Best Free Email Clients for Desktop

Old school email user like me?

I have a licensed copy of Outlook 2016, once I fire it up, the computer starts lagging like anything. I decided to switch (back) to Thunderbird which I had stopped using long time ago when Mozilla dropped support for it. I thought I’ll give a shot googling for any new clients that popped in last three years as well. Google welcomed me with this infobox:

Wait, Mailbird’s advertisement IS Google’s top suggestions?

I was surprised to see that the only free and comparable alternative to Outlook I came across are:

  1. Windows Mail
  2. GMail (…with a few tweaks)
  3. Good old Thunderbird.
  4. BlueMail

1. Windows Mail

Preinstalled – Freemium – Windows only

  • It’s free if you’re a Windows 10 User.
  • Interface is all colourful and can can be personalized to a great extend.
  • Can add any email ID without much trouble.
  • Might be prompted to buy Outlook for extended functionalities.
  • Editor with rich text editing options

Or in other words, app is suitable for those looking for a simple, easy to use email clients installable on Windows. The only other installable free alternative to this is Thunderbird.

2. GMail

Costs your privacy – Website – Web-based, Android, iOS

GMail can be used as an offline client too. Here’s how to configure GMail for use as an offline Email Client:

  1. You will need Chrome to use it offline.
  2. You can configure gmail to receive and send mails to/from other accounts you own in Settings > Accounts and Import.
  3. Turn on Gmail Offline.
  4. If you want an icon in Desktop/StartMenu, visit Gmail, click (Chrome Browser Menu) > More Tools > Create Shortcut.

I don’t have to tell you its features. Unlike Windows Mail/Thunderbird, it’s SaaS (Software as a Service) – you’re not using a real application, but a website and might have a little annoyances due to it.

Also, in both of the above solutions, you are choosing to give data from different email IDs to either Microsoft or Google. Being privacy aware, I’m not a huge fan of the idea. Anyway, most of our Email IDs end with gmail.com or outlook.com, so, doesn’t really make a difference.

3. Thunderbird

Free without any strings attached – Download – Linux, Windows, MacOS

Personally for Daily use, these are the only functions I need. But in case I need to go pro, I don’t have to install any other applications, it’s just there behind the scenes!

Note: Some website claims Thunderbird is no longer actively developed, it’s an old news. Good people at Mozilla have brought it back to life.

It’s like how Microsoft struggled to kill Windows XP and 7 – they were more stable than the latest versions that people still choose to use them. Mozilla found that Thunderbird is mature and thought it’s not worth investing more time or money (which they didn’t have too much) on it anymore.

But they were not wrong. Even without any major releases, with minimal fixes, Thunderbird remained the only viable, free, feature rich alternative that stood up to Outlook, for many years that followed!

I was surprised to learn that even today, there’s no free email client as customizable and powerful as Thunderbird. Other free clients like ClawsMail, Geary etc. looks ancient or lacks the power and extendability of Thunderbird.

Here’s why it’s still the best:

  • Still free
  • Lighter than Outlook – doesn’t lag the system, yet equally powerful.
  • Good people at Mozilla restarted development of Thunderbird.
  • Medium hard interface – but completely can be completely personalized. I usually just clean things up; disable calendar and other features I don’t use soon after install. That way, I only have to deal with minimal interface while other extensive features are just a click away.
  • Add-ons: As powerful as Firefox!
  • It’s the same across devices – be it Linux or Windows or MacOS.
  • It doesn’t belong to Google or Microsoft or any other data-hungry predators.

Well, it’s just that… there’s nothing to beat it still.

I strongly believe that there must be more mail clients, to compete with Thunderbird – it’s just that, if the competitors manage to pull the plug of thunderbird, we’re doomed! Also, a little healthy and friendly competition helps both the clients to better themselves.

I also added BlueMail, Claws etc. to the list, they say it’s free for home use. But I’ll leave it to you to judge. I also came across an new one, called Rambox, which again has a pro version, though community edition is free and opensource. It looks like a one-stop for all social needs (like good old Flock browser). Will update as I try Rambox out!

When it comes to the looks, Windows Mail is the winner, without a question. But for me in the tradeoff between features, power, customizability, I’d go with Thunderbird anytime.

If the list looks incomplete, do mention it in the comments below!

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