Best Free Email Software

 
Introduction

With so many clients now in the cloud, rather than on the desktop, email clients have certainly taken a turn over the past few years. So, to differentiate themselves, the desktop clients have become more advanced and offer more and more features to keep customers interested.

For most users finding a good email client can mean the difference between getting on with your work or hitting your head against a desk in frustration.

Here's a list of the best email clients reviewed and compiled to save you from heart/headache. For ease of use I've split the review into two different categories, desktop and web-based.

  Read this article in Spanish (Español)

 
In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion
Desktop

Mozilla ThunderbirdMozilla Thunderbird is a free, open source POP and IMAP email client developed by Mozilla.org, the same folks who brought you Firefox. Feature-wise it sits somewhere between Outlook Express and Outlook, which means that it offers an upgrade to Express users and a downgrade to those who use the more advanced PIM features of Outlook.  Additional features can be added through free extensions. Notable among these is Webmail, an extension that allows POP3 access to webmail services operated by Yahoo, Hotmail, Lycos, MailDotCom, Gmail and Libero. Thunderbird email files can be indexed by the Google, Yahoo! and Copernic desktop search programs.

Outlook Express users should seriously consider switching. You’ll be rewarded with a more advanced product with these features:

  • built-in spam filtering and RSS reader
  • message color coding
  • fast email search
  • anti-phishing measures
  • spell check as you type
  • inbox filters
  • Kerberos authentication
  • automatic updates
  • the ability to view your mail in conversational threads.

On top of that, the product is more secure than Outlook Express and, unlike the latter, is still being actively developed. Switching is made easier by the fact that Thunderbird looks and works similar to Outlook Express. Tools within Thunderbird also allow you to easily import your Outlook Express account settings and stored email. If you need assistance, there is an excellent guide from Mozilla available for download in the Quick Selection Guide section below.

 

OperaAnother good option, that many people are not aware of, comes from the same source as Opera browser. The folks at Opera call it their M2 Mail Client. Although there is no calendar in this program as in Outlook (it wasn't meant to compete with Outlook anyway), it is still quite powerful. This email client is a combined email database, news reader, mailing list organizer and RSS news feed reader, and it supports both POP3 and IMAP protocols. My experience with it was quite pleasant. It was easy to set up, very intuitive to use, and it easily found any contact I had ever had email correspondence with. Overall, it's a very nice product.

 

DreamMail is an email client that can deal with POP, and Web Mail accounts. It does not have IMAP support. Its user Interface bares a resemblance to Outlook, but while it's a simple layout there is a lot of functionality.

The main features are:

  • import from Outlook Express and Foxmail
  • customizable templates
  • remote mailbox management
  • create a separate email storage
  • supports multiple accounts
  • Supports POP3, APOP, SMTP, eSMTP, SASL.

Another good feature is the option to create separate accounts for different users, this enables them to have their own email accounts in their profile and the ability to password protect it.

Set up is fairly straightforward, you need to copy any POP or IMAP settings across, but this isn't a major problem. Adding web mail accounts is as easy as inputting your web mail address, plus your username and password.

The only downside is that it lacks the true portability of a web-based email client, but if that's not something you're worried about then this would be a good option.

 

FoxmailDespite the name Foxmail, it is not related to Firefox, but comes out of China. It's an impressive product with features that match or exceed Thunderbird's, and it's also very easy to use. My only real beef is the quality of the help files. Yes, they have been translated to English, but rather poorly; so poorly that they are actually quite amusing. With version 6.5 Beta 3 Foxmail now supports the IMAP protocol, which is a big deal for some. If you are savvy enough to figure out the program yourself, Foxmail is worthy of consideration.  It's a top product with eight million users world-wide, and it's a real alternative to Thunderbird. If you need help there's a link in the Quick Selection Guide section.

 

Incredimail is an email client currently in version 2.0 that supports both IMAP, POP3 and Webmail accounts. The basic version is free to download and use, however additional features like animations, themes and junk filters require you to upgrade to the premium service so that is something to watch out for.

The user interface is well polished with basic animations that pop up when you receive a new email or if you delete one. This is a nice touch but can get in the way, it can however be disabled.

