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

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/
24.1.1
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

 
Editor

This software category is in need of an editor. If you would like to give something back to the freeware community by taking it over, check out this page for more details. You can then contact us from that page or by clicking here

Back to the top of the article.

 

Share this
3.294575
Average: 3.3 (129 votes)
Your rating: None

Comments

by MidnightCowboy on 5. May 2011 - 10:51  (71454)

Do you not like how this development has progressed?

https://wiki.mozilla.org/Eudora_OSE

by Jeggerleg (not verified) on 5. May 2011 - 17:29  (71475)

Not particularly. I used one of the last paid for versions of Eudora which wouldn't work on Vista. I now mainly use webmail but work for one of the last firms in the UK which doesn't have broadband and so still use dial up and need an email program at work. It's there I miss Eudora as it used to be.

by MidnightCowboy on 6. May 2011 - 7:00  (71507)

Fair comment. I guess I've tried pretty much all of them and like browsers each has something but not necessarily everything that I like, plus these needs vary considerably between user types. I liked eM Client a lot but it's not exactly a light program. They keep telling me the account restrictions will be removed from the free version which supposedly is happening with the next program update (imminent). Otherwise I found Pegasus great if you need that sort of power, or Sylpheed for something more light weight. For myself I've kept coming back to Thunderbird simply because the backup (via MozBackup)has never let me down.

by DavieBoy (not verified) on 14. April 2011 - 21:56  (70208)

Foxmail does stupid things as well. If you can get past the installer and delete the language file - yes, it's in English. But replying means you don't see the previous mail. Also, although the new mail comes in at the bottom and it scrolls down it places the latest mail above the previous one. Fail.

Sylpheed. NO HTML display or sending. FAIL.

by DavieBoy (not verified) on 10. April 2011 - 12:27  (69899)

Here's something very straight forward that for some bizarre reason Thunderbird and now Windows Live Mail 2011 have decided to remove:

Autoscrolling to the latest mail, if your display is oldest mail to newset mail descending. This means when new mail arrives, at first glance, you don't see it.

Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail and WLM 2010 all included this originally. Thunderbird - No. There's no explanation as to why either - all you get are Thunderbird fanboys saying that you shouldn't keep your mail in your inbox. Why? It's my choice. Then told that one mail could corrupt your entire mailbox. Well, Outlook Express NEVER did this in YEARS of use. What does that tell you about the stability of Thunderbird?

OK, Thunderbird will show you the latest mail if I have newest mail at the top - but I don't want that. This is such a simple thing. Even Outlook does it.

Anyway - however, Outlook 2010 is by far the most convaluted, complex and unintuitive client that has ever existed. It took me hours to get it right. I hate it.

Yesterday I found EM Client 3. I only use a Gmail account and have found this an absolute pleasure to use. OK, limited to two accounts and it does append a 'sent from emclient' to the bottom of emails - but for the features and simplicity, this is WELL worth it. It autoscrolls as well. I'm loving how simple it is to import from other clients. You can export email in .eml format - which is generally universally recognised. Contacts can be exported a little more clumsily, but they essentially backup as .vcf files.

Nice calendar and chat all integrated. I would recommend, but I've only just heard about Dreammail, so may check that out as well.

EMClient is well worth considering if you want simple to configure, yet pretty powerful client.

by DavieBoy (not verified) on 10. April 2011 - 13:28  (69906)

I can just add to this -

Dreammail doesn't support scrolling down to new emails if old to new descending is selected...ie, new mail doesn't show at the bottom. Does show at the top, like Thunderbird.

Does import .eml files and .vcf - so moving from EM Client is easy.

Setting up Gmail POP3 was much easier than EM Client.

Certainly doesn't look as slick as EM Client, so will be sticking with it for now. Dreammail is well worth trying out though, especially if you have many accounts.

by MidnightCowboy on 10. April 2011 - 12:53  (69903)

Last month I received an email saying the account restrictions were being removed "within 48 hours" from the free version. I've emailed them again to find out what's going on. I really liked eM Client apart from the resource use and lack of backup. Backup is supposedly planned for the next version.

by MidnightCowboy on 28. April 2011 - 17:16  (71069)

Just to update my post above, I am now informed by eM Client that they decided to remove the account restrictions in the free version to coincide with the new release which is due shortly.

by rebelranger on 3. June 2011 - 4:52  (73139)

As of its release of 3.0 and after installing eM Client they put a mail in your inbox suggesting that you obtain a free license. Once you get the license and enter it in the program, it limits you to two email accounts. Otherwise this would be a stellar program.

by Jackson423 (not verified) on 3. April 2011 - 0:22  (69383)

You also might want to try TrulyMail (trulymail.com). I've been using it for more than a year and I prefer it over Thunderbird and all the others I've tried.

by DavieBoy (not verified) on 14. April 2011 - 21:54  (70207)

Don't like that - I want a straightforward client that I can use with Gmail, not have to setup with a trulymail account.

by mauler99 (not verified) on 30. March 2011 - 4:22  (68811)

I've been using Spicebird now for sometime. First came across it on a Linux distro I was testing. It is built off of Thunderbird, but I have found it to be more complete with calendar and such built in. I have not experienced any issues using Spicebird. Has anyone else tried this free program?

by MidnightCowboy on 30. March 2011 - 7:09  (68815)

This would be the key for me:

"This release brings in all the new features that Thunderbird 3.0 brought. Spicebird 0.8 is much more stable compared to the previous versions and has also improved a lot on the user interface".

