You Should Stop Using Desktop Email Clients in Favour of Web-Based Options I know that suggesting desktop clients have had their day around the MakeUseOf crowd is like preaching to the choir. Most of us use Gmail, our own mail servers or some form of cloud backup... Read More 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, 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 Add Email Client to Your Website with RoundCube Webmail Add Email Client to Your Website with RoundCube Webmail Read More and was so impressed that I just had to take some time to compare and contrast the two webmail clients head-to-head.

Roundcube

The Interface

First, I’d like 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.

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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.

webmail client

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.

Viewing Emails

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.

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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.

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Individual Account Settings

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.

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Email Composition

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.

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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.

Horde

The Interface

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.

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Viewing Emails

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.

Email Options

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.

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Email Filtering

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.

Organizing Features

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.

webmail client

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

Roundcube vs. Horde: The Verdict

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.

You, however, might want to stick to your desktop email client You Should Ditch Webmail for a Desktop Email Client If... You Should Ditch Webmail for a Desktop Email Client If... A few years ago, webmail was all the rave. Wonder whether it's time to switch back to a desktop email client? Look no further. We show you the merits of a local mail service. Read More . You can even read your Google Mail on your desktop How to Read Google Mail on Your Desktop How to Read Google Mail on Your Desktop Email is a critical feature of the working day. If you're using Gmail, you might wonder how you can get it out of the browser and onto your desktop. Here are your options. Read More . And maybe it’s time to switch to a different email account The Best Free Email Accounts You Need to Consider The Best Free Email Accounts You Need to Consider Everyone knows about Gmail. If you think that's the best free email account out there, you're underestimating all the other services. You have options and we have the details. Read More altogether.

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.

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  1. Jessica
    November 23, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    I am not an IT person, and I realize this article is from 4 years ago. But I've been using gmail with calendar function for a while, and my new job has a choice of horde or roundcube for an interface for our email domain. In that way, this article was very helpful. Do you have any idea if it's possible to integrate my existing gmail calendar with either of these entities...? Thanks

  2. Professor Serna
    October 23, 2016 at 12:09 am

    Thank you for the comparison. I am also trying to decide between the two. I notice that this post is from 2012 and that Horde has changed very much since then. Have you checked lately? Did you change your mind? Thanks

  3. Alex Ogheri
    March 18, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    I like a Little bit more Horde, instead...

    even if fair to be fair, roundcube is also great...

    what i like more in Horde is that I can also set up gpg keys easily (dont know if I am unfair in this, because perhaps it is possible in roundcube too, but at least I was unable to find where and how to do it....)

  4. Karl Marx
    January 3, 2015 at 7:30 am

    roundcube is much better looking - for sure.

    but when you do not serve some users but many users with many mails - you will wann to move back from roundcube to horde! ;)

  5. martin morey
    August 1, 2012 at 11:56 am

    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.

  6. steward
    June 2, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    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.

  7. roundcube
    May 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    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 :)

  8. Guilherme
    March 16, 2012 at 11:24 pm

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

  9. Deadend
    March 16, 2012 at 7:27 pm

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

    • Ryan Dube
      March 16, 2012 at 11:29 pm

      Thanks - could you elaborate?

  10. Tom
    March 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    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.

    • Ryan Dube
      March 16, 2012 at 11:30 pm

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

    • Jack Cola
      March 18, 2012 at 10:30 am

      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.

  11. Istivan
    March 16, 2012 at 5:43 pm

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

    • Ryan Dube
      March 16, 2012 at 11:32 pm

      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.

  12. Jan Schneider
    March 16, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    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.

    • Ryan Dube
      March 16, 2012 at 11:34 pm

      Jan - your own screenshots in the link below show very little difference between your version and mine...most of the issues I listed in this article appear to still exist in your version:

      http://webscripts.softpedia.com/scriptScreenshots/Horde-Groupware-Webmail-Edition-Screenshots-30169.html

      • Jan Schneider
        March 16, 2012 at 11:59 pm

        Oh yeah, there are other sites that have old screenshots. How about looking at OUR website?
        http://www.horde.org/apps/imp/screenshots

        • Ryan Dube
          March 24, 2012 at 3:04 am

          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?

        • People's Voice
          September 7, 2012 at 7:59 pm

          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.

      • Rick
        September 10, 2012 at 3:07 pm

        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.