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Despite how far web-based email clients have come, nothing can beat the speed and convenience of one that sits natively on the desktop. Unfortunately, Linux doesn’t have access to some of the more feature-rich clients out there like Outlook Become a Pro Outlook User By Avoiding Common Mistakes Become a Pro Outlook User By Avoiding Common Mistakes If you work in a typical office environment, the odds are pretty good that the mail system is an Exchange sever and that the mail client of choice is Outlook. We've covered Outlook here at... Read More and Postbox Postbox 3: Top Quality Email Client for Windows and Mac [Giveaway] Postbox 3: Top Quality Email Client for Windows and Mac [Giveaway] We’ve done Postbox 3 giveaways in the past, but here we go with another one because it’s that good. Postbox 3 is available for $9.95 for Windows XP, Vista, 7 as well as Mac OS... Read More .

Ever since I started using Linux as my main system, I’ve been on the lookout for the perfect program to keep my emails organized 6 Ways To Reclaim Your Email Inbox 6 Ways To Reclaim Your Email Inbox Is there anything else that’s as useful, prevalent, and frustrating as an email inbox? It’s been around forever and we keep using it, and as long as we keep using it, people like me will... Read More and to keep me productive How To Email Like A Pro How To Email Like A Pro There are a lot of factors that play into email efficiency – not just writing the emails, but setting up the inbox, managing emails, knowing when to check emails, and more. Boosting email efficiency means... Read More . My conclusion? Linux email clients still lag behind Windows and Mac, but the gap is closing.

Here are some of the better ones I’ve found. If you have any history with Linux, these likely won’t surprise you one bit.

Thunderbird

The world collectively sighed when Mozilla announced back in 2012 that it would stop adding new features to Thunderbird. At the time, Thunderbird was the most popular open source email client in the world; since then, the Thunderbird brand has lost a good chunk of its relevance.

But Thunderbird isn’t dead. There have been periodic maintenance updates that have patched security holes and fixed stray bugs and the next big release is slated for May 2015.

linux-email-clients-thunderbird

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Despite not getting any new features over the past few years, Thunderbird is still pretty good when compared to what else is available. It has kept its straightforward interface, which looks a bit dated today, but it definitely gets the job done, so I don’t have too many complaints on that front.

The program itself is easy to use. I’ve never had any trouble setting up an email account. In fact, Thunderbird is smart enough to auto-detect certain email account settings so you don’t have to go through the hassle of inputting everything by hand.

But most of all, Thunderbird is fast 9 Ways To Make Thunderbird Load Your Email Faster 9 Ways To Make Thunderbird Load Your Email Faster If you asked anyone for the first words that comes to mind when they think of me, they'd probably say laid back. I really don't get very uptight unless something really, really ticks me off.... Read More . When you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of emails every day, speed is a primary concern – and this email client delivers.

Thunderbird supports multiple accounts without restriction or limitation. It’s fast, feature-complete, and if you aren’t happy with what it can do out of the box, you can always install third-party addons 5 Thunderbird Add-Ons That Will Make it Better Than Gmail 5 Thunderbird Add-Ons That Will Make it Better Than Gmail For many years, I switched between a whole range of email clients. First I went with Outlook Express. Then I bought a new computer and decided to test the waters with Thunderbird. Once Gmail became... Read More just like you would in Firefox.

Evolution

Evolution has some interesting history behind it. It began in 2000 as an email client by Ximian for corporate Linux users – a tiny niche in the grand scheme of business – but was picked up and dropped by several different organizations over its lifetime, including Novell, SUSE, and Red Hat.

Despite its rocky past, Evolution now shines as one of the better Linux clients available, even better than Thunderbird. In fact, most GNOME-based flavors of Linux Distro Watch: The Best Linux Distributions For 2014 Distro Watch: The Best Linux Distributions For 2014 We're halfway through 2014, and a handful of Linux distributions have already made a big splash in the community. Which distributions are the best ones for this year? Let's take a look. Read More come equipped with Evolution as the default email client because of its superiority.

linux-email-clients-evolution

What I like about Evolution is that it has an interface that resembles the big name email clients – Thunderbird, Outlook, Postbox, and their ilk – and presents all the necessary information you need, but keeps it simple enough that you don’t feel overwhelmed.

On top of all the basic email features that you’d expect from an email client, like filters, encryption, and contact management, Evolution comes with a built-in full-featured calendar that integrates with Google Calendar How To Synchronize Your Gmail, Google Calendar, And More With Your Linux Computer How To Synchronize Your Gmail, Google Calendar, And More With Your Linux Computer A good number of users highly value the services provided by Google, including emails, calendars, tasks, documents, and so much more. But Linux users also love their desktop applications, and how they often integrate very... Read More and iCalendar.

All in all, Evolution works. It may not be as polished or pretty as its commercial competitors on other operating systems, but it works and that’s the most important thing.

Geary

The only reason I even know about Geary is because I recently switched from Windows to ElementaryOS Why I Switched From Windows 7 To Elementary OS Luna Why I Switched From Windows 7 To Elementary OS Luna Bye bye, Windows. Hello, Linux! Here's what convinced me that eOS Luna is a better bet than Windows 7. Read More . I have absolutely no regrets about making the switch and I don’t think I would feel that way if it weren’t for Geary being the default email program in this flavor of Linux.

