Horde vs Roundcube vs SquirrelMail Webmail

By Jonathan Griffin. Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.

· 12 min read

CPanel and Plesk both contain two different webmail applications; Horde and Roundcube. The third webmail application, SquirelMail, was depreciated from cPanel in August 2019, and is no longer available in Plesk.

These applications are integrated within cPanel and Plesk to allow quick and easy access to your email with absolutely zero configuration.

This guide explains the key features of each of the three webmail applications.

Horde Vs Roundcube Vs SquirrelMail Summary

The table below shows the main differences between the three webmail applications:

HordeRoundcubeSquirrelMail

Application website

The Horde Project

Roundcube Webmail Project

The SquirrelMail Project

Interface type

  • Email has a three-pane format with view pane.
  • Dashboard shows a summary of the email, calendar, filters, tasks, and notes.
  • Mobile interface is available.
  • Choice of Inbox formats, including Three-pane with email preview.
  • No Summary Dashboard
  • Two-pane list format
  • No Summary Dashboard

Composition features:

  • Attachments
  • HTML composition
  • Spell check (multiple languages)
  • Attach contact information
  • Send to contact lists
  • Attachments
  • HTML composition
  • No Spell Check
  • Send to contact groups
  • Attachments
  • Text-only composition
  • Read \ Delivery receipts

Organization features:

  • Folder manipulation
  • Mail filters
  • Message flags
  • Search mail
  • Threaded conversation view
  • Drag-and-drop organization
  • Folder manipulation
  • Message flags
  • Search mail
  • Threaded conversation view
  • Privacy Protection
  • Folder manipulation
  • Message flags
  • Message highlighting
  • Search mail
  • Threaded conversation view

Additional features:

  • Address book
  • Calendar
  • Task list
  • Event reminders
  • Newsfeed
  • Weather widget
  • Web page widget
  • Web bookmarks
  • Notes
  • Address book with LDAP
  • Contact management
  • Sender Identities
  • System administrators can use plugins to add custom features, such as the calendar module.
  • Address book

Recommended for:

Users who need a full suite of features that includes mobile email access and advanced productivity tools.

Users who need a user-friendly web interface with some additional features available.

Large plugin collection available for system admins \ enterprise users.

Users who need a simple interface with which to read and reply to emails.

This table summary is a more detailed version of cPanel’s table.

Horde In-depth Look

The Interface

  • The main dashboard by default shows Mail Statistics, Calendar, Email Filters, Tasks, Notes, and Contact Search.

    Horde's Main Dashboard.
    Horde's Main Dashboard. CREDIT: HORDE

  • The dashboard is fully customizable by clicking on the green add content button. You can have up to 12 blocks laid out in a 3 x 4 pattern. Additional options include weather, tag cloud, newest unseen messages, webpage embed, calendar, bookmarks (including most used).

  • The Email Dashboard has a three-pane format with an email view pane in a style consistent with many other webmail services like Gmail or Outlook.

    Horde's Email Dashboard.
    Horde's Email Dashboard. CREDIT: HORDE

  • Overall, the Horde interface is smart, relatively modern, and customizable.

  • All the features are very straightforward to access, and the whole administrative area is very intuitive.

  • Further configuration options are available under the cog-icon -> preferences -> mail option in the toolbar. Here you can configure how messages are displayed, preferences for viewing the listing of messages in a mailbox, and even folder navigation display preferences.

Mail Composition features

Horde Email composition.
Horde Email composition. CREDIT:
  • Writing an email in Horde is easy. To start go to Mail -> New message and a popup will appear with a simple interface. You can switch between HTML composition and Text.

  • When using HTML composition, a WYSIWYG will appear, making it easy to craft your message in HTML. You can add attachments (including contact information), save the sent message to your sent folder, set priority, and even request a read receipt (under other options).

  • The spell checker supports 19 different languages, although 3 of those are for English variants.

Mail Organization features

Horde Mail Filters.
Horde Mail Filters. CREDIT:

There are many features that help to organize your webmail:

  • Folder manipulation - Essentially, all the features you would expect to manage your webmail folders. Empty, Mark all as seen, don’t check for mail as well as create new mailboxes, etc.

  • Mail filters - Filter by whitelist \ blacklist as well as create new rules. You can filter by any of the email fields and then create an action such as delete, deliver, or copy as well as mark the message as seen, flagged, answered, or deleted.

  • Message flags - Manually or automatically set flags to a specific message.

  • Search mail - You can easily search through your email by searching through the entire message, body, from, recipient, subject fields, as well as utilizing the advanced search that allows setting date, email size among a large number of customizable options.

  • Threaded conversation view - Easily follow conversations with the threaded view.