Incredimail supports Webmail accounts for GMail, Yahoo, AOL and Windows Live Hotmail.

The initial setup was fairly painless, the software detected the settings I had for Outlook although it got one of the port numbers wrong, but that was an easy fix in the settings. It also downloaded all the existing emails in my inbox and transferred them.

However, you are required to select the tool-bar integration and have Incredimail as your default search engine before you can proceed.

As a basic email client that can handle all of the main accounts, this is a very easy to set up and capable program, but it's limited by the need to upgrade for other main features.

 

eM Client is a popular client for Windows (XP - 7) that supports all popular webmails as well as POP3 and IMAP. Upon downloading you get a 30 day free trial, which grants you all the features, but the free license constricts you to only 2 email addresses per user.

The user interface for eM Client is certainly very swish (I haven't said that in a while...), and certainly looks and feels premium when using. There are no ads, or gimmicks, just a clean interface, not dissimilar to Outlook 2003. Initial setup is very easy, allowing you to import your accounts and settings from the clients already installed on your computer; and even manual setup was very easy, a nice interface to guide you through.

eM Client is certainly one of the better looking clients available for Windows however, the free version is held back by the account restriction to only two email addresses.

Web-Based

GmailLet's get this one done first! Gmail, arguably the most popular webmail client at the moment, integrating deeply into the Google ecosystem and offering more features than it ever has before. On that note, features wise, it has a lot that you would expect such as:

  • works with both POP and IMAP
  • arrange emails into folders by adding 'Labels'
  • filters
  • contacts and tasks can be added and amended.

You'll find you'll get a lot more out of Gmail if you use other Google products. For example, if you use Google+ (which, realistically, you don't, but hypothetically...) you can chat right in the Gmail window, you can also view your circles on the right hand sidebar. Another great feature is Google Labs which is a series of add-ons that you can use to customise your Gmail; it's a very nice feature for more advanced users and it's great to see this amount of customization in a webmail client. 

Although Gmail is free, there are ads displayed at the top of the list of emails which is fairly unobtrusive, but can make things look a bit cluttered and at first for me when I tested it, a little confusing as I wasn't expecting it.

You get 10GB of space for free, but if you need more (again, realistically, you won't), Google offer monthly payment plans to get you more space, which can go up to 16TB.

Gmail is at its peak, but there are downsides, the adverts while discrete can annoy some users and the Google+ integration can seem annoying if you don't use it; however, all that put aside, it's certainly a stylistic, elegant email client and offers a great number of features.

 

OutlookOutlook (the new Hotmail), Microsoft's really gone all out with it's Modern UI! It's taking all their products by storm, and Hotmail's next on the list. The new user interface of Outlook is very simple, with the layout of Hotmail remaining largely intact, but with better visuals that newcomers should find more appealing. Setup is fairly simple (or if you have a Microsoft account already, non-existent), like Gmail it provides options to get your old emails forwarded to one email address or access them directly through POP3 or IMAP support.

Some nice features include: being able to delete all emails by a certain sender, or even choosing how many emails from that sender to keep before automatically deleting old ones; automated replies for when you're away from your computer; as well as filters and folder; and all that jazz. Also, being able to import up to 4 POP3 accounts should keep most users satisfied. The built-in contact list 'People' is very modern, as is the calendar, but both put style over functionality as it can sometimes be difficult to access the advanced options.

On the down side, if you're not a fan of the UI, it is everywhere and while for the time being you can swap back to Hotmail view, I wouldn't expect that to stick around. 

 
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 
Quick Selection Guide

Mozilla Thunderbird
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Customizable and expandable through add-ons, intuitive user interface.
No native support for web-mail clients such as GMail or Hotmail.
http://www.mozilla.org/
31.2.0
25.3 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available but not from the developer.
Windows XP/Vista/7, Mac OS-X, Various Linux distros
Opera (M2 Mail Client)
5
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Built-in spam filter works right out-of-the-box, easy and intuitive to use.
No support for secure message signing or encryption.
12.15
12.6 MB
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows XP/Vista/7, Mac OS 7.5-OS X, various Linux distros, phones and tablets

Opera language files can be downloaded here: http://www.opera.com/download/languagefiles/

DreamMail
5
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Simple interface, lots of customisation, can handle POP, IMAP as well as Web Mail accounts.
Lacks the portability of Web Based Mail
4.6.9.2
8.9 MB
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows XP/Vista/7

The vendors website has now acquired a poor WOT (Web Of Trust) rating. We have no reports of issues with the product itself which remains certified by the major download sites. This situation is currently under review.