Stability was poor last time I tried Spicebird but I appreciate the world has moved on since then :D

Thanks for the prompt, I'll take another look at Spicebird myself as soon as I get some time.

by MidnightCowboy on 30. March 2011 - 8:33  (68819)

Just having a quick look at Spicebird now (on XP). Extension support still seems to be limited. I used MozBackup to transfer by settings from Thunderbird and neither Adblock or Minimize to Tray will work. As a user, do you know of another way to minimize Spicebird into the tray?

by Wellicu812 (not verified) on 19. March 2011 - 12:08  (68171)

I have used Incredimail for about 8 years and have loved it until about the first of the year. It has worked flawlessly and in the last 2 or 3 months has started to crash regularly. I even had problems reinstalling it. The last time that I tried to reinstall it, it could not find any of the files. I had to install it on another computer and then copy the files to the original computer, then it would reinstall. I've had no other issues with my computer. It was a pain but I did not loose any email. However, it is back to messing up and crashing again after about a week. It has become unreliable and unstable which is what brought me here. To find a good reliable program.

by virginiajim (not verified) on 12. April 2011 - 20:50  (70066)

I'm in exactly the same situation and think having email in the cloud will reduce my backup problem. I have a Gmail account which may take care of storage but see reports of lost email, so wonder as to its reliability. My contacts were imported automatically, I think, but Incredimail messages can't be moved en masse, so I'll have to leave it in place for a year or two in case material there is needed.

by lyrix (not verified) on 6. March 2011 - 19:18  (67536)

Thunderbird is definitely one of the worst email client softwares I have ever used...

THere is no reason that firefox is good and many people use it so that some people would think that thunderbird is also good...

by Anupam on 7. March 2011 - 2:25  (67550)

And why do you say so, kind sir? :D
What are the problems you faced with Thunderbird?

by Dru (not verified) on 4. April 2011 - 13:42  (69437)

Thunderbird can easily be hacked into. No need for a password when all you have to do is hit cancel every time the incorrect caption box pops up. Anyone can still read your emails and everything personal. they need to fix this glitch.

by Keith (not verified) on 18. March 2011 - 13:35  (68148)

I am personally having major issues with Thunderbird on a 32 bit Windows 7 laptop. Using IMAP it does not read incoming mail. My 64 bit system (which is set up EXACTLY with the same settings, I compared) works fine. That seems plain stupid.

by Carolyn (not verified) on 19. February 2011 - 19:00  (66741)

I absolutely love Thunderbird, have used it for years. However, I recently lost everything on my computer and now even the ISP cannot reconfigure the reinstalled Thunderbird. That's a bit of a problem. My ISP has put me on Windows Mail, which is dreadful.

by Anon20110607 (not verified) on 7. June 2011 - 13:51  (73439)

perhaps you can copy settings from winmail to tbird, side-by-side?
(i think portable mail app would need the same connection settings as any other email app. but portable is easier to backup by regular copy, and perhaps using 7zip)

by rhiannon on 21. February 2011 - 5:23  (66820)

@Carolyn

Thunderbird is available in a Portable version - I use it on my USB flash Drive and back it up on my disk drive. It works very well - the only hiccup I've found is that the Portable version takes a few days to become available after an update.
-Rhiannon

by Jeannie (not verified) on 16. February 2011 - 22:47  (66568)

I have stumbled around with email clients for years, so particular I am. Until last year.

Once I got thru the minimal inconvenience of changing DREAMMAIL to English, I LOVE IT.
Handles absolutely THOUSANDS of emails, never screws up dates like WLM. Imports thousands effortlessly too. Color flags, has attachment and image support.
Multiple identities, exports to EML-TXT-HTML really well! Forget to say, I LOVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVE IT!

by RonnieJ on 20. February 2011 - 12:25  (66799)

I agree Jeannie.............I switched to DreamMail about a year ago, and I have never regretted it. I will not go back to another. I tried many programs over the years, but this one fits my style more than any other Email program out there!

by Picses (not verified) on 10. February 2011 - 13:28  (66129)

I think you should try Windows Live Mail.
Its really great!!!

by midtones (not verified) on 1. February 2011 - 14:56  (65626)

New version , Sylpheed 3.1.
http://sylpheed.sraoss.jp/en/

by Justfoundit (not verified) on 30. November 2010 - 6:32  (61809)

Outlook Express Fans, well we are back in business and for free, windows now has a free Desktop Version of windows live 2010, so head to the Microsoft site to download. It has alot of features including importing all of your email clients, rss feeds and so on and so on, i love it, yes!

by Anonymous101 (not verified) on 26. November 2010 - 12:51  (61671)

I am very, very surprised and annoyed that Thunderbird is included here. It is a HORRIBLE piece of software. I tried upgrading from Outlook Express (yes, I am one of those that still use it) and it did a horrible job of importing the emails (I had over 20,000). It was so bad that I deleted the program and went back to Outlook Express. The only problem I have with Outlook Expres is the 2GB size limit on an email folder, which is why I was looking at going to another client.

Yes, everyone seems to knock MS products but I have learnt that the reason MS products are used is that they work. I do wish they would create a workaround for this 2GB limit though.

One of my BIG beefs about any email program out there (including MS) is that NONE of them (or very few of them) allow you to export the email into other programs or formats. As though they think that theirs is the best or some other BS reason. They have the ability to IMPORT your emails but the other way? Forget it, without a ot of hard work.

by Russ (not verified) on 12. February 2011 - 3:07  (66222)

I use Thunderbird and all is well until you need to use their help. Help seems to be written by programmers if you get my drift. They sort of drop you into the middle of the answer and think you'll get the beginning. Like walking into a film that's been running a half hour or so. I know, open source etc., but come on fill in the blanks.

Gizmos Needs You

Gizmo's Freeware is Recruiting

 We are looking for people with skills or interest in the following areas:
 -  Mobile Platform App Reviews for Android and iOS
 -  Windows, Mac and Linux software reviews       Interested? Click here