Additional features

The Horde Calendar

Horde Calendar.
Horde Calendar. CREDIT:

The Horde Calander utilizes a calendar application known as Kronolith.

Kronolith features repeating events, all-day events, tags, shared calendars, remote calendars, CalDAV support, iTip/iCalendar support, generation of free/busy information, and management of multiple users through Horde Authentication.

Kronolith also features an API that can be integrated with any enterprise backend.

The Horde Task List

Horde Task List.
Horde Task List. CREDIT:

The Horde Tasklist application, known as Nag, features to-do items, things due later in the week, task list management. You can filter by incomplete tasks, future tasks, and also view completed tasks. The application also allows for sub-tasks and even shared task lists.

Horde Notes

Horde Notes.
Horde Notes. CREDIT:

The Horde Note application is known as Mnemo. It allows you to keep text notes that are not suited as a to-do item, event, or contact.

Horde Note supports Tags for easy categorization, search functionality, and shared Notepads. Notes can be imported from CSV and vNote files, and exported to CSV files. You can also password-protect notes.

Horde Address book

Horde Notes.
Horde Notes. CREDIT:

Turba is the name given to the Horde address book/contact management program. It provides a generic frontend to searching and managing LDAP, SQL, IMSP, and several other contact sources.

You can import \ export contacts, and even share address books between users.

Summary

Horde is a webmail-client that is designed for browser-based usage. It is fully enterprise-ready and includes an API so you can integrate Horde into existing backend infrastructure. Horde also offers professional services, which they boast has helped with some significant deployments varying between 100,000 and 5 million users.

If you do not intend to use Horde exclusively (i.e., only when out of the office), you can. Access is available via IMAP and POP3 so that you can import emails from your business server.

If you intend to use Horde daily as your goto application, then the dashboard is a very powerful feature. It enables you to see all your information at a glance. You can add widgets to the dashboard, such as the current weather, RSS feed, or even embed a web page (such as your favorite news website).

Getting started is easy, as an email address created in cPanel is automatically configured for use in Horde. There is no need to configure your mail client at all.

Roundcube In-depth Look

The Interface

Roundcube Interface
Roundcube Interface CREDIT:
  • Unlike Horde, Roundcube takes you directly to your email inbox when you log in. There is no dashboard providing a summary of your emails, contacts, to-do lists, etc.

  • The Mailbox view is customizable via Settings -> Preferences -> Mailbox View. Here you can choose from a 3-panel configuration, including a mail preview, widescreen 3 column view, or just a list of emails (without preview).

  • The interface is very modern thanks to a default installed theme called “Larry,” which was created by a user called FLINT. The original theme does look a little dated, so it is easy to see why they make the Larry theme default.

Mail Composition features

Roundcube Email Composition
Roundcube Email Composition CREDIT:
  • Writing an email in RoundCube is easy. From the main Inbox screen just click the “Compose” button in the main menu bar. You can then select from the “Editor type” dropdown whether to write your email in Plain text or HTML.

  • When using HTML composition, a WYSIWYG will appear, making it easy to craft your message in HTML. You can add attachments, request return receipts, delivery status notifications, and choose where to save the email.

  • On the composition screen, your contacts will appear in the left sidebar, making it easy to select existing contacts.

  • RoundCube says that they have a spellchecker. However, despite being shown on the screenshot, it is not present in the default cPanel install.

Mail Organization features

Privacy protection.
Privacy protection. CREDIT:

There are many features that help to organize your webmail:

  • Drag-and-drop message management - Group and order messages easily by dragging and dropping to your desired folder.

  • Folder manipulation - Essentially, all the features you would expect to manage your webmail folders. Empty, Mark all as seen, don’t check for mail as well as create new mailboxes, etc.

  • Message flags - Flag messages so you can easily find it again or follow up at a later date.

  • Search mail - You can easily search through your email by searching through the entire message, body, from, to, Bcc, Body, subject fields, date, current folder, all folders, and subfolders.

  • Threaded conversation view - Enables you to follow a chain of emails efficiently.

  • Privacy Protection - Automatic image blocking to protect privacy.

  • Spam filters - While Roundcube advertises spam filters as a function on their website, no such functionality exists on the default installation. Instead, you can use the cPanel spam filters, BoxTrapper, or SpamAssassin.

Additional features

Address book with Groups and LDAP:

Address book with LDAP.
Address book with LDAP. CREDIT:

Fully featured address book with group functionality and LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) connectors allowing anyone to locate contact information within a network (whether on the public Internet or on a corporate intranet).

Contact management:

Contact Management.
Contact Management. CREDIT:

Powerful and extensible contact management features, allowing the recording of emails, addresses, job information, personal information and more. Merely add the fields you require to flesh out as much or as little detail as you want.