Dreammail is no longer in active developement or being supported.

Foxmail
4
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Intuitive and easy to use, has many of the same features as Thunderbird.
Help files are not very good.
http://fox.foxmail.com.cn/
7.2 Build 5.140
34.3 MB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows all

The FoxMail English FAQ can be foundhere: http://www.hazeleger.net/psjs_faqs/index.html
Note: If after installing, the program comes up in Chinese, all you have to do is delete the file chinese.lgb in the installation folder.
Developer's website is in Chinese.

v7.1 BUILD 3.052 released 11 October, 2013

GMail
3.5
 
Is a web service or web application
Can be linked to other Google Products e.g. Calender, Buzz, Talk
Has advertising, a little cluttered in it's present form, need to pay for additional storage.
https://mail.google.com/mail/
Unrestricted freeware
Web based

Gmail Blog http://gmailblog.blogspot.com
Help and Support http://mail.google.com/support/
Supports the following browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox 3.5+, Internet Explorer 7.0+, Safari 3.0+ (Only Google Chrome supports Desktop Notifications)

IncrediMail
3
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Easy set-up, supports POP3, IMAP and WebMail
Need to upgrade for some features
2.0
11.6 MB
Feature limited freeware
Windows XP/Vista/7

 
Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Glyn Burgess. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Comments

by dsp_418 on 15. December 2014 - 19:57  (120126)

Remah,

Sorry for posting about Outlook, I forgot about posting freeware only.
The interesting thing though is that even a paid product sometimes can't compete with good freeware (especially considered when they have so many flaws!)

Edit: Strange, I clicked on Reply to your comment but it didn't work, my reply shows up as a new post.

by Remah on 15. December 2014 - 20:55  (120127)

As you say, good freeware products often beat paid products. That is why this site exists.

Sorry, the problem you had replying to my comment has been seen before. I couldn't find any identified cause or resolution for it in the forum where it has been discussed in a couple of threads.

No problem about the Outlook comments. It is not just whether it is freeware but whether the mention of the paid product is useful in relation to free products. You'll notice that we have lots of stuff on Windows because it is required to run free software and we do have mentions of Outlook because it is the paid product against which all other email programs are compared. So if you'd presented your comments as part of a comparison of free email and Outlook they would have been left in. But a list of deficiencies you found in Outlook is not acceptable without any reference to freeware.

Anyway, I read them through and checked some of them out. The difficulty with comparing a standalone program with one program in a suite is that the suite utilizes other programs to provide additional features. Taking the example of multi-language spell checking, which is useful for many people, Pegasus Mail has a real advantage. However, Office can do it using Word which does handle multi-language text.

by dsp_418 on 14. December 2014 - 23:11  (120033)

I think I've tried them all, all the email clients out there (if not all, 99% of the existing clients).
I've been a TB user for years, finding it probably the closest one to fit my needs.
I switched to PMail after having used it years ago, and now it's my default client. Despite it's old fashion interface (and I must admit not very pleasant as well), it's probably the most powerful client out there, the most solid and the most robust. Also I might be wrong, but as far as I know it's the only client that check messages using two spell-checker at once. Filters is another great feature of Pmail, as well as the integrated spamhalter. I really PMail would have a cleaner interface, but I guess I can live with that.
There are quirks, of course: attachment are not saved locally, is not multi-threading (yes! is not!!), and again, GUI, GUI, GUI: at first is not not easy to move through the options and figure out things.

Then there are lot of other good clients, but no one close to rule them all.

