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.

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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, is in the web browser Opera. 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 built-in 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 support (no IMAP support, I'm afraid).

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. Another downside is no IMAP support, but overall Outlook offers a better, cleaner refresh of Hotmail.

 
Related Products and Links

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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/
24.1.1
21.12 MB-->Win32.exe
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

Thunderbird Extensions: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird
Webmail Plugin: http://webmail.mozdev.org/index.html
Guide for Migrating from Outlook to Thunderbird: http://opensourcearticles.com/introduction_to_thunderbird

v24.1.1 released 19 November, 2013
View the release notes here

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.

Opera (M2 Mail Client)
4.5
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Built-in spam filter works right out-of-the-box, easy and intuitive to use.
Packaged as part of the Opera web browser (cannot be run separate from browser).
http://www.opera.com/
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/

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/
7.1 BUILD 3.052
24.4 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

 
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Comments

by Bruce_Fraser on 5. September 2011 - 14:11  (79028)

FoxMail just went up to version 7 (as of September 2011): http://www.foxmail.com.cn/

This tip for how to get an English interface is from the Softpedia download site: "By default the Foxmail interface is in Chinese. To use Foxmail in English just go into the installation directory and delete the Chinese.lgb file."

by Anonymous Me (not verified) on 6. September 2011 - 13:41  (79075)

Incredimail once was something funny to use. But since about a year the situation became grim: instead of asking if you wanted to use their task bar in your browser they simply took over the browser without asking for your permission first. In fact all browsers (I use three). Trying to reset your browser to your own starting page was of no use, they use a system which secretly manipulates your browsers so they'll start up wicht the Incredimail search machine.

Eliminating Incredimail didn't resolve the problem, I actually had to reformat my harddisk and make an entirely new installation of Windows 7. Old emails cannot be transferred from Incredimail unless you make use of some shady programes for which you pay first and then hope that it will work. So I'll have to run a copy on a separate computer that's not connected to the internet if I need to look back at earlier correspondence.

In short: AVOID Incredimail like the plague! It used to be cute, but turned into something extremely nasty.

by Anonymous Me (not verified) on 6. September 2011 - 13:47  (79077)

I used hotmail years ago, but once I had to be abroad for periods of about 4 weeks on a stretch my account appeared to be completely erased when I came back home. I lost a tremendous amount of important mail by their malpractise, NEVER EVER will I use Hotmail again.

by imnoexpert on 9. September 2011 - 10:43  (79282)

Thanks for the heads up, I will take a look and update the article.

by imnoexpert on 9. September 2011 - 10:45  (79283)

I think there are pro's and con's for both GMail and Hotmail. The ads on GMail can be obtrusive which is why I mentioned it in the article, I'm in the process of updating all of the review and so I will be looking at as many as I can.

by Bobt_1234 (not verified) on 13. September 2011 - 18:04  (79543)

I'll have to try one of these. At home my son installed Eudora, which I don't particularly care for. For one thing, when you reply to an email it puts the reply at the bottom of the email thread after all prior messages. This is awkward and confusing for most people used to the "Outlook" way of reading email (replies at top of thread). I searched in vane for a solution, and all I found was a diatribe about why it's philosophically better to put email replies at the end. Fine for people stuck in the early 1990s, but this is the 21st century and everybody reads email the "Microsoft" way. I want a good freeware email client, but I want to reply to email the way I'm used to doing it.

by DejanS (not verified) on 21. September 2011 - 22:39  (80068)

Stop shouting, man. You were asked nicely previously.

by AJNorth on 4. October 2011 - 6:58  (80848)

Mozilla have released Thunderbird 7.0 (2011.09.27); it weighs-in at 13.8 MB.

by Beezos (not verified) on 6. October 2011 - 15:53  (81001)

Thunderbird doesn't support social media lookups like Outlook or Gmail. Doesn't look like anyone in the Mozilla developer camp is moving that way either. Not very future-thinking.

by Miez (not verified) on 8. October 2011 - 20:35  (81123)

Warning for Mozilla Thunderbird user. Your email password can easily be retrieved if anyone has access to your pc, whether physically or virtually.

