Software

Five top alternatives to Microsoft Outlook

If you're looking for an email client to replace Outlook, you're in luck: Many solid alternatives are available. Jack Wallen lists five top contenders.

Outlook is, hands-down, the most popular email client among the business set. And with good reason. It connects to Exchange, which allows businesses to determine many aspects of how and what their users can manage, use, and control. It also allows the sharing of things like calendars and contacts. But not all businesses (especially small businesses) employ Exchange. For them, there are plenty of alternatives to Outlook. Even businesses that do have Exchange may use an alternative to connect to a groupware server. Let's take a look at a few of these alternatives and see what they have to offer.

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: Thunderbird

Thunderbird (Figure A) is one of the best of the alternative email clients. It benefits from the strength of Firefox, provides plenty of add-ons, includes a great migration assistant, offers a powerful address book, makes use of an attachment reminder, and has plenty of built in security features. Thunderbird is also one of the more stable email clients available, and it's cross platform. With its user-friendly tabbed interface, Thunderbird makes working within the realm of digital communications simple. Plus, it is possible to connect Thunderbird to Exchange.

Figure A

Thunderbird

2: Zimbra Desktop

Zimbra Desktop (Figure B) is a unique take on the desktop email client. Although you won't be connecting Zimbra to an Exchange server with ease (there are reports that it is possible, though), you can connect Zimbra to a host of other services. One feature that sets Zimbra apart is its ability to connect to social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Zimbra can connect to Mail, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, and a number of other third-party email hosts. The interface takes getting used to, but once you "get" Zimbra, you'll find it quite powerful and useful.

Figure B

Zimbra Desktop

3: Claws Mail

Claws Mail (Figure C) is simply one of the fastest, most configurable email clients available. Now you won't be connecting Claws Mail to an NTLM-based Exchange server any time soon (or maybe ever). But if you don't need Exchange support and you're looking for an alternative email client that can do just about anything else, Claws might be one of your best solutions. With a good number of plug-ins, an incredible configuration tool, one of the fastest start times of any email client, multiple MH folder support, Mbox import/export, external editor, built-in GnuPG support, and support for SSL over POP3, SMTP, IMAP4rev1, and NNTP protocols, Claws Mail makes any power user happy. But it's not just for power users. With its easy-to-use interface, it can also satisfy the new user.

Figure C

Claws Mail

4: eM Client

eM Client is fully optimized to run on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. It can connect to third-party POP/IMAP servers like Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail and import from other email clients, and it offers a full-featured calendar (Figure D) that can even sync your Gmail calendar or your mobile device. Messages can be tagged, searched, and easily filtered with an interface that's easy to navigate. eM Client also contains a powerful tool that lets you share contacts with other users, and it can Sync your Google contacts. You won't be connecting eM Client to Exchange, but you will enjoy a feature-rich, easy- to-use email client.

Figure D

eM Client

5: Pegasus Mail

Being one of the oldest email clients on the block has its advantages. Pegasus Mail (Figure E) offers an incredibly rich community and a stability not found in other clients. And unlike some other email clients, Pegasus Mail has a rigid adherence to standards. One of the most impressive claims from Pegasus Mail is that it will protect you from even the worst HTML-borne viruses and exploits. That is a bold claim, but one it can back up. Pegasus Mail can't connect to Exchange. But if you don't use Exchange and you want an email client that will help prevent infection from HTML-mail sources, Pegasus Mail might well be the solution.

Figure E

Pegasus Mail

Your picks

If you're exploring Outlook alternatives, give the above clients a try. Although not every client will connect with Exchange, they make up for it in flexibility, reliability, and security.

What Outlook replacements have you used? Are there any you would definitely add to (or exclude from) this list?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

201 comments
gptrshbh
gptrshbh

help full info ... thanks 

pandelefloriny
pandelefloriny

An true alternative to MS Outlook would have to be able to connect to a standard MS Exchange instalation, that has no POP3 or IMAP available, and for example use EWS(Exchange Web Services). None of the clients above seems to be able to do that.
Or at least not for free.

ag691234
ag691234

Why was Evolution left out?

jeff
jeff

Pegasus is all Jack claims it to be in his short synopsis, and a whole lot more. Check out the companion products such as Mercury mail transport that go along with it and I think you will find it's a great alternative to Exchange and LookOut, oops, I mean Outloook.

beep54
beep54

I was rather pleasantly shocked to find that Opera, all by itself, could set up IMAP with my gmail account.

stanj.miranda
stanj.miranda

I like using Comcast Mail, great address book, free 10GBs of storage, Calender, and everything else Outlook had to offer. If you have Comcast, then Comcast Mail it a great alternative to MS Outlook

ian3880
ian3880

Granted it can't do all the things that MS Outlook or even Outlook Express can, but it has always been a rock solid email client for me.

