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, 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/
24.6.0
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 Anonymous on 5. September 2009 - 16:18  (32200)

WindowS Live MaiL!

by Anonymous on 14. September 2009 - 16:01  (32577)

Foxmail 5 violates RFC822 by sending user names, subject, and other message headers in raw GB2312 as a result can be marked as spam by anti-spam measures:

pts rule name description
---- ---------------------- --------------------------------------------------
0.1 FROM_NO_LOWER From address has no lower-case characters
4.3 SUBJ_ILLEGAL_CHARS Subject: has too many raw illegal characters
1.6 HEAD_ILLEGAL_CHARS Headers have too many raw illegal characters

by Anonymous on 17. September 2009 - 21:09  (32826)

Thunderbird has built-in thread support! Just head up to the menu bar, and go to: View > Sort By > Threaded.

I know, it's certainly not the most logical place to put that option.

by Anonymous on 22. September 2009 - 19:41  (33127)

There are "views" you can setup in Windows Mail to view "All Inbox" or "Unread e-mail". They are located under "Quick Views" and you can select form several different views. Makes reading all your email very easy regardless of which account it comes from.

by Anonymous on 2. October 2009 - 9:44  (33757)

Another free Email client is Pegasus Mail. Maybe someone wants to try it out: http://www.pmail.com/

by Anonymous on 4. October 2009 - 2:46  (33873)

Windows Mail should be in this list . Its free and works good .

by Anonymous on 8. October 2009 - 11:15  (34158)

Has anyone tried "Sylpheed",.. I haven't read any reviews and I'm curious to know how it stacks up.

by MidnightCowboy on 8. October 2009 - 12:55  (34163)

I tried Sylpheed on Linux and really liked it. Doesn't compare to my preferred client Evolution but then it's not designed to. For anyone just wanting a lightweight, simple to setup and understand program though this is well worth considering. I would certainly use it if I didn't have a need for the other features in Evolution.

by Anonymous on 9. October 2009 - 13:55  (34221)

Pegasus mail seems to be in financial trouble. Best avoid it.

by MidnightCowboy on 9. October 2009 - 15:16  (34224)

Can you provide a link to substantiate this claim please? All I'm aware of is this one going back to the beginning of 2007 so it would be good to see an update.

http://www.pmail.com/helpus.htm

by Anonymous on 9. October 2009 - 15:39  (34228)
by MidnightCowboy on 9. October 2009 - 16:40  (34230)

So, basically this is just a slightly more comprehensive re-write of the appeal he published almost three years ago. This is not unusual, and a situation which I'm sure the majority of single developers can identify with. Some much bigger fish have also sunk due to similar problems over this same period. I can't from personal experience say how good Pegasus Mail is because I've never used it but he certainly seems to have a strong following. Let's hope that he's able to build on the promises received so far to keep the project alive.

Thanks for coming back with these links.

by Anonymous on 12. October 2009 - 4:45  (34378)

Thanks for your advice Midnight Cowboy,..I guess that everybodys needs are different and what suits one person doesn't necessarily suit another. I've been using Thunderbird for a couple of years now with no problems but I like to look outside the square every now and again to see if there's anything better.

by MidnightCowboy on 12. October 2009 - 11:56  (34397)

You're right. I too was a Thunderbird user but always felt the resource use a little too high which on my previous system was a real concern. I discovered Foxmail at that point and then Evolution when I dual booted my new PC with Ubuntu. For me the layout of Evolution works with mail, notes, tasks, calendar etc., all in one place. I'd also use it on my Windows partition as there is a version available but unfortunately it doesn't support x64 Vista.

by Anonymous on 27. October 2009 - 20:57  (35329)

I use a desktop mail client to access my mail from home, and a really impressive Silverlight based mail client to access my mail from everywhere else:

http://silvermail.com.au

It is a simple mail client, ie, it doesn't have any of the bells and whistles... it is quite handy when checking my mail when I am not at home (at the office, on holidays etc...).

