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)

 
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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

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/
24.6.0
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
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

 
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 imnoexpert on 24. August 2011 - 20:58  (78299)

Hello k101,

Can I just clarify what it is you need to import, is it email settings e.g. server and port settings, or email addresses and contacts.

Regards,

imnoexpert

by Incredulous (not verified) on 17. July 2011 - 10:57  (75687)

Incredimail is a load of crap, it's data-mining at it's best - try getting your mail out of it at some stage into a safer client (which most other clients are)

I'm most surprised that Incredimail is even mentioned as it's a real pOs... you have a responsibility to your readers to ensure you are aware of the ramifications of your recommmendations. Don't promote something you are clueless about.

by MidnightCowboy on 17. July 2011 - 12:53  (75695)

We always take our responsibilities seriously. No doubt you can provide links to information about the allegations you are quoting so we can make our own assessment.

by imnoexpert on 17. July 2011 - 11:29  (75689)

Thank you for your comments, I will update the review to make it clearer to readers. I always research thoroughly but I obviously needed to clarify the article more than I did.

by kjohnny76 on 17. July 2011 - 3:02  (75663)

i am trying too get some feed back on aol web mail is it the best and what do you think of there software aol 9.6 can some one give me some feed back if you can plz tyvm

by MidnightCowboy on 17. July 2011 - 7:30  (75679)

Please don't bump the threads.

Posting your query in our forum is the best place to obtain a more comprehensive response.

http://www.techsupportalert.com/freeware-forum/general-computer-support/

We do not permit discussion of commercial products and services but you might get some feedback there from other aol users, or some suggestions for alternatives.

by kjohnny76 on 17. July 2011 - 18:23  (75709)

mc what im i doing wrong aol is free the guy said he was going too be putting web mail on this page too i was just asking others what they thought about aol web mail and what they think about aol software 9.6 which is free for high speed internet? im new here so if i did something wrong im sorry.

by MidnightCowboy on 17. July 2011 - 20:30  (75717)

imnoexpert is right and maybe I worded my own reply inappropriately. It's just that this sort of post often invokes an attack of spam for this that or the other service. The forum though is where you will get the best response to your query.

by imnoexpert on 17. July 2011 - 19:02  (75710)

It's not that you did anything wrong, just that the forum may be a better place as you'll have a greater range of people reading your question and not just those who are reading this article. My personal experience of AOL is out of date at present, but there will probably be those on the forum who will have more recent experiance.

http: //www .techsupportalert. com /freeware- forum/ general- computer- support /

I hope this helps.

by kjohnny76 on 15. July 2011 - 20:32  (75568)

DONT KNOW IF IM IN THE RIGHT PLACE TOO ASK THIS BUT WHAT IS THE BEST FREE WEB MAIL RIGHT NOW I USE AOL FREE WEB MAIL IS THERE ONE BETTER?

by Anupam on 16. July 2011 - 6:55  (75611)

Its a request. Please type in small alphabets. Capital ones are hard to read, and also considered screaming, in net etiquette.

by imnoexpert on 15. July 2011 - 20:47  (75569)

I'm in the process of updating this article to include Web Mail, AOL is still a good choice and quite popular. If you need it to deal with POP3 or IMAP accounts then you can also use GMail http://mail.google.com which is a good al rounder which allows upto 7.5 GB of storage, or GMX http://www.gmx.com/ which allows 5 GB of storage but you can have attachments of upto 50 MB in size if that's what you need. The other popular one is Yahoo, I haven't used this for a while but It didn't support POP3 the last time I used it.

by kjohnny76 on 16. July 2011 - 2:38  (75587)

SO AOL WEB MAIL IS REALLY THE BEST IT HAS UNLIMTED STORAGE PLUS CHECKS FOR SPAM & VIRUS? I JUST GO TOO THERE WEB SITE TOO CHECK MAIL. I WAS TOLD BY A SOME ONE NOT TOO USE THERE SOFTWARE I HAVE HIGH SPEED INTERNET SO IS THERE SOFTWARE BAD? AND REALLY ONLY GOOD FOR WEB MAIL TOO CHECK ON HOME PAGE?

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

Stop shouting, man. You were asked nicely previously.

by lydha (not verified) on 13. July 2011 - 9:52  (75380)

I´m considering switching from Thunderbird to eM Client. I´ve heard that it´s an outlook like but cheaper. Does anyone here have experiences with eM? Thanks

by MidnightCowboy on 13. July 2011 - 10:03  (75382)

The free version is restricted to just two accounts. Supposedly this restriction was being removed on more than one occasion but I see it is still listed as being in force on their website.