My sister learnt this fact the hard way after her pc is corrupted and she couldn't restart her pc. Her password was changed once they access her pc, all of her email addresses are no longer accessible,and she had to change all her online banking information.

Your email should be secure, but Mozilla decided to show your password in real text with just one click. In most cases, losing your pc wouldn't mean losing your email addresses, but with Thunderbird, losing your pc means you have to change all your email.

by Jacques James (not verified) on 11. October 2011 - 21:33  (81258)

That is my current predicament. I can no longer access any hotmail accounts (I had only 1 for the last 12 years). I can't retrieve contact information. Hotmail is definitely not a tool for international users, world travelers, or expatriates.

by PatC (not verified) on 15. October 2011 - 16:45  (81452)

"DreamMail

"DreamMail is an email client that can deal with POP, IMAP and Web Mail accounts. It's User Interface bares a resemblance to Outlook but while its a simple layout there is a lot of functionality."

Truly stunning work. A three-fer, no less.

by Nor Liana Kamaruzzaman (not verified) on 19. October 2011 - 16:44  (81728)

Good day ^_^,

have anyone tried Zimbra yet?

1) Can access free Yahoo!Maill accounts without breaching protocols (because it is a webmail clients)

2) Once downloaded messages, they are kept even offline.

3) Folder made will become tage (in Gmail) and folder (in Yahoo!Mail)

4) Able to be download for Windows, Mac, Linux.

6) Neat applets..or should I say, zimlets?

The only downside is that Ubuntu never made it as default email client, if not it would totally rocks! XD

by Central Ohio Gal (not verified) on 24. October 2011 - 0:33  (82016)

I've used Incredimail successfully for about five years. The new issue, version 2.0, has completely messed up my system with their toolbar/browser--which I unchecked at upgrade because I didn't want them. You cannot export your messages to another program. And I have been asking for help for about 3 weeks now because the export contacts function has stopped working completely. Looking for a new program....any suggestions? I want an email program withOUT a calendar.

by George.J on 24. October 2011 - 1:09  (82019)

I'm not sure if the question fits in this category, but is there any way to forward multiple yahoo e-mails to another e-mail (and not just one by one). I was thinking of this because one of my yahoo account got hacked and I want to transfer all my important mails to another account....yahoo or gmail. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

by Sam Sultan (not verified) on 27. October 2011 - 22:10  (82267)

Surprised, but quite pleased that this important issue is being discussed for so long now!

I really need some help, for the past 3 hours, I have been searching for that particular type of customer service e-mail software which issues you a particular code in the subject line immediately after you first contact them, tells you not to change the subject line, and then the issue (usually) gets looked after by customer service agents of XXX company.

Just can't seem to find it!

Sorry if I posted in the wrong place, but I'm at my wit's end trying to find what apparently every big company seems to already have!

First time Google's let me down finding something!

Thanks for the help, all!

by Anonymouser (not verified) on 1. November 2011 - 10:15  (82522)

Also, what about the combo email/IM clients like eM Client, Zimbra Desktop, MultiMi, Spicebird, etc?

Any comments or recommendations would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

by Anupam on 1. November 2011 - 12:48  (82524)

This article is about Email Clients, and not IM Clients, so they won't be discussed here. For this reason, I have removed the mentions of those programs.

by dilligas (not verified) on 1. November 2011 - 22:13  (82544)

At one time T-Bird would let you broadcast an email to multiple recipients, as in new jokes. But, after I upgraded to the latest version it doesn't appear to work anymore. Where did I go wrong? Their forums and support pages haven't helped me.

by khitch710 (not verified) on 6. November 2011 - 15:04  (82819)

