The Best Linux Email Clients

There is one word that really defines Linux, and that word is choice

Some people say that there is too much choice, especially when it comes to the number of distributions, but really the choice of which distribution to choose is just the beginning.

Choose a distro, choose a package manager, choose a browser, choose an email client, choose an audio player, video player, office package, chat client, video editor, image editor, choose a wallpaper, choose compositing effects, choose a toolbar, a panel, choose gadgets, widgets, choose a menu. Choose a dash, a bash, choose a forum to crash. Choose your future, choose Linux, choose life.

This guide lists 4 email clients that are to be highly recommended.

In the past, people used to get a free email service from their internet service provider. The interface for that email service was usually fairly poor, so there was a big need for a decent email client. Unfortunately, most people ended up with Outlook Express instead.

People soon began to realize that the limitation of having an email with your internet service provider was that you would lose your email when you changed ISP.

With companies like Microsoft and Google offering free webmail services with large mailboxes and a decent web interface the need for big hefty email clients at home has been reduced, and with the birth of smartphones this requirement has dwindled even further.

Email clients, therefore, have to be very good in order to make them more worthwhile than using the web interface.

The email clients in the list below have been judged on the following characteristics:

  • Ease of setting up with a common mail provider (i.e. Gmail)
  • General functionality
  • Ease of use
  • Performance
01
of 04

Evolution

Evolution EMail Client

What We Like

  • Robust, enterprise-grade email functionality.

  • Integrated email, calendars, tasks, and notes — ideal to fully leverage Microsoft Exchange, Outlook.com, 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 via the web interface then you can log in using Evolution.

Functionality wise, you obviously have the ability to send and receive emails but within that category, you can 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 can be turned on and off and positioned where you want it to be. You can add extra columns to sort your emails by and the labels within Gmail appear as folders.

Evolution isn't just a mail client, however, and 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.

02
of 04

Thunderbird

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 and anybody who doesn't want to spend their hard-earned money on Outlook and who has a dedicated email client (as opposed to using the web interface) probably uses Thunderbird.

Thunderbird is brought to you by the same people who brought you Firefox, and as with Firefox it has a nice interface and has loads of functionality.

Unlike Evolution, it is just a mail client and doesn't have the calendar feature, and so there isn't the ability to add tasks or create appointments.

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 interface can be customized to with an inch of its existence whether you are changing the appearance of the preview pane or sending an email with hyperlinks and images.

The performance is very good but if you are one of those people who never delete email then 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.

03
of 04

KMail

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.

Basically, if you have KMail installed then there is no reason to install Evolution or Thunderbird even though they appear higher in this list.

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.

There is, 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 has a very complex and fully featured tool for searching your mail. Again, this is useful if you never delete your email.

When it comes to performance, well it performs as well as the KDE desktop that it is sitting on What this means is that it will work great on a semi-decent laptop but probably isn't much use on a 1 GB netbook.

04
of 04

Geary

Geary

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 the 1 GB netbook.

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.

You can also choose whether to have a preview pane when reading emails and the labels from Gmail are listed as folders.

Connecting Geary to Gmail was as simple as it was for the other mail clients listed 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.