Foxmail: I believe they made a wrong decision going with the minimal interface, now things are just hidden (yes, usability is about hiding extra steps for the user, but when hiding tools makes hard to find them, that's not good usability anymore). Filters are not as good as PMail. No international spell-checker capability as far as I remember. Also developers seem to not respond any featurerequest /bugs submission emails.

M2, great client, just I believe Opera at this point abandoned it.

[* Comments about Outlook were removed because it is a paid product and is not free -Remah, editor *]

Sylpheed, looks like TB just with a older GUI.

Claws, could be good but something is not quite there yet, hm... I guess on Linux the experience is better though.

EM Client, not good filtering, develop doesn't seem to be that fast at the end, perhaps they're focusing on making it solid fixing bugs first. We'll see...

Mailbird, if I'm not mistaken this was a memory hog, also not very impressed by its features (sorry for not being more detailed about it, I've tried it a while ago, I decided it wasn't good).

Just my 2 c.

Edit: After checking once again Claws email I find out it also allows to use two spell-checker at the same time. Claws could be a good client, except for a few things that bother me:
1 - Fancy, the plugin used to view html message, is buggy on Windows. On my machine sometimes hangs up the application, sometimes it works but it's just very slow.
2 - Claws doesn't support rich-text/html text message: the user can use Fancy to view messages (with some issues, point 1 above) but is not possible to create html message. Is just not implemented (and it seems developers want to keep it this way).
3 - Even though there's a calendar, the features seem to be quite minimal. It might work just fine for common tasks, I haven't tested it enough.
4 - Filters seem to be pretty good, just a bit cumbersome as the user need to go through several clicks in order to complete all the steps necessary to create a new rule.

All in all it's quite evident that Claws is a porting, the feeling is that is not a native Windows app and window dialogs, icons, responsiveness are clear signs of it.

by Remah on 15. December 2014 - 3:17  (120117)

Thanks for some interesting things I will remember such as multi-language spell check in Pegasus Mail.

For those who are interested in looking more widely than the products recommended in this article then here's some links to help you, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the products mentioned by dsp_418:
TB means ThunderBird and is already recommended in this article.
PMail is actually called Pegasus Mail, a venerable product that could certainly do with an updated interface. It is not reviewed in this article and has not been fully tested for Windows 7 and 8.
M2 is now available separately as Opera Mail and looks good. The review in this article was written before the name change.
Mailbird is also not reviewed in this article.
Sylpheed and Claws Mail are open source products that also have not been reviewed in this article.

Microsoft Outlook is a paid product (which is different to the free webmail at Outlook.com) and this site is about freeware. Those comments were removed as they related only to Outlook itself.

by MidnightCowboy on 6. December 2014 - 4:32  (120001)

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The details for Outlook.com have now been updated. MC -Site Manager.

by irwanwr on 26. November 2014 - 11:03  (119853)

How about POP Peeper?
I have been using it for years and it works fine for me.
Lightweight, not many restriction and many other features.
http://www.poppeeper.com/

by awol on 14. December 2014 - 4:15  (120102)

I second the motion.

I love Pop Peeper and have relied on it for years for my Verizon as well as my gmail addresses. It is very stable, regularly updated, and flexible. New major release in the works.

I use it as a first line anti-spam tool. It allows me to view my email and selectively delete it on the server site. I view Sender and Subject info only, so I can quickly delete the spam from my provider's site. Then I can view the bodies of the remaining ones in text mode and delete more. What's left I download to Thunderbird to keep. Yes, I could do most of this in Thunderbird, but PopPeeper display is very lightweight and agile and serves as a great preliminary filter.

I would love a Gizmo review.

Allen

by MidnightCowboy on 14. December 2014 - 5:47  (120103)

Thank you for expressing an interest in Pop Peeper but this application is a notification tool and not a full-fledged email client which is the subject of this review. MC - Site Manager.

by doxallday on 27. August 2014 - 22:10  (118233)

The listed con for 'Opera (M2 Mail Client)' is not true. It is being offered as a stand-alone email client: http://www.opera.com/computer/mail

It's clean, responsive, and loads fast; wholeheartedly recommended.

by MidnightCowboy on 28. August 2014 - 5:14  (118240)

Thank you for pointing this out. Is now updated. MC - Site Manager.

by Crapton on 15. June 2014 - 6:36  (116774)

I am surprised NOT to find Windows Mail 8.1 (I use version 17.5...). It uses the Metro interface which actually is nice and clean. You can add IMAP, Exchange and GMail accounts, setup is very simple.

