Microsoft Outlook remains a giant of desktop email clients. It’s brimming with useful features revolving around mail organization, such as letting you create all manner of Inbox rules to help keep you on top of things, accessing and sending emails through shared inboxes, as well as those under-appreciated follow-up flags. But if you’ve recently given up on your Office365 subscription or have otherwise left the Microsoft Office ecosystem, then you’ll need to look for an alternative.
Luckily, there are plenty of good options out there for users ranging from casuals to professionals, and we’ve gathered our favorites for you here.
1. eM Client
Platforms: Windows, Mac
So long as you don’t want to have a ton of accounts at once, eM Client is a great free desktop email app with a distinctly modern and intuitive interface. It lets you view your email accounts separately or in a seamless universal inbox, and its clean-and-compact UI makes it easy to manage all your inboxes and folders in the left-hand pane. One of its more notable elements is the instant chat pane on the right hand side, as well as the dropdown Agenda/Calendar and Contacts list above it.
Where other clients tend to look and feel a bit “20 years ago”, eM Client feels decidedly of this day and age. It has a great dark theme option too, and the only thing we can really say against it is that the free version limits you to using it with just two email accounts (the unlimited/commercial version is $50).
2. Mozilla Thunderbird
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
The first port of call for most people looking for a swift alternative to Outlook, Thunderbird has been around for a long time and continues to impress. With support for an unlimited number of email accounts, tons of plugins and lightning-quick functionality, its place on the email client throne is well deserved.
Thunderbird syncs up easily with the major providers like Outlook, Gmail and Yahoo, but you can manually set it up to play nice with most IMAP and POP3 email services. While there was talk of Thunderbird flying solo from Mozilla at one point, it looks like it’s staying put with Mozilla for now, which means we should continue to expect big updates; the latest ones have integrated social media features like Twitter Direct Messaging, showing that these guys know how to keep up with the times.
3. Windows Mail
If you want to keep things super-simple while having a very pretty interface complete with background picture, then you may as well try the native Mail client in Windows 10. No, it doesn’t have fancy features like Office integration, inbox rule creation or the option to unsubscribe from mass emails, but if you haven’t been taking advantage of these features anyway, you should give it a try.
On the plus side, it’s extremely fast to use, syncs up instantly with calendars from other services (with reminders and calendar notifications popping up natively in the Windows notification area), and gives you glimpses of your emails in the live tiles in the Start menu. You can even pin specific inboxes to the Start menu, which rounds off an app that Microsoft has done a great job of seamlessly integrating into Windows 10.
4. Zimbra Desktop
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
A slightly less glamorous open-source representative than Mozilla Thunderbird, Zimbra desktop is nonetheless a veteran email client that’s continuing to receive regular updates many years after its inception. Zimbra has a decidedly more retro feel than other clients, but fundamentally uses the same three-pane structure and has a handy row of tabs running along the top that give you quick access to your address book, calendar and so on.
These features synchronize smoothly with their counterparts in big email services like Gmail and Outlook, and it also has full two-way sync with all the big mobile platforms, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble acclimatizing to it.
If you’re one of those Windows users who secretly envies those glossy interfaces and general slickness of Apple products, then don’t say anything. Just quietly download this email client which is inspired by Apple Mail. The “Lite” version of Mailbird is free, though the downside is it handles just three email address. But hey, who needs that many anyway, right?
While lacking the more advanced features of Outlook, it has some neat tricks of its own, such as letting you connect your Facebook account to sync up profile pictures and contacts, as well as integration with popular work platform slack and popular everything platform WhatsApp. Mailbird is an apt desktop email client for the social media generation.
With this assortment of email clients we’ve gathered for you, you shouldn’t have trouble finding one that suits your needs perfectly. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find that the online-only services suffice, and you won’t need any of these altogether. If, however, some form of local backup to your email is important to you, then look no further. What’s your email client of choice? Let us know in the comments.
This article was first published in Jan 2017 and was updated in Jan 2019.