The 4 Best Linux Email Clients

How to choose the best one for your needs

Linux supports many different email clients, but the quality and usefulness of each is all over the board. The email clients we've reviewed in the list below have been judged on the following characteristics:

  • Ease of setting up with a common mail provider
  • General functionality
  • Ease of use
  • Performance
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Evolution EMail Client
What We Like
  • Robust, enterprise-grade email functionality.

  • Integrated email, calendars, tasks, and notes—ideal to fully leverage Microsoft Exchange,, or Gmail accounts.

  • Actively maintained.

What We Don't Like
  • Can be a bit of a resource hog.

  • Stylistically, the app looks trapped in the Windows XP era—no modern design motifs.

Evolution is head-and-shoulders above every other Linux-based email client. If you want a Microsoft Outlook-style appearance for your email then this is the application you should choose.

Setting up Evolution to work with services such as Gmail is as easy as following a simple wizard. Basically, if you can log in through the web interface then you can log in using Evolution.

Functionality wise, you obviously send and receive emails but also create signatures, choose whether to use HTML or plain text emails, insert hyperlinks, tables, and other features into your emails.

The way you view emails can be customized so that your preview panel turns on and off and positions where you want it to be. Add extra columns to sort your emails and the labels within Gmail appear as folders.

Evolution isn't just a mail client, however; it includes other options such as a contacts list, memos, task list, and calendar.

Performance wise, Evolution runs well but it is generally part of the GNOME desktop environment so it is probably better on more modern machines.

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Thunderbird Email Client
What We Like
  • Like Firefox? You'll feel at home with Thunderbird.

  • Rich ecosystem of add-ons to extend the app's core features.

  • Integrated chat for common services.

What We Don't Like
  • Calendar access requires the Lightning app, and accessing an Exchange calendar requires another quasi-supported app on top of Lightning.

  • Tab-based email management isn't for everyone.

Thunderbird is probably the best-known email client that runs on Linux because it is also available for Windows. Thunderbird is brought to you by the same people who make Firefox, and as with Firefox it has a nice interface and loads of functionality.

Unlike Evolution, it is just a mail client and doesn't have the calendar feature.

Connecting to Gmail is as easy with Thunderbird as it is with Evolution and it is simply a case of typing in your username and password and letting Thunderbird do the rest.

The performance is very good it can take a while for the mail to load the very first time you set it up.

All in all, Thunderbird is a decent email client.

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KMail Email Client
What We Like
  • Great for people deeply embedded in Linux—it includes support for X-Face, local spam checkers, OpenPGP, and related technologies less often seen in the Windows and Mac communities.

  • Stands alone, but also integrates into the Kontact communications suite.

  • Pleasing design philosophy influenced by contemporary Plasma standards.

What We Don't Like
  • Open-source to a fault: No support for protocols beyond IMAP, POP3, and SMTP, so your Microsoft Exchange account is significantly hobbled.

  • Optimized for KDE, so if you install it on a non-KDE machine, you'll support a lot of dependencies.

If you are using the KDE desktop environment then it is highly likely that the default mail client is KMail. KMail is a decent mail client which complements the rest of the applications available within KDE.

Connecting to Gmail is again as easy as entering your email address and password and KMail will do the rest.

The basic layout is much like that of Microsoft Outlook but as with everything in the KDE world, it can be heavily customized to look just the way you want it to.

All the features that you can expect from a mail client are included as with Thunderbird and Evolution. There isn't a calendar, notes or task manager, however.

It offers, however, a very decent search feature. It is generally hard to beat Google's own web client when searching for a specific email, but KMail offers a complex and fully featured tool for searching your mail. Again, this is useful if you never delete your email.

When it comes to performance, it will work great on a semi-decent laptop but probably isn't much use on a 1 GB netbook.

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What We Like
  • Lightweight app with a fresh, airy design and minimal hardware requirements.

  • Does just email, but does it well.

  • Message organization relies on conversations and threading.

What We Don't Like
  • Optimized for GNOME 3.

  • Email only; no calendar or tasks, or meaningful contact management.

  • Geary and Pantheon Mail increasingly diverge, with implications for people using Elementary OS.

Every mail client mentioned thus far has stated that the performance is good but not good enough for low-power or older machines. What then should you use if you are using an older machine? That is where Geary comes in.

The trade-off, however, is that there aren't that many features and it isn't very customizable.

Obviously, you can compose emails and you can choose between plain text and rich text, but it doesn't have nearly as many features as the other clients mentioned.

Connecting Geary to Gmail was as simple as it was for the other mail clients and simply requires an email address and password.

If you need a mail client and you don't want to use the web interface and you aren't bothered about big features, then Geary is the email client for you.