Managing emails at my previous job were easy. I had the enterprise package of Microsoft Outlook and MS Exchange. Outlook no doubt is the best email client but it’s also costly. Now that I moved to a startup, you lose all the corporate privileges. It’s highly unrealistic to pay $60/month for MS Outlook for personal usage. So, I was on a lookout for an email client app which could serve as the ideal Outlook alternative.
I had a set of requirements like foremost it should be free, allow multiple Gmail accounts, setup IMAP server, etc. Calendar, Chat, Meeting and Task Scheduler would be secondary options. But if it’s there, it would be cherry on the cake. So after trying dozens of email client apps for Windows, I stuck on to one of them. So, here is my list of best email client apps for Windows and plus the one that I am currently using.
Free Outlook Alternatives for Windows 10
1. Mail & Calendar
It would be an unfair list if I don’t include the native Windows Mail Application. For most basic users, the native Mail app should do the job. You can use multiple email accounts from Yahoo, Hotmail, iCloud and Microsoft Exchange servers. I was able to use 3 Gmail accounts so the requirement for multiple mail accounts was fulfilled.
Mail also lets you link the inboxes of multiple email accounts into a single Linked Inbox. Native mail can also pull up my calendar events and mail contacts. Although Calendar comes inbuilt with Mail I have to install People as an additional app to access the contacts. Moreover, you can also install Microsoft To-Do to manage reminders and To-Do lists. Apart from these apps, you have the Microsoft Outlook for Android and iOS. Mail can sync your settings with the smartphone app as well which is a good addition to have.
I quite liked the number of features baked into the free version of Mail. The only thing which bugged me was I have to leave the Mail Screen to check Calendar and my To-Do notes. Another thing was the UI, it’s plain simple which could be good for most of us. But, me coming from Outlook, I found it annoying that I have to leave the screen every time to view an email or write a new one. It would be helpful if the screen was divided into an extra pane which could serve as Reading or Composing space.
Some users might see ads into Windows 10 Mail app, although, this might still be in the country wise testing phase as I personally didn’t see any ads.
- Multiple email accounts from Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud, etc.
- Calendar, Contacts, and To-Do List support.
- Works well with the notification center.
- Android and iOS app sync.
2. Mozilla Thunderbird
I stumbled upon an excellent offering from Mozilla Foundation, Mozilla Thunderbird. Thunderbird is not only open-source but has a huge community of add-ons. These add-ons are similar to browser extensions which add additional functionality to the existing application. One such popular add-on is Lightning which adds Calendar and reminder support to Mozilla Thunderbird.
Apart from the add-ons, Mozilla Thunderbird is a feature-rich complex software in itself. Initially, while setting up an email address you can choose to set up an IMAP or POP3 client. You can also set up an SMTP relay server but that requires further configuration at your ISP and email service provider end. In case, you want a custom email address, you can do the same in Thunderbird. Choose a custom email id from the list and depending on the email address, you will have to pay around $16-18 annually.
Thunderbird integrates with Google Chat, IRC, Twitter, etc so that you can use those applications within. Now. all that is fine but what made me really like Thunderbird is the UI design. It is made around Mozilla Firefox. If you press Ctrl and double click on an email, it opens in a tab. This tabbed structure makes Thunderbird so efficient that it could put Calendar, Reading Pane, Quick Preview all under one window. Moreover, you can search anything over the web within the email client search bar itself.
I really liked the whole idea of creating an email client which behaves like a web browser. But, the UI still feels like it hasn’t been developed in a long time. It feels like Microsoft Outlook from 2012. All that said, the community tab of Thunderbird seems to be active and we can expect a UI makeover in the coming time. I so wanted to use this email client but somehow the user experience keeps begging me not to.
- Multiple email accounts from any email service provider.
- Calendar and Chat support.
- Huge range of add-ons to add functionality.
Download Mozilla Thunderbird
3. Zimbra Desktop
Jumping from one open source email client to another, I landed on Zimbra Desktop. Zimbra is built entirely on Java so you would require Java Runtime Environment 1.6 installed on your desktop. The unique feature about Zimbra is that it can function offline. In case you open Zimbra with no network connectivity, it lets you use the features and synchronization starts when it connects to the Internet.