I have used outlook express for many years and I recently purchased a new computer with windows 7. The outlook express is not compatible win7.. I used the Windows Live email.. it is ok but when I receive an email with pictures embedded with the text the pictures will not display when the message is forwarded. I get a message before I sent it saying one or more of the pictures could not be found. I need an email client that will support 2 email addresses. Will thunderbird work for me and will it be able to transfer email from windows live to thunderbird... Thanks Kevin

by khitch710 (not verified) on 6. November 2011 - 18:11  (82825)

I believe Hotmail will delete mail if you do not access the account for a period of 10 days.. you can resign up with the same account name and password.. been there done that...

by saratlegend on 7. November 2011 - 9:48  (82849)

Yes thunderbird works for you.. It supports mutiple emails and thunderbird is a excellent email client. You can transfer your mails to Thunderbird from windows live. Just see this link http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?t=647703.
Hope it helps. :)
-Sarat

by Fiernaq (not verified) on 7. November 2011 - 16:23  (82863)

Does anyone know anything about Free Mail Commander? Not sure if the free version is actually free or if it's got some kind of gimmick attached but it's worth checking out at least. It can be found at "internet-soft dot com". I'll let you decide if it's worth even posting a full link.

by saratlegend on 7. November 2011 - 19:32  (82871)

Thanq.. I will check it out... :)

by Kurt Schaub (not verified) on 17. November 2011 - 17:37  (83441)

I have installed Foxmail 7 and I must say this is the best e-mail program I have ever used however there are few problems I have encountered:

1.If you import the mail accounts from a previous version then the In Box; will be displayed in Chinese characters. You can solve this problem by creating a new account with the same name and move the mails from the imported account to the new account and the delete the imported account.

2. Unfortunately in Signature Manager you can no longer embed a link in a picture as in the previous version. You can use a HTML editor to create signatures and save them in the signature folder of Foxmail and then change the extension from html to htm.

3.Templates can not be sorted for forwarding, replying and compose anymore as in the previous version. They just will be sorted alphabetically.

There are a lot of new features and the program is extremely fast and uses very few memory. A very good e-mail client. I have used Eudora, Outlook Express, Becky and DreamMail(problems with character encoding).

by Panzer (not verified) on 28. November 2011 - 18:38  (84059)

The E-Mail Client:

http://the-email-client.com/en/

by DocFallingApart on 10. December 2011 - 6:59  (84751)

I really think you need to take another look at Zimbra Desktop and eM Client. Both are e-mail clients not IM clients in my opinion.

I'm a Gmail user but I'm not a fan of the web interface. I don't think I'm alone in my preference of a desktop client for Gmail access.

I've tried just about every e-mail client out there. Zimbra Desktop and eM Client are the only solutions I've found that sync Gmail's email, contacts, and calender without a lot of work by the user. I think Zimbra Desktop's setup and layout are better then eM Client's, but I think both deserve to be in this review.

As for Thunderbird I really don't understand why it's so popular. It's a total pain to get e-mail, contacts and calendar all syncing with Thunderbird. Even with the different theme's I think Thunderbird looks very dated. It doesn't even have a good headers on the side with preview layout like the last couple versions of Outlook. A lot of people like that layout and most e-mail clients now have that option with Thunderbird being the notable exception.

I really think that anyone currently using Thunderbird as their e-mail client should at lest try Zimbra Desktop once. Setup only takes about 5 minutes so you really don't have anything to lose with trying it.

by saratlegend on 12. December 2011 - 7:57  (84868)

Thank you. I think I sholud update my article. Will do it soon... :)

by Raygreen (not verified) on 13. December 2011 - 16:17  (84954)

pls can anyone reconnmmend any free ams. webmail for me ?

by Joni Gudel (not verified) on 18. January 2012 - 13:14  (87348)

Sylpheed is another choice from Japan. It's simple like Outlook Express, but rich in features. It's developed for many OSes, including Windows. Take a look at its website below:

http://sylpheed.sraoss.jp/en/

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