leo8888
leo8888

I'm glad to see Pegasus mentioned. Although I only use Pegasus to do some automated mail filtering and routing for one of our company president's email accounts I have found it to be a very powerful email client (We use SeaMonkey as a browser / email client for everything else). Even more impressive to me is Pegasus companion, Mercury Mail server. We run Mercury instead of Exchange and have found it to be an extremely powerful and flexible mail server with great filtering and mailing list capabilities. The licensing for Mercury is also VERY reasonable and on the only two occasions I needed support in the 6 years we have been running it I received email replies directly from the author David Harris. I'm only mentioning this to show that there are good, cost effective alternatives to Exchange / Outlook that may be worth looking into for small or medium sized businesses wishing to run their own mail server.

Ocie3
Ocie3

(1) Pegasus would install and run on Windows XP, but I could never get it to connect to the Internet, let alone download e-mail. No one in their "rich user community" of 4 or 5 who tried to resolve the problem could figure out why it didn't work. (2) Thunderbird fell victim to the ego of the unsupervised "we can code" crowd that seems to have infiltrated the Mozilla development team while the veterans were away or asleep. Version 3 caused one e-mail directory to completely vanish because that one happened to be named "Archives" (as it had been for years) -- which the re-developer(s) decided would become a "reserved" directory for storing all of the unsorted e-mail messages on their computer just to get them out of the inbox. *That* "Archives" could, of course, be searchable by the shiny new and highly complex "e-mail message search" feature with the learning curve from hell. Then Trolly permanently banned me from using the Mozilla forums because he or she didn't appreciate my report as to the fact that critical, important e-mail messages which I dearly needed to keep were wantonly obliterated. I could not find anything with the "data recovery" utilities which were available, but paying for someone else to recover them would have been accompanied by a declaration of bankruptcy. Eventually I found most of them on a backup of the Version 2 installation which I had burned into a CD, but only the directory and not any of the files could be read from it. It was unclear as to whether the media was flawed or the burner wasn't working correctly. Succinctly, I just cannot afford the lost time and effort engendered by the Thunderbird installation "packager's" sheer stupidity and malicious "practical jokes", such as limiting the amount of e-mail storage to a default of 40 MB effective immediately upon installation of Version 2, thereby causing all e-mail stored in files that required more than 40 MB to vanish. That was not immediately obvious, since only the messages that caused the file to be larger were eliminated. Oh well.

mperata
mperata

Are there any server based email systems with the functionality of exchange or notes that can be run from a simple server environment. I use a hosted Exchange server which suits my needs but is expensive.

xavierlh
xavierlh

Different people have different needs; mine are around managing email, contacts and appointments. I also want a portable solution that doesn't leave crumbs of my activities everywhere (I carry everything I need on a thumb drive, and run my programs from it as much as possible), and I've never been able to reliably run Outlook from a thumb drive. Cloud solutions don't work for me because I want access to my data anywhere I go (including when sailing to remote places without Internet or cell coverage). Which one(s) of these solutions meet my requirements? I'll find out...

dnmurphy
dnmurphy

You are not comparing like with like. Outlook is a complete personal and company organiser, it is not just an email client. None of the ones mentioned have the same capabilities.

alawishis
alawishis

I use Outlook at work, at home I use both Thunderbird on my laptop and Outlook on my home pc. Thunderbird kills Outlook in ease of use and stability. I will be changing my home PC to Thunderbird also. Outlook 64bit has never worked properly, there is an unresolved bug that is not a show stopper but is anoying, and I doubt they will ever fix it. Thunderbird has excellent Contact management and calendar and just over-all works better. I've never tried any of the other clients listed here I'm sure they are good also.

gpachello
gpachello

I think, in order to replace Outlook with another alternative, it??s important to find one with MAPI capabilities. There are a few projects, like OpenMAPI, OpenChange, but nothing more. I've tried with Evolution-MAPI over an FreeBSD desktop, but does not work as expected.

jm2
jm2

I want a tool that will integrate Telephone book (& Skype), contacts, calendar. and build search indices to quickly find 3 year old emails. and manage a data store > 4GB

lburch2008
lburch2008

I'm able to use the built-in mail client on an iPod, or even an old "obsolete" Palm pilot, to connect to an Exchange Server. Co-workers use the built-in client on an Android phone or iPhone. It works for (at the very least) email, contacts, and calendar. So in what sense are these clients not able to connect to Exchange Server?

africord
africord

What I would like to hear is how do people work through the transition away from Outlook. My primary issue is that I don't want to lose contacts or emails as I move away from Outlook. If getting a better product means losing years of effort and information, I won't ever move unless forced.

