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

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

 
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Comments

by Anon20110607 (not verified) on 7. June 2011 - 13:56  (73440)

Opera touts their "no mailboxes" design. they use something like tags or filters. I can't give personal opinion of effectiveness, because when i tried opera's mail in opera9 era, i never get far enough to try this feature.
IIRC, I read of one other mail app that used the same "look ma, no folders" 'architecture'.

by jesydney (not verified) on 14. December 2010 - 8:35  (62443)

OE is THE BEST email client. I'm one of the thousands who is disappointed at meekosof for abandoning it. I like you hated thunderbird but... I've posted a real world use of em Client, paid version. below...

To overcome the 2g in OE, create folders and file them in its relevant folder. If you really cannot do this, then create a folder by year eg 2000, 2001, 2002 son on... Each folder will handle upto 2g.

For Outlook its a little more difficult because silly meesof dumps the whole lot, email/cal/contac/etc in one HUGH database. So to overcome this, create new database and move the emails into them. eg 2000 database will contain all emails in year 2000 including the sent items,, and so on... Now this "archive" database do not need to conform to the 2g limit but be aware if it gets to big and you have a bug email, the whole database gets corrupted.

The current tbird is as close to OE that one can get. It is very much open to user configuration. So I've made mine as close to functionality as it can get to OE.

Yes the OE to tbird import is horrible. BUT one way around this is to download Win Live Mail. Make sure you change the email store location. This will make it easier for the import process to tbird. Let WinMail import all your OE email.

Install tbird. Set up your email account. Also changing the location or take note of the storage location.
Once done, keave tbird open, open windows explorer, browse to your WinMail store. Go to the folder that has your email account. (Winmail store emails as .eml by email acc then by folder (Inbox, sent, etc) Once you see your .eml files just drag and drop them into the relevant folder that you would have created in tbird. Thats it.

by Russ (not verified) on 12. February 2011 - 3:08  (66223)

I wouldn't mind OE if it wasn't the target for every newbie hacker, spammer, junker etc. out there. I'd like it more if I felt I could trust its security.

by Wololo (not verified) on 28. November 2010 - 14:41  (61734)

Foxmail allows to export to eml (Outlook), msg (Exchange) and txt files. DreamMail lets you export to eml, txt, html and mht, but DreamMail still lacks IMAP. Hopefully DreamMail 5 gets released this year as promised.

by MidnightCowboy on 26. November 2010 - 13:24  (61673)

Although Thunderbird failed for you, it is included here because the majority of those using it will not wish to import 20,000 emails from Outlook Express :)

by pegpocdr (not verified) on 6. November 2010 - 22:32  (60834)

pegasus is good but is not working in non-admin accounts. (win xp).

dreammail is not working in non-admin accounts, but the portable i suppose does.

(thunderbird doesn't have server side filters, etc)

[Edit] Reference to commercial software removed

by Anonymous123 (not verified) on 6. November 2010 - 4:03  (60819)

You should seriously take a look at Evolution originally developed for Linux but now ported to Windows is a fantastic Outlook replacement. With Calendars, contacts, tasks, email and much more I think you would find worth a try:
http://www.dipconsultants.com/evolution/

by Phil K on 30. November 2010 - 0:31  (61798)

It doesn't work on Win 7 64bit.
Why did they bother to leave Linux then ?

by boristhemoggy on 28. November 2010 - 1:13  (61711)

With a 105 meg download? What on earth is in that program lol

by MidnightCowboy on 28. November 2010 - 7:07  (61721)

I'm not sure I understand the relevance of the download size (unless you're on dial-up) if the program does what you want it to.

I always used Thunderbird but when I switched to Linux not every distro I was trialing would support a new mail tray icon that was easy to configure. It was during this journey I discovered Claws Mail which is fast, light and highly configurable. This Windows port is 34MB...

http://www.claws-mail.org/win32/index.php

...or there's still the original Sylpheed-Claws at a fraction under 7MB.

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

Not as "pretty" to look at maybe as some other clients but then it depends on what you expect a program like this to do for you.

by Michael Mouse (not verified) on 1. November 2010 - 10:51  (60559)

I use Eudora 7.1 with 32bit and 64bit windows 7 and it works perfect I have been using eudora for about 20 years since i got my 1st IT job. I have tested eudora 8 and it sucks.

by Ribotto (not verified) on 11. January 2011 - 19:42  (64299)

I too have been using Eudora for that long...
Win 7 however, only a couple of days.
When I open Eudora options however, I get the message
unable to uninstall MAPI...
and cant access any settings.
Know anything about this?

by Scott B (not verified) on 24. October 2010 - 23:44  (60115)

I can't believe this article was updated just over two months ago and doesn't include eM Client or Zimbra, both of which are on PC Magazines "Best Free Software of 2010":
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2361886,00.asp

Or what about Postbox Express, the free version of Postbox, which is based on Thunderbird code but with better search, etc.

It seems the maintainer of the article is way out of touch with the current offerings.

Also, according to Wikipedia Foxmail violates RFC 822 (and 2822, 5322) by putting 8-bit characters in the subject and address header fields. The error can cause mail to be scored as possible spam.