I should mention that I’m using ElementaryOS Luna, which is the stable version built on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. Unfortunately, that means that I only have access to Geary 0.4.2 whereas the latest stable version is Geary 0.8.3, which won’t be available until ElementaryOS Freya is released.

That being said, even though I’m running an older Geary build, I still find it preferable to both Thunderbird and Evolution.

linux-email-clients-geary

First of all, the interface is sleek and modern and the one that most resembles the interface of my preferred Windows email client, Postbox. It’s simple enough that it doesn’t get in the way but aesthetic enough that I don’t feel like I’m using an email client from the last decade.

With Geary, account setup is automatic, quick, and painless. It currently lacks any kind of built-in calendar integration, but you can use a separate calendar program called California, which is being developed by the same team that drives Geary development.

Sylpheed

Maybe you don’t want a corporate-ready email client that’s packed with features left and right. Maybe all you want is a classic, lightweight, pure email client that does one thing and does it well: keeping up with your electronic correspondence. For that, you’ll want Sylpheed.

Sylpheed is about as lightweight as it gets without feeling incomplete or lacking in features, at least as far as email software on Linux is concerned. Unfortunately, this means that the visuals don’t pack much of a punch either.

linux-email-clients-sylpheed

As with most modern clients, Sylpheed comes in the two most common interface layouts – horizontal and vertical arrangements of three separate panels: 1) account folders, 2) inbox list, and 3) email body. Beware that the email body panel is stripped down to barebones, which could be “too boring” for some.

Performance is Sylpheed’s biggest selling point. According to the creator, this client can handle folders with over 20,000 individual emails without any slowdown whatsoever. Stability and reliability of data are Sylpheed’s foremost concerns.

Other clients might be prettier, but if you primarily need speed and security and you’re willing to sacrifice some visual flare, then Sylpheed should be right up your alley.

Which Email Client Reigns Supreme?

Honestly, I don’t think there’s a clear winner. Each one has admirable qualities and each one is going to appeal to a different kind of email user. My personal choice is Geary for its nice balance of performance and appearance with Evolution as a runner-up choice.

No matter which email client you pick, remember to practice secure email habits 7 Important Email Security Tips You Should Know About 7 Important Email Security Tips You Should Know About Internet security is a topic that we all know to be important, but it often sits way back in the recesses of our minds, fooling ourselves into believing that "it won’t happen to me". Whether... Read More and check out these tips for email productivity 10 Tips To Help You Email More Efficiently 10 Tips To Help You Email More Efficiently The best advice I have heard about email and email productivity is – don’t answer emails first thing in the morning. It is a bit paradoxical but true that email and productivity are at loggerheads... Read More .

Which client do you like best? Are there any email client contenders that I missed? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

 

  1. CubicleNate
    August 17, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Outlook isn't as feature rich as the KDE Personal Information Management Suite, Kontact. Kontact is somewhat resource heavy, as far as a Linux application goes, but is far better than what Outlook has going for it. Outlook locks you into only using Exchange servers for calendar collaboration, Kontact, thru Korganizer gives you a multitude of options.

    All that said it's not fair to compare any of these email clients with Outlook or Kontact, for that matter, because their scope is far different. Comparing feature by feature in respect of email clients only would be more fair to include just the email client portion of Outlook and I suppose Kmail if that was of any interest to you.

    Great article, otherwise, and quite informative on alternate light weight clients, which is what I'm looking for to put on a low spec machine. Sylpheed will be the one I try first.

  2. JAK
    June 27, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    I use my phone companies ISP and create a shortcut (from the Chromium browser) onto the desktop. I don't care for Thunderbird even though it configured the ISP automatically. The other listed apps I tried but had problems connecting.

  3. donald thomson
    January 26, 2016 at 11:26 am

    linux dont have feature-rich clients out there like Outlook

    what is this ???? this is one of the many reasons i got rid of window ####
    and never going back i tend to forget how bad it is until one of the family
    bring the computer over for repairs i just dont know how anyone can use
    windows and outlook well ???? this page not enough room

    speedyd

  4. beos
    January 10, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    Evolution all the way... it integrates beautifully both with my private Gmail and with my Exchange account at work, with calendar and all. Also smooth integration with OpenPGP to send signed or encrypted messages. It's a great piece of SW.

  5. Zebediah Boss
    December 23, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Geary... Superb :)
    never tried it before always been a Thunderbird person when using linux... not anymore

    • Joel Lee
      December 23, 2015 at 9:54 pm

      That's how I felt when I first tried Geary! Geary still has a few quirks but overall, it's still my preferred email client on Linux. :D

  6. DPresley
    March 1, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    I use Claws Mail. Its similar to Sylpheed in that its lightweight and fast, but it's format is primarily text-based -- like the original Eudora mail client. There are extensions available for the client to display HTML content, virus scanning and spam control.

