Software

How do I install and use Claws Mail in Windows?

Claws Mail is now available for Windows. Jack Wallen shows you how to install it and what it can do to enhance your daily email management.

I have used what seems like countless e-mail clients -- everything from text-based e-mail (Pine and Alpine) to all-in-ones such as Evolution and Outlook. Each of these clients always seemed to be missing a feature I wanted, suffered from poor performance, was buggy, or bogged down whatever machine I was using. That is a big problem, because e-mail is one of those tools you simply cannot do business without. So I searched high and low for an e-mail client perfectly suited for me.

I came across Claws Mail on the Linux platform. This client struck me as something special right away. Ever since I found it, Claws Mail has been my e-mail client of choice. And now, I have found, it can be installed on the Windows platform as well. So Claws Mail can be your e-mail client of choice too.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

About Claws Mail

Claws Mail was originally called Sylpheed-Claws and was the unstable branch of the Sylpheed e-mail client. Eventually Claws Mail extended beyond Sylpheed and became a separate entity. And although Claws Mail contains quite a bit more extra features than Sylpheed, it still enjoys the lightning-fast speed and reliability of its former parent.

Claws Mail now enjoys installation candidates for Linux, Solaris, BSD, OS X, Maemo, and Windows. Claws Mail features include:

  • Very fast GUI and mail handling
  • Multiple accounts
  • Threaded display
  • Filtering
  • Mime attachments
  • Usenet reading/posting
  • SSL support
  • GnuPG support
  • User-defined headers
  • MH and Mbox folder support/import/export
  • Plugin capabilities

Most likely the feature that will get you hooked is the speed. I have yet to find a mail client that opens, runs, filters, and delivers e-mail as fast as Claws Mail. The only clients that can even compare are text-based clients.

Installation

The Windows port of Claws Mail is actually part of another package -- gpg4win -- and the only way to install Claws Mail is through this package. You do have to install gpg4win during the installation, which is a good thing as it will allow you to take advantage of encryption with Claws Mail. However, there are two other features currently missing from the Windows port of Claws Mail: LDAP and Spell Checking. I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before they make their way into the port.

The installation process is fairly straightforward. What you need to do is first download the gpg4win installation file. If you look at the Windows port page, you will notice two versions to download: the "official" release from the gpg4win team and a more recent snapshot. Go with the latter of the two for a more up-to-date version.

Once you have the file downloaded, double-click it and walk through the installation process. The installation will offer very little out of the ordinary. The only exception might be when you come to the components screen, shown in Figure A. In this screen you can choose what you want to install. You have no choice but to install gpg4win, but you can choose whether or not to install Claws Mail. Make sure the Claws Mail component is selected before you click Next.

Figure A

It uses only 34 MB of space for both components, not bad for a full-featured e-mail client AND encryption system.

Once the installation is complete, the first thing that Claws Mail will require is the creation of an account. This is done with the help of a very simple wizard that will walk you through the process. There is nothing in this wizard that should cause you any grief.

Finally, once you have finished setting up your first account, you will be greeted with the main window (Figure B). And, as you see, the Claws Mail e-mail client is very much like any e-mail client you've ever used -- on the surface that is.

Figure B

It's not until you start scratching under the surface that you see how much more Claws Mail has to offer.

Unique features

This is where Claws Mail starts to stand out. There are features found in Claws Mail that you will not find in most other e-mail clients. Some of these features are a bit too geek-chic for the average user, and it's just those features that will appeal to the IT crowd. Let's take a look at some.

Templates

This is the feature that was such a breath of fresh air to me. I belong to a lot of Linux mailing lists. If any of you have ever belonged to such a mailing list, you know what I mean when I say the phrase "top posting." The users of many of the Linux mailing lists stand strong with the idea that all posts' replies to posts should either be done in-line or at the bottom. So instead of replying to a post at the top of the reply you should either answer questions (or replies) within the body of the original e-mail (where those replies are necessary) or wait until the very end of the mail. This retains the flow of the conversation, so the reader doesn't have to go back and forth.