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

I'd avoid it if you want to make sure your recipient gets your messages.

by sno (not verified) on 24. November 2010 - 14:16  (61615)

Agreed!

by Shawn (not verified) on 1. November 2010 - 15:36  (60587)

^ I agree - I use Zimbra personally - 1.0.4 seems more stable than 2.0, but 2.0 has the Meebo add-on - email, facebook, instant message, calendar, etc. all from one place, the only other thing you need is a web browser, and media player and you're set!

by mslover on 23. October 2010 - 0:48  (59965)

Anyone ever consider Windows Live Mail 2011, I find its pretty good though in some ways like add-ons lacking

by ClydeSnide (not verified) on 19. January 2011 - 19:52  (64869)

I'll make a long story short. I used Carbonite to save my Windows Live Mail contacts and email while I reinstalled Windows 7 64-bit. Both Carbonite and WLM seem to share responsibility for a complete botch. I had to manually recover all my emails - hundreds of them. WLM's Import function doesn't do the job. I'm not the only one having trouble. Have a look at:

http://windowslivehelp.com/thread.aspx?postid=CD8866C2-10E0-447C-9A65-7BEEA55B87FD#CD8866C2-10E0-447C-9A65-7BEEA55B87FD

and

http://windowslivehelp.com/thread.aspx?threadid=852b6828-db8b-4789-89f3-b1cb2cccecbe

My considered opinion: WLM sucks. And unfortunately my ISP, Frontier, doesn't support Thunderbird and very likely other email clients so I'm schweened - stuck with WLM. Thanks Microsoft. You still don't know how to make customers happy.

by Anon20110607 (not verified) on 7. June 2011 - 14:15  (73441)

Yours is the 2nd (yet) comment I've seen here saying an isp "supports" Winmail=Oe, but doesn't "support" Tbird.
They're both conventional email software. As far as the ISP is concerned, email is just smtp and pop (and maybe imap).. with or without 'authentication'.
Yes?

by dino (not verified) on 18. October 2010 - 20:15  (59709)

I was using Claws Mail (no spell check) for the past 7 months on Windows 7 64 bit OS. And I switched to Postbox Express for a week now. Postbox Express is the best email client for me with Windows 7 OS. Love the intuitive interface, spell checks, tabbed email browsing, quick message archives, message tagging, anti-phishing, quick search, able to receive HTML mails, ease setups and it is free.

by Zentracker on 14. October 2010 - 18:33  (59535)

Does nobody use Outlook Express anymore?

I have used it for years and it is OK but I am looking for a new email client which I can run my businesses from.

Needs to be able to support the use of email HTML stationary.

What are you guys all using for your business email applications please?

Thanks

by bazgee (not verified) on 17. February 2011 - 16:08  (66613)

Try IncrediMail...

by Al (not verified) on 9. February 2011 - 1:22  (66063)

For business you might consider Outlook rather than Outlook Express as they are very different and have different capabilities. Outlook is not a free email client, but may come free with Office and maybe other programs. I did not know how many more things it can do than Outlook Express. Outlook Express is just a sub-part of Internet Explorer and Outlook is a complete program with client list, calendar, search capable, etc., etc.,and to my estimation is much more capable for business than Outlook Express. I seem to have problems trying to convert to IMAP in O. Express. I tried the latest 8 Eudora, and like others here, find it difficult or a bit difficult to configure, etc..
Someone should create a companion Email client to go along with Open Office 3.1 which would do what Outlook can do! Naahh, Bill Gates probably wouldn't like that at all.

by kgw (not verified) on 23. September 2010 - 18:16  (58318)

Do NOT trust Thunderbird. I had uninstalled it and it left behind a 1 gig file of every email I had deleted!

by dabrar (not verified) on 14. October 2010 - 13:49  (59517)

I am not a Thunderbird user for it is lacking in many of the features I've come to expect in a well-rounded e-mail client. My preference is Pegasus Mail, as near perfect an e-mail client as I've ever used, and I've used it for many years. I often wonder why it rarely appears in most freeware listings.

by Wololo (not verified) on 12. September 2010 - 20:32  (57714)

I would like to see a test of incredimail (though it seems it adds ads to every email sent).

by harry (not verified) on 9. September 2010 - 21:32  (57542)

is there any program which autamatically filters the messages as you have created filters in your email account???

by MarianGB (not verified) on 11. November 2010 - 7:34  (61026)

Yes, Eudora 7 filters your incoming (or received) messages, and transfers them to designated folders ("mailboxes"). It is free and runs on most Windows systems.

by MarianGB (not verified) on 11. November 2010 - 7:40  (61027)

Apologies - I gave my email address wrong. It needs "06" (for the year 2006) before the @.

by Super2cool on 6. September 2010 - 22:59  (57369)

I have found PoP peeper to be the best for me. Its is outrageously simple and useful.

by rKAnjEL on 30. September 2010 - 9:51  (58705)

poppeeper is NOT an email client, it's merely a pop3 checker albeit a good one.

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