Simon Mailor.

by Anonymous on 1. November 2009 - 2:55  (35559)

have u heard that windows xp fail? and windows vista didn't work? the same is going to happen with 7, stop using this crap we are trying to have a real convertation about software that really works. Has escuchado que el windows xp no sirvio? y el windows vista fallo? lo mismo va a pasar con 7. Asi que deja de usar sus programas porque nosotros tratamos de tener una conversacion sobre programas que SI sirven.

by Anonymous on 7. November 2009 - 9:00  (36140)

hello MC

2 times I tried to install evolution email for testing but it will not execute

Appearantly it has a windows version , but somehow this cannot be ibstalled
Do you have any recommendations or hints, please?

Qeqe

by MidnightCowboy on 7. November 2009 - 9:15  (36141)

Unless you have a conflict with some of your system settings this issue may have been caused by the Evolution installer itself. I don't know how long it's been since you last tried this but the last two upgrades have both included improvements to the installer. This version is from July 7th.

http://www.softpedia.com/get/Internet/E-mail/E-mail-Clients/Evolution-fo...

by edward on 11. November 2009 - 3:19  (36366)

Mozilla Thunderbird all the way! The additional plug-ins that you can add to this client are very flexible! You can add your free based Hotmail and Yahoo web based accounts to Thunderbird once the needed plug-ins are installed. Top notch e-mail client!

by Zentracker on 18. November 2009 - 11:55  (36838)

I wonder if any of you experts can help. I currently use Outlook Express but have problems with stationary that I send to clients along with normal text.

When they reply the screen shows multiple copies of the stationary obscuring the text etc. Is this a known problem and how can I fix it? I read with great interest the review and comments regarding Thunderbird but again I need to import stationary into Thunderbird that I currently am using. Is this possible?

Thanks for any assistance and fantastic site.

by Anonymous on 26. November 2009 - 13:16  (37327)

Sylpheed is great! Truly lightweight email client w/o the Thunderbird bloat...

by Anonymous on 28. November 2009 - 0:02  (37443)

But Evolution is big. When it installed on my XP machine it took 240MB and then worked veeeery slow. Uninstalled it few minutes later. In Ubuntu it is my preferred email client. Strange with this windows version.
Piotr

by Anonymous on 1. December 2009 - 4:50  (37584)

I have been using Windows Live Mail for months without problems , works good in Windows 7 . I am just telling my own experience/opinion, this software has never failed me . I think there is much hate for microsoft products and I repeat again IT WORKS at least for me , no problems . Saludos.

by Anonymous on 9. December 2009 - 0:21  (38106)

Thunderbird 3 is out and having only been able to test it from a slow connection thus far, I'm inclined to say it does not work with gmail.

Thus far, it never finishes loading the inbox, it won't allow opening any of the other folders (labels), and it has a new tabbed interface and a couple of other features that take up excess screen real estate.

Is anyone switching to Tbird 3 and if so is it working for other people?

by Anonymous on 9. December 2009 - 3:17  (38115)

Source of these problems appears to be when Thunderbird fails to exit when the program is closed. It works fine once killed via Process Explorer then restarted.

by Anonymous on 9. December 2009 - 4:28  (38117)

Never had any issues myself. Works great, much faster than version 2. The only issues I have right now is 75% of my add-ons don't work, but I'm sure those will be updated shortly. Gmail IMAP works fine.

by Anonymous on 9. December 2009 - 13:13  (38137)

I'm not sure what you are talking about gmail works perfectly in thunderbird 3. thunderbird 3 i find has much better support for gmail than previous versions.

by Anonymous on 16. December 2009 - 17:35  (38815)

Thunderbird 3 too many bugs. Can't reply to senders only get garbage and then the text disappears. Then it happened when I tried to write new emails. Uninstalled it and will wait for a month or two until bugs are fixed.

by MidnightCowboy on 16. December 2009 - 18:50  (38818)

I've been using Thunderbird 3 since it was in Beta on x 64 Vista and now on Windows 7 and haven't had one single bad issue.

by Anonymous on 17. December 2009 - 20:52  (38898)

The BEST IS OPERA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i like OPERA !!!

Windows LIVE and OPERA = MAIL !!! lol

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