The problem is that the average user doesn't adhere to this and most likely doesn't want to have to search for replies to an e-mail. Most users want the reply on top for easy access. So what do you do when you e-mail both types of users frequently? Sure you could just manually place your cursor where you need it. OR you could use Claws Mail templates to do this for you.

If you are using only one account, click on the Configuration menu and then select the Preferences entry. If you have more than one account, have that account selected and then click on the Configuration menu and select Preferences for Current Account. Either way you are going to open a Preferences window that contains the Templates section, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

You can also see how many different configuration sections Claws Mail contains here.

There are three tabs in this window:

  • Compose: The template used to compose e-mails.
  • Reply: The template used when replying to e-mails.
  • Forward: The template used when forwarding e-mail.
You can configure any or all of these types of templates to be used. But for our example, we are going to configure a reply template. Click on the Reply tab to reveal the Reply template space (Figure D).

Figure D

You can also change the quotation mark character here. This is the character that is printed at the beginning of every line of quoted text.

As you can see in the example above, symbols are used to include special fields. In the default reply template you have:

On %d

%f wrote:

%q

%X

The symbols above are:

  • %d - Date
  • %f - From
  • %q - Quoted body from original email
  • %X - Placement of cursor

As you can see, this places everything in the body above the cursor. This is perfect for replying to mailing lists, but for other users, not so much. For average users, you would want to reverse this like the sample below:

%X

Is what %N has to say about the email, from %d, quoted below:

%q

The above sample places the cursor at the top, a brief message, and finally the quoted body.

Now, the tricky part -- how do you create filters for different types of replies? Here's how you do it. For our example, we are going to use the ubuntu-users@lists.ubuntu.com. The steps for this process are as follows:

  • Create a folder that all the mailing list e-mails will be filtered into.
  • Create a filter that will move all e-mails from the mailing list into the folder.
  • Right-click the folder and select Properties.
  • Click on the Template tab and create your template.

Now when you reply to an e-mail that is in that folder, the template for that folder will apply.

Plugins

Although there are not many available plugins, there are some handy ones. To enable plugins, go to the Configuration menu and select Plugins. In this new window (Figure E), click the Load button, select the plugin you want, and click Open.

Figure E

You can also remove a plugin by clicking the Unload button.

The plugins you will most likely want to load are:

  • gtkhtml2: Allows you to view HTML e-mail.
  • Vcalendar: Adds a calendar to Claws Mail
  • Bsfilter: Provides an anti-spam filter

Final thoughts

Claws Mail offers a full-featured, lightning-fast e-mail client for the average and the hard core e-mail user. If you've grown tired of slow, unreliable, bloated e-mail clients, let Claws Mail sink its claws into you; you'll be hooked.

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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.

34 comments
gbarn
gbarn

It's really odd how you have "How do I install..." right in the title of this article and yet you completely gloss over and omit the whole portion actually explaining the install. I know it's hard to believe, but "There is nothing in this wizard that should cause you any grief." doesn't demystify how to install Claws to anyone who wants to know how to install it.

loidab
loidab

My only problem with Windows Claws-Mail is it's static-linked against a broken GNUTLS library. So SSL support is flaky at best. C'mon, GPG4Win! New build please! :D

thulemanden
thulemanden

There are way more plugins in the Linux ed. Clasw Email for Windows use .dll but the one to download from http://www.claws-mail.org/plugins.php are not .dll . Where can we get more plugins than the default provided by the installation?

chirschfield
chirschfield

Re: plugins Did I miss something on getting plugins? I downloaded the Windows version of Claws but the plugins all look like Unix. Are there plugins for Windows?

Aussiejock
Aussiejock

the best and easiest email client is Incredimail, it is easy to use and has many extras for setting up your own things, I have use it daily since it's inception and use nothing else. why cause yourself all this hassle thrying to install a program that you know nothing about ?.