The amount of customisation is limited but really not much is needed. You can look at all your mail accounts one-by-one, not combined which actually suits me better, separating business and private mail. The mail list and preview pane are very clear and because of the Metro interface it uses the full screen surface.

And it is included in Windows 8.1, no additional cost.

by tlcmd on 26. May 2014 - 15:10  (116438)

One of the major problems not referred to in these reviews of email clients is the ability to migrate COMPLETELY from Outlook or Hotmail to them. I tried Thunderbird, but cannot move my email address book into it from Outlook or Hotmail. Are there any of the above products which allow this to be done simply as I am only computer semi-literate?

Thanks,
tlcmd

by Hengist_Ludd on 17. April 2014 - 21:18  (115769)

No love for nPOPuk? Might not replace a full-featured e-mail client but a useful supplementary for quick checks and at least some automated mail management. Small, quick, portable. Recent versions have useful improvements like the preview pane, and better filters, nearly good enough now to replace Magic Mail Monitor (and being in the INI file, they're more easily edited). Also filter boxes, so filters can automatically copy or move mail to permanent folders, etc.

by johnvk on 1. March 2014 - 3:54  (114720)

vivaldi.net webmail is one to consider.

the webmail (not pc client program) in myopera was pretty good. It was part of the whole myopera community. It went "out of business" as of 3/1/2014. Ie tomorrow ;) However the developers created Vivaldi.net; It is also a whole community. When i load their pages and watch the websites go buy in the lower left of firefox, i do not see many other sites go by besides vivaldi.net. In fact i just double checked now, and the ONLY website i saw go by was vivalid.net. Their servers are located in Iceland for, among other things, their commitment to free speech. It appears on first glance very open source mindset friendly.

Their vivaldi mail is a hosted roundcube program. I have found roundcube only meh. But free as in freedom is a big plus. Altho this is just a first impression, i dont really "know" the community.

The tech world is changing. There use to be "free as in beer" and "free as in freedom". Now there's also "free as in build a profile on you and sell it for ad targeting".

Some other notes:

vivaldi does not (currently) require a cell phone to register. They require an alternate email which they use for "forgot password" retrieval. gmail and yahoo both require a cell phone these days.

gmx.com is another "very free" email. It is very Ad HEAVY. From a couple hours surfing, it has mixed reviews. Gmx has the advantage that it does not (currently) require a cell phone nor even an alternate email address to register. Their "forgot password" retrieval is based on a security question.

by BrollyLSSJ on 8. February 2014 - 12:38  (114320)

There is a mistake in the DreamMail section. It does not support IMAP. It was planned / promised for version 5 (10 or so years ago was the First promise).

Sadly Foxmail does not support S/MIME. I also have problems contacting the developer (they seem to ignore my emails).

Maybe Zimbra Desktop is also a look worth: http://www.zimbra.com/products/zimbra-desktop/desktop-features.html . I haven't tested it though, as I am using em Client (slow start up).

by biggerabalone on 6. February 2014 - 1:31  (114275)

seamonkey is an excellent product that combines a browser with a free mail progam (like the older opera used too).

http://www.seamonkey-project.org/releases/

by biggerabalone on 6. February 2014 - 1:30  (114274)

opera mail is no longer a part of the browser and can be had separately.

http://www.opera.com/computer/mail

by The BlackRat on 31. January 2014 - 10:50  (114099)

M2 (Opera) is also the best choice for me. Although I found that the integration within the browser was great (I am sad that they do not give the option to keep it inside Opera Browser). The new version has a lack of customisation features that were available when it was part of the browser.
But it is extremely fast and perfect for me.

by zdravko on 23. January 2014 - 14:14  (113931)

Ok, is there anything that can handle all the correspondence with one person, incoming and outgoing, under the same folder?
I have Evolution. It has filters for incoming mail, but outgoing ignores it. Why?

