Outlook: free alternatives at a glance

Many users choose Outlook as their e-mail client and PIM (personal information manager). As a component of the Microsoft Office suite, it is often a standard solution (in connection with the Microsoft Exchange Server) for businesses. Many freelancers and small companies cannot afford solutions intended for large businesses, but there are numerous e-mail management programs that are available for free.

Thunderbird

Mozilla’s e-mail client Thunderbird is the most common Outlook alternative for both private and commercial use. The basic version of this program is streamlined and has all the most important features. As well as being free of charge, this open source solution has numerous add-ons. The e-mail program can be expanded with modules that allow users to manage meetings and tasks. Here are the advantages of Thunderbird at a glance:

Pros of Thunderbird Cons of Thunderbird
Available for Windows, Linux, and Mac Does not include calendar or task list function by default
Encryption possible Configuration of some security features difficult
RSS feed management possible Inefficient at showing related messages
Clear structure Less features offered so extensions need to be installed
Practical functions for message management and categorization Search function isn’t very fast

Windows Live Mail

Unlike Outlook, Window’s Live Mail is free. With its range of functions similar to those of Thunderbird, this alternative stands out with its clear and simple design. Using Windows Live Mail means you also have access to other Microsoft services. Live Mail is essential for users with Windows 7 and beyond since Microsoft’s current operating systems no longer include the simple, pre-installed e-mail program, Outlook Express.

Pros of Windows Live Mail Cons of Windows Live Mail
Available for Windows Last updated in 2014 and has now been discontinued
Adjustable spam filter Difficulties when working offline
RSS feed integration Doesn’t support PGP
Calendar feature Doesn’t support TLS

SeaMonkey

SeaMonkey presents an all-round solution for office communication. It also includes an HTML editor as well as a browser, e-mail, and chat client. Mail organization is carried out via instructions defined by the user and further features such as flexible sorting and visual highlighting are also available. The encryption is handled according to S/MIME.

SeaMonkey e-mail client Cons of SeaMonkey
Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux Not many extensions available
Receipt confirmation User interface slightly outdated
Digital signature Browser’s startup speed is sluggish
LDAP directory service integration Not suitable for highly complex projects
Customizable spam filter Page composer lacks some of the more helpful tools that a standalone editor offers
Management of multiple accounts possible  

Opera Mail

A few years ago Opera Mail was only available as part of the browser; now, however, it can be downloaded as a separate program. The structure is simple, and all-important basic functions are accessible via an intuitive user interface. The connection occurs either via POP3/SMTP or via IMAP4/SMTP. In contrast to SeaMonkey, Opera Mail enables users to activate the transport encryption directly with SSL/TLS.

Pros of Opera Cons of Opera
Available for Windows and Mac Doesn’t support PGP
Good and clear structure Is less intuitive that its previous web application
Various views available Doesn’t offer many personalization options
Portable version available  
Management of RSS feeds possible  

Evolution

Evolution is a free e-mail and groupware program that is relatively popular among Linux users as an alternative to Outlook. It supports the important features that Outlook has to offer: besides managing e-mail traffic, you can also organize contacts, meetings, tasks, and memos. The encryption occurs using PGP as well as S/MIME. Evolution is also suitable for professional use as it supports collaboration servers and the Microsoft Exchange Server.

Pros of Evolution Cons of Evolution
Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux Doesn’t offer flexible message templates
Adaptive junk e-mail filter Searching and locating messages function is quite slow
Connection with Microsoft Exchange Server possible Doesn’t support format=flowed messages (e.g. iPhone messages)

eM Client

Developed in 2006, eM Client is a Windows-based e-mail client with which you can send and receive e-mails, manage calendars, contacts, and tasks. The goal was to make it more user-friendly than other existing e-mail clients. It’s available in twelve languages under two types of license, Free and Pro. The former can be used non-commercially and supports two e-mail accounts, and the latter is for commercial use and supports an unlimited amount of e-mail accounts. It’s compatible with POP3 and IMAP4 servers, chat protocols (e.g. XMPP) and with programs like Skype, as long as the user has them installed on their computer.

Pros of eM Client Cons of eM Client
Available for Windows Free version only allows two e-mail accounts
Supports all major e-mail platforms Doesn’t support PGP
User-friendly interface Toolbar isn’t customizable
Automatic syncronization The 'send as mass mail' option could make it easier for spammers

Inky

Inky was developed in 2008 and is compatible with Mac, PC, iOS, and Android and allows the synchronization of e-mail data across all platforms. Two popular feature among users (making it a great alternative to Outlook) include the ability to unsubscribe from messages and view all e-mail accounts together on one screen. Inky sorts out messages depending on their relevance and can organize them into individual folders. Since 2016, Inky has been offering end-to-end encryption and digitally signed e-mail.

Pros of Inky Cons of Inky
Available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android Is still not available for Windows Phone
Allows you to add Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo!, and others that support IMAP or POP Many users have doubts about security due to it being a cloud solution
All accounts can be viewed on one screen Doesn’t have incoming message alerts
Clear and intuitive user interface Could appear unfinished in the eyes of more experienced users

Mailbird

Mailbird is an e-mail client for Windows 7, 8, and 10 and was awarded Best Windows E-mail Software Program three years in a row. It boasts a simple design, which makes it faster, and also offers a platform for e-mail productivity where other developers can create applications for the open source app community and platform. Mailbird provides support for various applications and allows you to configure different accounts, create identities, and organize folders and subfolders to store messages. It’s also possible to connect to Facebook and WhatsApp.

Pros of Mailbird Cons of Mailbird
Available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android The free version is quite limited (maximum of 3 accounts)
User interface is simple, fast, and easy to use Keyboard shortcuts can’t be customized
It’s an innovative tool for beginners and private users Advanced users may be disappointed with the lack of features

Overview of all mail clients

  Available for Portable version Security Supports Digital signature License Price
Thunderbird Windows, Mac OS X, Linux... PGP, S/MIME POP, POP3, IMAP, SMTP, NNTP, IPv6 MPL/GPL/LGPL Free
Windows Live Mail Windows - - POP3, POP3 over SSL, IMAP - Freeware, proprietary Free
SeaMonkey Windows, Mac OS X, Linux S/MIME, SSL/TLS POP3, IMAP4, SMTP, NNTP MPL/GPL/LGPL Free
Opera Mail Windows, Mac OS X - SSL/TLS POP3, IMAP, SMTP, NNTP - Freeware, proprietary Free
Evolution Windows, Mac OS X, Linux - S/MIME POP3, IMAP, SMTP, NNTP, LDAP LGPL Free
eM Client Windows - SSLT/TLS, S/MIME POP3, IMAP, SMTP,EWS Freeware, proprietary Free, but use is limited
Inky Windows, Mac, iOS, Android SSL/TLS, S/MIME POP3, IMAP, SMTP, EWS Freeware, proprietary Free, but use is limited
Mailbird Windows, Mac, iOS, Android SSL/TLS POP3, IMAP, SMTP, LDAPv2 - Freeware, proprietary Free, but use is limited

Outlook alternatives for mobile devices

Outlook is not usually the first choice for mobile internet users. Depending on the operating system, smartphones and other mobile devices come equipped with e-mail programs, calendars, and contact management functions. The pre-installed apps are a good solution for private users and Google apps are especially popular on Android devices. The same also applies to businesses, which increasingly consider Google products as the go-to choice. Synchronizing different apps, calendars, e-mails, and contacts is not complicated and Apple users can use pre-installed products and dock these onto an Exchange account or a Google app. Windows mobile device users can also make use of the Microsoft Office apps.