Ocie3
Ocie3

If the user interface occupies more of the display screen than the content of the e-mail messages, then it is software that I do NOT want to use. I run an e-mail client so that I can easily read and focus upon the CONTENT of the messages that I've received, not to admire the UI. That is the primary reason that I am searching for a replacement for Thunderbird 3.0, which (IMHO) is a travesty. I've never before seen a revision of a program that has so many things "fixed" that were not "broken".

randy
randy

Seriously, No Spell check, hmm.. My calendar indicates it is 2010, not 1984....

straightp
straightp

Personally I use Thunderbird. It has the same functionality and if not there's probably a add-on for it. Thunderbird is tried and true, I have literally thousands of emails across dozens of folders and it runs amazing. (microsoft clients can only dream of this)

lmarks
lmarks

Is it scriptable? After trying a few email clients for personal email (Thunderbird, Outlook Express, Yahoo webmail, Gmail webmail), I am about to install....the Lotus Notes client simply because it is scriptable. I can do templates, fonts, custom signatures, and can even put the images back in-line in emails from my brother, who can't figure out how to configure Outlook to not send images as attachments. I would consider Claws if it is scriptable.

grif2000
grif2000

I have a small peer-to-peer network and would like to check email at any station (without a lot of expense). This seems to be a problem with most email clients, data files being corrupted. I am currently looking at Pegasus Mail . . . How does Claw work in this setting? Any thoughts?

Polemic
Polemic

And with future versions of Exchange?

sks3286
sks3286

Hey any idea how to setup the http proxy for claws for windows??? i can't find the relevant settings anywhere...

traceyt509
traceyt509

This sounds interesting and I want to give it a try but how do you move existing mail (.pst files) over from Outlook to Claws?

amserv
amserv

I use Zimbra. But it only allows me to work on one email message at a time. Does Claws mail allow for numerous "in-progress" messages open at one time?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you tried an email client other than Outlook? What do you use now? Why?

Richard Turpin
Richard Turpin

I have my email set up to junk anything that comes in from incredimail because I can't stand all the bloody infantile junk that is attached to it. There also far better mail clients available for windows without trying to bastardise an old Linux claws application to run inadequately but quite fast on windows..what a waste of time and energy. Maybe after 40 odd years in the business I see things totally wrong?

lmarks
lmarks

I installed Thunderbird a couple of years ago. It was terrrible. Its memory leaks were so bad I could never leave it open. When you viewed attachments it left them on your HDD (in a non-obvious location) and failed to delete them. There was no utility for managing this. (Apparently there is one in Firefox, but even though Thunderbird is distributed to be used separately, it never occured to the programmers to actually test it that way.) Thunderbird is not scriptable.

terry
terry

On their website is Extras which includes a number of supplied scripts. You can also write your own. They also have active Forums.

terry
terry

I looked briefly at Claws and I think, having used Outlook, you will find Claws limiting. I did. What it does it does very well.

ian3880
ian3880

G'day. I just tried the Opera email client and I stopped at 20 simultaneously open emails. Don't know Zimbra's platform, but whatever it is there is a flavour of Opera to suit. Just thought I'd mention that ... :-)

MrKP
MrKP

I've been using thunderbird for awhile now. Been pushed outlook away. I really like thunderbird, except that it doesn't come with calendar. After the recent update, the plugin for calendar ain't working anymore, so i'm waiting patiently for the developer to update the code. At the moment, I switched back and forth to MS Outlook 2010. TBH, I think it is quite good compare to thunderbird, except the price when it officially released.

techgranny
techgranny

Over the years, I've tried other personal email clients, and I always come back to Eudora. It is highly flexible and gloriously customizable. I have multiple email accounts, and dozens of folders (mailboxes) and filters, and Eudora keeps them organized. It's sturdy, compact, speedy, and has a kick-ass search feature. Oh, and it has a spell checker, too. When I travel, I can install it on a flash drive and have my home email setup on any computer anywhere. When I come back home, I just transfer the mailboxes back to the desktop and and continue. Backup is simple, and in all my years of using it, it has never lost a message or other data. I'm in love.