The program is heavy on resources but if you need a full featured client like this, then this is to be expected.

by Drongo on 9. July 2011 - 0:44  (75070)

This site has registry entries for making gmail work as default in Windows 7 so that when you click mailto links in other programs your browser will open to gmail. The registry files may need to be modified a little but they work.

How to Make Gmail your Default Email Program in Windows 7 : Sannsack.com http://sannsack.com/technology/how-to-make-gmail-your-default-email-prog...

by John Dignum (not verified) on 7. July 2011 - 19:03  (74964)

Thunderbird - I have been using it for years, and I love it dearly, but:

- if you receive an email with a PDF attachment and try to forward it, it doesn't work. The file becomes corrupted
- I've never noticed any other file format that it can't forward, I don't know what's so special about PDFs.

There are lots of suggestions on forums for how to cure this, all of which I have tried, and none of which works. I downloaded v. 5.0 yesterday - no change!

I use Thunderbird with IMAP mail only, on W7 64-bit (work) and Ubuntu 10.10 (home).

Anybody else hugely frustrated by this "feature"?

by Joseph Ferrante (not verified) on 7. July 2011 - 11:45  (74924)

I have been using Thunderbird for the news group access. Do the other programs offer news group access?

by imnoexpert on 7. July 2011 - 13:11  (74934)

Sorry I'm on an outdated browser here but the link below should give you the list of them, it has Thunderbird and Opera on there but not DreamMail but I think it used to have the option. Gmail doesnt, you would have to go through the Google Groups.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Usenet_newsreaders

by Mark H (not verified) on 30. June 2011 - 18:46  (74580)

I am running win7 64 bit. Comcast is my ISP I can send and receive email fine on their web mail. Every other program I try get email fine but will no sent.
I tried Seamonkey, Incredimail, Windows Live, Thunderbird. The error message I get in some form or another said server timed out or password not right.
Comcast will not help since their program works. I have tried to get help from the email clients and Microsoft with the same answers that don't work.
Can any one help with a fix or another email client?
Thanks,
Mark H

by MikeInGA (not verified) on 31. August 2011 - 17:25  (78760)

Had similar problem recently, that was solved by verifying that the servers were up-to-date AND the SSL set correctly. ISP had migrated and I apparently missed the message (if there was one). Be sure that Comcast is not blocking SMTP as AT&T does on their Uverse service.

by rhiannon on 7. June 2011 - 4:25  (73415)

I use Thunderbird myself, but some years ago dreamMail came along. I thought it was a good email program but it disappeared for awhile. It resurfaced earlier this year and is updated and available in several languages.

It can be downloaded (with a good overview of features)at Softpedia:
Download DreamMail 4.6.8.6 Free

by Caper (not verified) on 7. July 2011 - 3:42  (74900)

...i've been using dreammail for quite a while...great program...everything is kept in the install folder so you can simply copy this folder to a pen drive and use it on any computer you have access to....

by RonnieJ on 6. July 2011 - 10:54  (74847)

I keep trying Thunderbird with each new release. It is not too bad, but I agree that DreamMail is much better and easier to use. People keep bragging on Thunderbird, so I go back and try each new one. But I cannot seem to get comfortable with it like I do with DreamMail. To each his own...

by imnoexpert on 6. July 2011 - 11:07  (74848)

I know what you mean, I've tried Thunderbird a few times in the past. Like you say most of the time it's down to personal taste, even if it's got lots of customisation it doesn't mean it will suit everyone.

by MidnightCowboy on 7. June 2011 - 6:03  (73421)

I remember liking DreamMail too, especially the choice of templates included. Unfortunately no spell check which is a deal breaker for me.

by rhiannon on 8. June 2011 - 3:55  (73468)

I haven't tested in a very long time, maybe spell check has been added in?
No IMAP though. :-(

by MidnightCowboy on 8. June 2011 - 6:35  (73474)

According to the latest post I can find in their forum (5th May), they hope to have a spellchecker in the next release. If so this will be a huge boost because the rest of the feature set has been improved and added to regularly :)

by Wololo (not verified) on 12. June 2011 - 13:38  (73676)

I doubt that DreamMail 5.0 will ever come. He promised to release it on Christmas and then said Chinese Christmas. He did the same one or two years ago. DreamMail 5.0 has been announced in 2006. Though if it will come I will definitely test it. Now I am using Windows Live Mail and I like it (switched to it from KoMa Mail yesterday).

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