Sender Identities:

Sender Identities.
Sender Identities. CREDIT:

Utilize sender identities for differentiating between business email and personal email names, signatures, and sign-offs.

RoundCube Calendar.
RoundCube Calendar. CREDIT:
Plugins:

System admins can easily add functionality to RoundCube by installing plugins, such as a Calendar. Unfortunately, for web hosting clients, this would need to be undertaken by your web hosting provider.

Summary

If you are familiar with desktop clients such as Outlook or Gmail, then you will feel right at home with RoundCube thanks to the third-party interface skin called “Larry.”

RoundCube’s email functionality is excellent. It features an address book, sophisticated searching, and all the usual folder and email management features you would expect.

On a default install, we are a little concerned that some functionality is not present. For instance, there is no spell checker or ability to install plugins such as a calendar (your web host will have to install these, but you can search all the plugins here).

For enterprise usage, there is a Plug-in API for flexible extensions, an extensive array of plugins to choose from, and built-in caching for fast mailbox access & to reduce server loads. RoundCube comes into its own when managed by your own server admin, who can install the third-party plugins.

If you need a full set of features out of the box, then you may want to consider Horde. However, if all you need is email and contact management, then RoundCube would be a smart choice.

SquirrelMail In-depth Look

The Interface

SquirrelMail Two Column Message List.
SquirrelMail Two Column Message List. CREDIT:
  • SquirrelMail uses a relatively old two-pane list format so you cannot preview the actual email message unless you click on it.
  • There is no dashboard summary. You immediately view the list of messages when you log in.

Mail Composition features

SquirrelMail Compose Email.
SquirrelMail Compose Email. CREDIT: SCREENSHOT.
  • Attachments - Easily attach files to your emails. Our default install allowed files up to 50MB.
  • Text-only composition - Only text emails can be sent, so there is no WYSIWYG or Word-like toolbar to help you compose your messages.
  • Read \ Delivery receipts - You can choose to receive a read receipt or be notified of successful delivery.
  • Signatures - Easily add your signature to your email.
  • Priority Flag - Flag your email by priority - Low, Normal, or High.

In the screenshot, you will also see spell checking and auto-translate functionality. These are not installed by default and require your system admin or web host to install the requisite plugins.

Organization features

SquirrelMail Folder Management.
SquirrelMail Folder Management. CREDIT:
  • Folder manipulation - Easily create folders to sort your emails.
  • Message flags - Flag important messages for followup.
  • Message highlighting - Based upon given criteria, incoming messages can have different background colors in the message list to easily distinguish important or select messages based on your own rules.
  • Search mail - You can easily search through your email by searching through the entire message, body, from, to, Bcc, Body, and subject field. You can choose to search in specific folders.
  • Threaded conversation view - Choose between the threaded view to allow you easily to view replies to your emails, or unthreaded view to sort strictly by date.

Additional features

SquirrelMail Address book.
SquirrelMail Address book. CREDIT:
  • Address book - SquirrelMail comes with a simple address book allowing you to store a person’s Nickname, Email, First Name, and Last Name. There is also a field for additional info. You cannot add other fields.

Summary

SquirrelMail is a straightforward webmail client that is designed to be compatible across all browsers.

If you like how the web looked back in 1995, then the archaic design will be right up your street. Despite that, there is an air of simplicity about this webmail client that may well suit some people. It certainly grows on you, so it’s worth giving it a chance.

Looking at the screenshots on the SquirrelMail website, it appears to advertise features such as message translation and calendar functionality. On our default install, no such features existed, so you would require your system admin or web hosting provider to install these plugins for you. A large selection of plugins is available to extend the address book, change the message view, prevent spam, and more.

Horde Webmail v SquirrelMail webmail v Roundcube Webmail on Google Trends.
Horde Webmail v SquirrelMail webmail v Roundcube Webmail on Google Trends. CREDIT: GOOGLE.

Horde, Roundcube, or SquirrelMail? - Which is better?

Summary:

  • Horde webmail - This is great for users who require a full suite of features, including mobile email access and advanced productivity tools. The interface looks modern and is very easy to use.

  • Roundcube webmail - While more limited in features, this appears to be the most popular webmail application. The interface looks modern, and it is also very easy to use. The software is actively being developed with new features and security updates. For enterprise users, there is API integration and a full selection of plugins to extend its functionality.

  • SquirrelMail webmail - SquirrelMail is no longer available in cPanel or Plesk on a default installation.

In summary, the choice between Roundcube, and Horde will be very dependant on the features you require, and whether you can install plugins yourself to extend their functionality. I suggest trying them out to see which you prefer.

My personal preference if forced to use the default webmail programs is Roundcube for its simplicity.

However, I would highly recommend checking out a professional email service for business, such asa Microsoft Outlook or Gmail.