    • Joel
      March 3, 2015 at 2:29 am

      Claws Mail works well enough but there are a few quirks that turned me off. I guess it's just a matter of taste? I've heard a lot of mixed opinions about it too, but if you like it, I won't try to convince you to switch. :)

  7. Dan
    February 28, 2015 at 11:59 am

    I have used pretty much the same Thunderbird profile since v. 3.xx. I have saved and exported it from Windows to Linux whenever I change OSes. Before then I've used Sylpheed on Windows (though never on Linux). I've also tried Opera Mail, eM Client, Claws, and DreamMail. On Linux I've only used TBird and Evolution.

    (My first client on Windows back in the dial-up days were Pegasus Mail and Eudora.)

    • Joel
      March 3, 2015 at 2:27 am

      The shared Thunderbird profile between Windows and Linux is actually a great point that I hadn't considered. Could be really useful for people who dual boot between the two. Thanks Dan!

      • Con Hennekens
        June 11, 2015 at 8:21 am

        That is a great feature indeed, and I used it a lot. But nowadays it looks like TB is disintegrating. Smartfolders leaves some accounts unseen, an lightyear calendar is quirky. Integration with google accounts is failing more often, and integration with exchange simply is not there, TB is loosing it's appeal rather quickly...

    • Con Hennekens
      June 11, 2015 at 8:18 am

      eM Client is the only one that integrates mail, contacts and calendar completely with Google, Imap and Exchanges account as well. It is a super pitty that it isn't available for Linux... This is a real Outlook killer!

  8. LeFrench
    February 28, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Geary all day everyday!

    Also if Mailbird is awesome mail platform for windows users. Really hope they will release it for Linux.

    • Joel
      March 3, 2015 at 2:26 am

      There are a lot of cool Windows programs that I wish would get ported to Linux, haha!

  9. Jade
    February 28, 2015 at 4:58 am

    I like Mutt or Icedove. Thunderbird recommends proprietary and non-free software (Add-ons), whilist Icedove doesn't. Mutt is also a useful terminal e-mail client.

    • Joel
      March 3, 2015 at 2:26 am

      Nice, I didn't know about Icedove. As for command line email, I shudder at the idea. :P

  10. n
    February 27, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    I am really hoping Opera get their asses in gear and release their Mail application for Linux soon, I'm looking to switch from Thunderbird.

    • Tinkicker
      February 28, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      There's a lot I've been waiting on Opera to do...or get back to doing.

    • Joel
      March 3, 2015 at 2:24 am

      Thanks for reminding me about Opera. I'd love to start using their built-in mail client if it ever gets released! Haven't tried Opera on Linux yet. Maybe now's the time?

  11. David Darr
    February 27, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    No mention of Kmail? Greatly integrated into the KDE desktop. Very Powerful and customizable e-mail client.

    • Joel
      March 3, 2015 at 2:20 am

      I gave KMail a few test runs but ran into a few issues that gave me a headache. I'm not sure if it was KDE-related (I'm running ElementaryOS with GNOME) but I had similar issues with Kontact, which is why neither KMail nor Kontact appear on this list.

      However, I've heard that KDE users do like KMail so perhaps I should've made an honorable mention for it. :)

  12. likefunbutnot
    February 27, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    I use Thunderbird on every platform on which it is available. It's function-complete and new features are mostly provided through its addons. It handles IM to the extent that I need it and its data format is the same one my Linux machines use for their native mail spool, which makes manipulating all my email much easier.

    I particularly appreciate that Thunderbird doesn't assume that I want to write in incorrect reply-before-quote (often found in Microsoft email software) rather than proper inline reply style and doesn't have the GMail inflicted threaded messages disease.

    • Tinkicker
      February 28, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      Those threaded messages can be turned off... https://wiki.umbc.edu/plugins/servlet/mobile#content/view/1867916

    • Joel
      March 3, 2015 at 2:23 am

      I figured you'd be a Thunderbird user, likefunbutnot. Don't ask me why I thought that; it just fits. But hey, Thunderbird is a great client and I'd be using it myself if it had Geary-like conversation threading.

  13. JonGl
    February 27, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    I liked Sylphead because it didn't view HTML in app. I could open up emails with impunity. ;-) And if I could see that I needed to see formatting or if an email didn't show right, and was something I wanted to read, it'd open in my browser. However, I missed my Apple Mail, and eventually Hackintoshed my way back to OSX. (I also missed some other Mac-only apps, like Keynote)

    But now, I stick with Google's Inbox interface, and it's all web for me (and InBox app on my phone)

    • Joel
      March 3, 2015 at 2:18 am

      The no-HTML-in-app was bothersome for me but I can see why it'd be a desirable feature. Also interesting that you went from a desktop client back to a web interface. Do you have multiple accounts? If so, how do you juggle them? If not, I guess the web interface would be fine. :)

    • JonGl
      March 3, 2015 at 8:11 am

      Joel-I have an IMAP with webaccess and server-side rules and iCloud. I simply set up server side rules on both to forward all email to my gmail address. I am able to reply via both email addresses from within InBox, so that is how it works for me. I also have a bunch of minor email addresses (for web sites and groups I nurse) and those just come into my Mail.app, but I only open that app a couple times a week, do what needs to be done (if anything) and quit the app again.

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