How to Access Microsoft Exchange in Linux

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Linux is a wonderfully diverse system that has a lot of potential benefits over Windows such as security, speed and specialist software. However, there are times that a user will rely on Microsoft products for their workflow, and these tools aren’t always compatible with Linux. One such problem is using Microsoft Exchange.

Exchange provides the continual connection to an email inbox running on Windows Server, or now Office 365, in the cloud. The mailbox will be mirrored on the server, just as it would with an IMAP protocol. The difference is that IMAP will poll the server at a set time and this immediacy makes Exchange a good choice for businesses and priority users.

Not everyone who uses Microsoft services wants to use Microsoft Windows. Linux users have some strict choices when it comes to accessing Exchange.

The most common and easiest way to access Exchange is via your web browser. Although this is platform agnostic, it is a method that Linux users can utilize in a pinch. Simply go to the website, and enter your credentials just as you would for any email client or webmail service.

Hiri is software that seamlessly connects to Exchange. It has its own rich client for Windows, Mac and Linux and gives you full control over your email. Hiri also allows contact and calendar syncing, so this can be a good choice for businesses where scheduled meetings and events are required.

hiri-pricing

A potential downside to Hiri is that it is a paid service. Although they offer a full seven-day trial, users are looking at a $39 annual charge or $119 for a lifetime subscription in order to continue with their connections. This may seem low when considering the benefits, but for small businesses with around ten employees, those costs can mount up. Hiri is also closed source, which for open source purists can pose an ethical problem.

ExQuilla is a plugin that is available for Mozilla’s Thunderbird platform. It provides access to message reading and contacts in Thunderbird for users of Microsoft Exchange Server version 2007 and later. It can be downloaded directly from the website, or you can install it from inside the Thunderbird client.

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Previously, the plugin was a paid service and required a license. However, since March 2018, and with version 60 and above of Thunderbird, the service is trial-based. As quoted on the site, “ExQuilla is not free software but is licensed on an annual basis. New users are granted a free 60-day trial license automatically.”

More information can be found on the project GitHub page and will provide useful tips and assistance should users run into any problems with installation.

Another option is to use Evolution which is commonly found in the repositories of most Linux systems and within GNOME. I will use Ubuntu as a guide to installing this, but your package manager should be able to install it.

Open a Terminal and type in the following:

Once it is finished, open Evolution and follow the prompts onscreen. If this is a new install, simply add the account; otherwise, click “Edit,” navigate to “Preferences” and then click “Add.”

Enter your details as follows:

  • E-mail: your e-mail address
  • Password: your e-mail account password
  • Username: your e-mail address once more
  • Server: outlook.office365.com

These details may differ depending on how the server or service is set up. Check with your administrator as applicable.

Which is your favorite method of connecting to Exchange, and if you don’t use the service at all, what do you use? Let us know in the comments section below.

Image credit: Microsoft Office Outlook. by DepositPhotos

12 comments

  1. DavMail is a POP/IMAP/SMTP/Caldav/Carddav/LDAP exchange gateway allowing users to use any mail/calendar client (e.g. Thunderbird with Lightning or Apple iCal) with an Exchange server, even from the internet or behind a firewall through Outlook Web Access.

    http://davmail.sourceforge.net/

    • Few years ago, exquilla be my choice.
      More than 3 years I use evolution.
      Even the configuration and auto backup/copy all messages have to do setup manually from terminal, but I enjoy it…:)
      I’m fine use evolution.

  2. Thank you for the information above. Do any of the options you list work with Office 365’s two factor authentication?

    • Depends on how the two facter is implemented. I have seen davmail work for phone call or text two facter and fail at RSA tokens.

      Here is how I do things:
      Email: Office365 -> Davmail -> mbsync -> mutt (IMAP deliverd to local maildir)
      Calendar: Office365 -> Davmail -> vdirsyncer -> khal
      Address Books: Office365 -> Davmail -> mutt_ldap.pl
      Skype For Business: WeeChat+bitlbee+SIPE plugin for Pidgin (Makes it all look like IRC to me)
      Slack: WeeChat+Wee-slack

  3. I am using Hiri on linux, and it works perfectly. Contacts / calendar schedules, all is working. But you need to get used to the interface.

  4. I used to use Evolution when I needed to talk to Exchange. Originally I used the WebDAV protocol, and that worked. Ever since MAPI got published publicly in 2008, Evolution has been able to access Exchange the same way Outlook does, via MAPI. Since Evolution looks just like Outlook, it seems like a good substitute.

    One problem: the Evolution connector for Exchange, now called evolution-ews, tends to crash a lot. I found myself having to restart Evolution at least every couple of hours. That’s something that users won’t tolerate. And that sucks, because Evolution itself is actually quite a good groupware client.

    • One problem: the Evolution connector for Exchange, now called evolution-ews, tends to crash a lot.
      I feel it too…but I’m enjoy it…:)

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