Similar to Mozilla Thunderbird, Zimbra features extensions called Zimlets. You can download them from the Zimbra.org. They have some interesting Zimlets like Zimbra Bash Autocomplete which lets you run Bash/Shell commands in Zimbra or Zimbra Bulk Reply which lets you reply to multiple emails at once. In a nutshell, Zimbra has an active development and Zimlet support.
Zimbra on most part feels like an extended version of Mozilla Thunderbird. The UI is quite traditional and feels cluttered at times. Zimbra Desktop is the free open source variant and you can also upgrade to Zimbra Collaboration which is a whole suite of enterprise tools. I ended up skipping on Zimbra due to the same reason I had for Mozilla Thunderbird.
- Calendar & Address Book Support.
- Zimlets or Zimbra Mail Extensions for additional functionality.
- Offline functionality
Download Zimbra Desktop
4. Mailbird Lite
Amongst all the email client apps in this list, Mailbird Lite has the best UI and user experience. Mailbird is a lightweight client app that doesn’t stress the CPU resources. But, the look and feel can be entirely customized. The UI feels a breath of fresh air and if you are someone who is new to the whole desktop email client thing. You will definitely love this one.
Mailbird Lite lets you integrate with numerous third-party apps like Google Docs, Slack, Whatsapp, etc. There are 30+ third-party app integrations. Let alone the native Microsoft Mail app, I would consider replacing Station. The Station app is a messaging service which lets you access various messaging apps under one screen. My most favorite feature is the mail search by user name. All I have to do is hover over the profile and click on the search icon when it appears. You will be presented with all the emails sent by the user.
Mailbird Lite is the free version of Mailbird Pro. The Lite version has restricted features and 3 account limit is one of them. You can go pro by shelling out a one-time payment of $43 or $1 monthly subscription. Other premium features include snoozing emails, calendar support, and reminders.
I really liked the UI of Mailbird Lite and it could be an ideal email client app for most of the people. What I didn’t like are the email notifications. There are no quick actions when you receive email notifications. While the rest of the email apps give me the choice to delete or mark read an email quickly, Mailbird just gives me plain texts. Moreover, I am so spoiled by the Outlook app, I feel the free version is too basic for me.
- Clean, modern and minimal UI.
- 30+ third-party app and services integration.
- Linked Inboxes and quick user email search.
Download Mailbird Lite
5. eM Client
After all the chaos, I finally found the best email client to use on Windows. eM Client is the one I ended up using and I have a number of reasons why. First of all, it has the same Outlook kind of design. Mostly, every app in this list follows the same conventional email client app design. The reason is familiarity. Most of the experienced users love the email the conventional way. You can easily manage everything on one screen.
eM client gives me the liberty to use Calendar, Contacts, Task Scheduler all under one screen. I could go ahead have assigned a task to someone, set up a meeting on my calendar and reply to emails from one single screen. It also features a chat application which would only work if you have people using Jabber, Google Talk, IRC or Yahoo. Adding Slack to that list would have made it perfect but that’s too much to expect in a freeware.
Overall it’s a good communication app to have for your small startup. It lets you create distribution lists which saves me the time of entering each and every email ID individually. There is another neat little feature called DeDuplicator. It identifies duplicate emails for you and moves them to trash. It supports some 50+ languages and automatically provides you the option to translate the email. Other basic features include archiving emails, importing and exporting emails, setting up auto-replies, email rules, requesting read receipts, etc.
eM Client is an ideal Windows desktop client available for free. The only caveat is that you can use only 2 accounts in the free version. You can upgrade to the pro-variant by paying a one-time fee of $18 per user. Pro variant includes unlimited account, unrestricted translation of emails, etc.
- Calendar, Task Scheduler, and Contacts.
- Inbuilt Chat Integration with Jabber, Google Talk, etc.
- DeDuplicator and automatic archiving.
- Inbuilt Email Translator.
Download eM Client
So here is my entire journey of finding an email client app for Windows. If you are someone needs more of a communication platform, Mailbird Lite would be a good choice. Coming from Outlook, I stuck onto eM Client and I would recommend the same to most of the users. For fairly basic use, the native Mail & Calendar is the best choice. You can also try Mozilla Thunderbird or Zimbra Desktop in case you have to set up an IMAP client.
For any queries or issues, let me know in the comments below.
Also Read: Best Email Apps for Android (2018)