by Asad Shah on 19. January 2014 - 13:42  (113724)

Anybody looking for a free, clean, simple and fast e-mail client would find Postbox Express as the right candidate. It is a 'toned-down' version of the well known paid software Postbox. I'm a very satisfied user and other friends might care to look at it.

by redbird109 on 15. December 2013 - 14:00  (112958)

I've used Eudora for as long as I can remember. For two reasons...to pull all my email addresses together and the mail they generate. But I loved being able to pull up the folders from Eudora into notepad or Word. Loved it. Do any of the email clients out there do this? Or are they only able to be read in the program the email rolled into?

by CyberAlex1986 on 27. November 2013 - 16:50  (112574)

Hey guys,

It's me again, this section along with many other unfortunately is very outdated, both on standalone client and web mail services, i think it is obvious for most that the main 2 web service for email are Gmail and Hotmail, let's add another one that is in no way falling behind the great two - GMX.com - great functionality, check this one out.

Personally i think in today's terms, when everything is "cloud" based there is no real need in standalone client such as Thunderbird or others, Gmail, Hotmail and GMX give you all you need (including online drive to store your files on - Gdrive and Skydrive + free online office to edit and view your documents - google docs and Web Office), BUT if you still want one, i'd recommend the same one i recommended here few years ago and is by far better then all the rest reviewed here, eM client. Yes only eM client, why is DreamMail still here? It was dropped long ago and no longer supported, or incredimail? Is this a joke? There is almost nothing good about incredimail, except cute mail themes and email notifiers, but nobody need these things anymore.

There are plenty of email clients for everyone to choose from: EmailTray - nice, Inky - liked it too, Foxmail - very light and simple, yet no support at all and a very poor English translation, Thunderbird - not bad, for Mozilla fans, basically all of them offer more or less same functionality.

Still, the only one you will ever need is eM client, great customer support, integration with Skype, Facebook, iCloud contacts, Hangouts (ex gtalk), it has everything you need in a great email client: Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, very fast search, Instant messaging, automatic archiving and advanced backup options, Password protection, offline work, customization, you can view your email practically in any way you wish, basically i consider eM client as an improved Outlook.

Definitely worth checking our,

http://www.emclient.com/

by Remah on 27. November 2013 - 20:55  (112580)

The main reasons I use an email client is to integrate the many email accounts I have, to integrate with other applications on my PC, and to allow me to work with email even when offline. I use cloud data storage to synchronize files across multiple PCs.

by MidnightCowboy on 27. November 2013 - 20:36  (112579)

@CyberAlex1986. This review currently has no editor so the content will not change until someone volunteers to take it over. Why not offer to do this yourself as you appear to have done most of the ground work for an update already? MC - Site Manager.

by Prof. Jewell on 18. November 2013 - 9:07  (112326)

Foxmail quick selection should probably be updated.

There seems to be a newer version than the one listed in the quick selection list

and

evidently there is now a portable version.

by dynamite00401 on 24. November 2013 - 22:31  (112515)

Thank you. I have updated our information. :-) I was not able to verify a seperate portable version. This release can be run in a portable environment.

by om2mo on 29. August 2013 - 2:48  (110382)

Please note that DreamMail is no longer being supported or developed.
http://www.dreammail.eu/

by dynamite00401 on 24. November 2013 - 22:43  (112516)

Thank you. Noted.

by shawnz on 14. July 2013 - 18:11  (109233)

Eudora 7.1 is the last full-featured, "professional" version (only fast-global-search function dropped but from all versions), and is now free for the taking. Qualcom hosted a community support forum for years, and that community is still somewhat active but scattered a bit now.

Maybe Eudora 7.1 should be evaluated and listed here. Even though development stopped in 2006 (or 2007 ?), it doesn't seem that any other email client has come close to the same utility. That is a striking anomaly, but maybe other communication apps are where developers now spend their efforts. Thanks to Qualcom for continuing to distribute the program. Too bad the code could not be unlocked for the the open source development project. Eudora OSE (aka version 8._) failed and should not be confused with the "professional" version.

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