Sammeuel
Sammeuel

Seriously.. Why. As an IM manager, this is one of the last areas of interest. With staff turnover, learning curves of a 'different' interface for standard users this is [high risk]/[minimum benefit] Next Please.

Jabo5360
Jabo5360

Another good alternative to MS Outlook is Evolution, though over the years it has become a little bloated it is still a fast and easy alternative to Outlook

Integrateful
Integrateful

The opening sentence "Outlook is, hands-down, the most popular email client among the business set", is true for good reason. Outlook has some niggles, but why reinvent the wheel? Outlook can stand alone or it inherit great features when used with Exchange.

webservant2003
webservant2003

I use thunderbird and love it. It does everything Outlook does. Yes, even calendar. You have to use an add-on to plug in your gmail calendar, but that is as powerful as the outlook calendar. I don't know much about it's ability to share on an exchange though. But even when I have outlook, I don't use it any more.

compdave7681
compdave7681

Why are we recycling articles? The first post/comment is from November... but here is my 2 cents. I have been using ClearOS with Zarafa to replace Outlook. I was tired of checking all my accounts separately so I have my 8 email accounts forward all my mail to my Home/Office Server. Yes it took some configuring but it was easy to do. Android phones connect via IMAPS and it has Webaccess. Check it out - http://www.clearfoundation.com/ http://www.zarafa.com/

tdavis
tdavis

Postbox has all the features of Thunderbird (it even accepts Thunderbird plugins) and it CAN connect to Exchange. What's more, is that it's cross-platform add well, with Mac versions available. I find that it's faster, lighter and much more stable than Outlook, which I gave up in frustration after the last in a series of corrupted pst files.

Assaf Stone
Assaf Stone

FYI - Outlook is not (just) an email client. It is an office management tool, with the Calendar and tasks, and other features, which is particularly geared towards the corporate world (Exchange). None of the "alternatives" you suggested to Outlook have any of the features that Outlook has - no calendar, no tasks, no journal, or notes. Moreover, Thunderbird is the *ONLY* one you suggested that can connect to Exchange. Exchange is the primary reason people use outlook, and to those that use Exchange, the Calendar is indispensable. Therefore, I'd suggest that *NONE* of these email clients are alternatives to Outlook. And if these are the "top" selection, then perhaps this post should have been titled "Top 5 Reasons Why There are No Alternatives to Outlook". Please do your homework before your next blog post. Disclaimer: I am not a Microsoft employee, nor am I particularly fond of Outlook. If there was a viable alternative, I'd likely try it. Assaf

DashaGolubeva
DashaGolubeva

Another option is to power up Outlook by some helpful add-ins, instead of switching to an alternative tool. For example, we released one that turns emails into interactive tasks right in the inbox in one click. Once it's done, any change won't add a new message to the thread, but will appear in that task. That'll do for a short description, so that I don't sound promotional :) But if you're interested, you can see how it works in this video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXi5q88D-yc By the way, Outlook is chosen by more than a third of all email users. Quite impressive stats!

johnt0244
johnt0244

I've played with it a little and it's a lot like Outlook. UI even looks a lot like Outlook. Give it a look. http://www.essentialpim.com/index.php. There is a free version w/o some of the Pro features. Looks like a good Outlook alternative.

johnt0244
johnt0244

I've played with it a little and it's a lot like Outlook. UI even looks a lot like Outlook. Give it a look. http://www.essentialpim.com/index.php. There is a free version w/o some of the Pro features. Looks like a good Outlook alternative.

fedm235
fedm235

The Opera email client is also worth considering.

BuckG
BuckG

All of those suggestions are fine replacements for Outlook Express, but I have yet to find one which includes a function to rival Outlook's Calendar (yes, I realize I can get a calendar with a Hotmail, Yahoo, Google, etc. account, but I prefer one I can store and use offline). So until I can find an email app that is a 100% replacement for my Outlook, I'll have to stick with MS's offering.

jimmeq
jimmeq

I've wondered for years why there has not been a solid competing product for Outlook . . . that will easily converse with Exchange. It's been my experience that whatever "tool" a person uses they think is the best. Computers, Operating Systems and Software are "tools". Use what you like best.

