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

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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 Anonymous on 17. December 2009 - 23:38  (38904)

TB 3 is junk. Asks for master password even if you don't use, and will not work without password that does not exist! Stay with 2.0

by Anonymous on 20. December 2009 - 5:12  (39048)

Pegasus mail is the oldest windows email system and one of the most capable and reliable. It does have its quirks - one of the hazards of pioneering. But for power and capability, nothing comes close for any platform. http://pmail.com

by Anonymous on 20. December 2009 - 18:10  (39072)

agree!

by MidnightCowboy on 20. December 2009 - 20:47  (39079)

I used to think that Opera was the best for an integrated browser but since more of the Firefox extensions have become available for Seamonkey I much prefer this. The only possible drawback for some is that the latest Seamonkey won't copy & paste text if you have McAfee Site Advisor installed on your computer for use with another browser. Strange but true.

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

by Anonymous on 22. December 2009 - 4:02  (39135)

I prefer SpiceBird....I know it is still in beta, but it is a nice derivative of Thunderbird that comes with the Lightning add-on built into it. Give it a try and post back your comments. It has other functionality built into it including Google gadget capability. I think Thunderbird should take a long hard look at what Spicebird has accomplished in design and functionality.

by Anonymous on 31. December 2009 - 4:27  (39874)

Dreammail is reliable, fast and easy. It is now being developed again and there was another update a couple of days ago. Works on Windows 7.

by Software maniac on 4. January 2010 - 21:40  (40263)

The mozilla thunderbird client wouldn't work on my pc

by MidnightCowboy on 4. January 2010 - 23:16  (40268)

Thunderbird works on everyone's computer, even those running Linux, unless some sort of system problem, security setting or misconfiguration is preventing it. If yaz wanna post a bit more detail here in the forum we'll try and figure out why yours wasn't happy.

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

by davy on 5. January 2010 - 12:33  (40318)

Same here,thunderbird 3 will not work on windows 7 64 bit.trying to write emails the text is all scrambled up.version 2 works fine so cant be 64bit problem./

by MidnightCowboy on 5. January 2010 - 13:49  (40325)
by Anonymous on 10. January 2010 - 17:10  (40788)

I have Thunderbird 3 running on 7 Ultimate 64 bit with no problems.

by rikmayell (not verified) on 10. January 2010 - 19:31  (40794)

Is it the 64 bit version? If so, perhaps you might to create a user contributed article and share it with us :)

Best regards,

Rik Mayell - Category Editor, Best Free Windows 7 / Vista 64 bit Software

by Anonymous on 12. January 2010 - 4:54  (40867)

I've used Thunderbird since 2003 or so but am growing a little tired of trying Thunderbird 3 every time someone tells me how wonderful it is. Testing with the portable version automatically tries to download and index the entire contents of my gmail account and there appears to be no way of turning off that so called "feature" and lightning, previously one of Tbird's most useful extensions, still doesn't work properly even after following numerous sets of instructions on how to sync the nightly build of lightning with gmail. The instructions do however tell how to make every calendar entry appear three times.

by Anonymous on 12. January 2010 - 23:39  (40918)

Dreammail beats them all, and is now being actively developed and updated.

by Anonymous on 13. January 2010 - 15:56  (40957)

Well like so many others, I have trashed V. 3. It is a dog.

Teemarsh

by MidnightCowboy on 13. January 2010 - 16:43  (40963)

Updated or not I believe that Dreammail is still without a spell check which for a lot of people (me included) is a major consideration. Please correct me if I've got this wrong.

by Anonymous on 18. January 2010 - 4:48  (41373)

Has anyone tried or have experience with Eudora?

by Anonymous on 19. January 2010 - 5:51  (41501)

Spicebird, nice remake of Thunderbird, very buggy though. will wait for a more stable version.

by Anonymous on 20. January 2010 - 21:03  (41623)

There is an option to have T-Bird only sync every so many days, or only the most recent emails. Poke around and you should find it. I had the same problem, but have now fixed it.

by Anonymous on 20. January 2010 - 21:04  (41624)

I have been using T-Bird for weeks now on Win 7 64 bit. There is also a 64 bit version. Google for it.

by Anonymous on 20. January 2010 - 21:13  (41625)

Works just fine with my GMail.

by Anonymous on 20. January 2010 - 21:14  (41626)

Me too

by Anonymous on 20. January 2010 - 22:10  (41631)

An IMAP account should not require "syncing"

by Anonymous on 22. January 2010 - 7:57  (41732)

your comment stopped me in my tracks, then i remembered TinySpell which runs in the background of any text program checking your spelling as you type. I tried it on DreamMail and it works nicely. http://tinyspell.m6.net/

I went through this list of email programs and about 4 more (perhaps 8 in all) and so far am sticking with Dream Mail. It doesn't try to be everything under the sun (like Thunderbird-calendar, task list+ tons of add-ons), it's just an easy to use efficient and headache free program that does one thing very well. Best features, Intuitive, downright easiest to setup email accounts, easy on the eyes, low resource use so i keep it running all the time, portable version, lots of cool templates to bring back the fun in email.

Tried Thunderbird, was happy for along time, till i realized i was spending more time managing emails than I was with the content.

by MidnightCowboy on 22. January 2010 - 9:50  (41734)

Thanks for posting this. I was actually aware of Tinyspell and had tried it with DreamMail but found it a bit limited. For now though I'm completely sold on Seamonkey. Apart from odd times using SRWare Iron I'm using both the browser and email components all day and can't fault either.

by Anonymous on 24. January 2010 - 15:36  (41914)

I've been using Eudora since the mid 1990's and currently use the last formal version that they released 7.1.0.9
Problem is that I am still to find an email client that comes even close to Eudora in functionality and certain features like attachment control that is important to me. I think I must have tried about half a dozen alternatives.... none have impressed me thus far :(

by Anonymous on 25. January 2010 - 13:11  (42017)

Try this new BETA release.

https://wiki.mozilla.org/Eudora_Releases

by Anonymous on 25. January 2010 - 15:55  (42024)

Basically it's Thunderbird ver 3.0b4, and I think that whilst Thunderbird is a decent product, it has a way to go before one could consider it a stable and mature product. I continue to watch Thunderbird closely.... but for now Eudora is still more robust and with a better feature set!

by Anonymous on 25. January 2010 - 22:33  (42060)

I loved Opera and swore by it, until I realized all my browsing problems were related to it. I was very sad, I really liked Opera, switched to any other browser and the sites worked, had to quit Opera. If they ever get the browser right, it will be the ultimate.

by Anonymous on 30. January 2010 - 19:22  (42432)

yes. using XP and the new version 7.01.09 refuses to start after the first time. have to re-boot to get it to launch. Have used Eudora for year and this is the first problems. plan to remove it as soon as I can find a suitable standalone replacement.

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