mike.duttera
mike.duttera

I'm interested in switching to Thunderbird from the VISTA WindowsMail" client included with VISTA Ultimate that I use now, which as I understand it, is a stripped down Outlook. If I migrate to Thunderbird is there a way to import all my old archived mail and folders setup to Thunderbird? That is a big concern as I have thousands of pieces of old archived mail going back to April2007 that I want to keep but I don't want to be switching back to my old email client to refer back to old archived mail. I want all mail, old and new together accessible from one client. Anyone know? Thanks, Mike

cybershooters
cybershooters

...none of them work with Exchange, except Thunderbird, and I know from experience that isn't a particularly good alternative to Outlook for connecting to Exchange MAPI services. So... if you want to use an e-mail client that will work properly with Exchange - the most popular mail server software out there - use Outlook. I agree with the comment about OWA, which is sufficient for most users.

kg7ka
kg7ka

Installed the program. Liked the features. 2 advantages. 1 disadvantage. 1 serious error. 1. Was the first way i can look at 2 Yahoo accounts at the same time. 2. Allowed having messages on local computer for archiving. The Disadvantage: Could not access the categories of contacts used in Yahoo. All contacts in one folder. I could live with that but not this: The serious error: AVG kept finding multiple viruses in the transferred files. When told to delete the virus, AVG couldn't find the file. Obviously a false positive. Deleted the program. Will look for alternative.

tony.maine
tony.maine

I was a firm user TB until an update a year or so ago - as soon as I installed it started deleting all my emails and then refused to run properly. I went back to WinMail. Pretty basic but at least it worked.

arjanwiskerke
arjanwiskerke

I tried to open this post from outlook but it immediately crashed. Does Outlook have a build-in censor?

dkforbus
dkforbus

none of these so called alternatives can really be compared to Outlook. The main benefit of Outlook is when it is used with Exchange. Using Outlook without Exchange is just another e-mail program. If you only want to compare e-mail functionality, then yes, Outlook can be compared to other programs. But again, the strength of Outlook is the ability to control users, easily share calendars, etc. One MAJOR disadvantage to using other e-mail programs such as Yahoo is that you can only see your e-mails if you have an internet connection. I travel a lot for work and end up in places where I do not have access to the internet. Outlook lets me view my calendar and access my older e-mails off-line.

Ade Ade
Ade Ade

I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS... Not sure if anyone mentioned or all missed it.. WINDOWS LIVE MAIL!!! Free, Brilliant user interface, works with all emails, comes with Calenders, Contacts, Feeds, New Groups.. What more would you want?

dmda.inc
dmda.inc

When I started my current position, people were using webmail from many different providers: yahoo, msn, gmail, hotmail, msn, etc.... They all had there own likes, wants, and needs. I think the best client or choice of mail access depends solely on the user perspective. We now have a domain and all personnel use the same domain for mail, no more all over the universe addresses, one uses outlook express cause they have no need for anything else simple mail in and out. Management over departments use Outook for the calendaring, and imap benefit to be able to check mail from office and on the road. I.T. uses Thunderbird for its ability to put all email in one basket for viewing yet keeping it seperate, and for its plugin capabilities. Our sales department uses Outlook for its office compatibility and scheduling, but prefers it all tied to their phones so not to lug around a laptop all the time. So the truth is it all depends on your environment. Since we are a small business, this works for us but we are growing and will need a way for all these factors to be combined easily without taking away from one department or adding unnecessary overhead to another. As we approach this I believe from our experiences and to stay in the budget that management wants, because ROI is everything, I believe Outlook will be our client and Horde will be our exchange alternative, keeping peace in all departments and allowing growth thru using what can be managed without so much red tape.

mveh
mveh

Unfortunately, we use GroupWise in our offices and I really don't like the way it works at all. Is there anything that I could replace it with that won't give our IT staff fits?

jmmk
jmmk

What email alternates sync seamlessly & easily with Outlook email, contacts & calendar?

jester41
jester41

Postbox fills the need nicely

rmc400
rmc400

Being a user of webmail, I wanted to download mails to archive. I found that using a Mac gave this facility automatically with the Mail application. Agree strongly with classifying emails into "must do" and "must know" and with time-limiting and the corresponding discipline, but these need to be complemented by off-line archiving, as web service is highly interruptable where we live.

JezzyB
JezzyB

@Assaf Stone I need any usable workable alternative to Outlook that won't keep giving up half way through downloads until I hunt down the rogue blocking mail, and wont cause everything to be downloaded twice, now three times, I won't just silently ignore several (often important) emails.  I don't use Exchange, so I don't need Outlook (or Outlook Express which I was generally happy with till it was canned, and before it too started giving the same issues).

BlazingEagle
BlazingEagle

I prefer the simplicity of Windows Live Mail.

fedm235
fedm235

Check out Thunderbird with Lightening, or the SeaMonkey suit. It may not rival the Outlook calendar in your opinion, but it is an option.