Sul52
Sul52

CLAWS looks really nice, but all of that is already in a client by Poco Systems. There are two versions, PocoMail (email only) and Barca (email and scheduling). The email client is really smooth and efficient with a lot of features including spell check. the calendar portion of Barca is easier to use than Outlook and easier to look at. The integration makes scheduling email as a task easier that Outlook. I'm waiting for Poco Systems to include Exchange integration and I can finally say good bye to Outlook.

mckinnej
mckinnej

I gave Claws a test run on my OpenSUSE system. One big problem; it didn't handle multimedia files very well. Some things I couldn't get it to open at all. Others it would open but I had to tinker with it to make it happen. It was a far cry from what I'm used to with Thunderbird. With just plain emails it worked fine, but if you have friends that send you a lot of pictures, videos, and similar stuff then it might not be the email client for you. That's too bad because otherwise it seemed pretty decent.

terry
terry

I have been trying many clients but not many have stacked up to Outlook. Tonight I have downloaded Barca & I must say it looks the goods. It is not freeware but the price is very good PLUS it has all the features I want plus more. Additionally, on startup it saw that I had Outlook & automatically imported all my folders (and subfolders), not flawlessly but quite well. Setup was a breeze.

terry
terry

Over that last week I have tried many. Today I am about to look at Postbox, Noah & StratoVista. Of the non-MS offerings the closest to what I require is SpiceBird, a variant of Thunderbird. Until now I have used Outlook in its many versions & do quite like it as it is a complete package. Getting outside Windows, Evolution which comes with Ubuntu is very good & looks as though it will do the job. I am very seriously considering using the Ubuntu workstation (which we use as a 'server' for sharing files) for my email. (Ubuntu 9.10 is great - love it; the only reason I do not change from Windows are the apps I use are not available on Linux.) I want more than email; I want Contacts & Calendar. Notes would be nice but no means essential. The Contact Details must be comprehensive with multiple phone numbers & addresses (Street & PO Box as min).

ian3880
ian3880

Opera. Most if not all the features mentioned in the article are available in the inbuilt Opera mail client, inc spell checker, choice of html or text etc, etc. The Opera email client is built-in with the Opera package which has only recently gone over 10MB download, including the email client. Outlook Express UPDATES apparently exceed this. You can, of course, select any other email client you like from within the Opera browser. But why bother? And yes you can have as many emails on the go as you like - well ... to be honest I've really only had less than 10. Sure the email client does things differently to Claws, but covers all the same features. The current release of 10.x email client still reads and presents my original 3.2 version emails I have kept on an archive hard drive. I wonder if there are any other email clients that can do this. Heck - apart from Outlook Express and Netscape there probably aren't many other browsers/email clients from the early 90's that are still available today. I've been using Opera since version 3.2 and regularly try other browsers and email clients (except IEx/Outlook Express for security reasons) but keep returning to Opera because of its security, reliability and that wonderfully easy email client. If you want raw speed then have a look at the new Opera 10.5 pre alpha - claimed to be up to 7 times faster in certain areas than existing 10.x versions. I'm not an Opera fan boy, but I do my homework and I've yet to find another browser with inbuilt email client that betters Opera.

traceyt509
traceyt509

Thanks for that, maybe I'll stick with what I know!

venerable Architect
venerable Architect

I have been using Eudora for many years, It is no longer supported. My ISP has informed me I must use an SSL client that must access specific ports on the mail server. I cannot seem to make Eudora do this, I am now looking for a new Mail client. This will be a must so I will have to abandon Eudors.

Arlene
Arlene

I agree, Spicebird! I still use Outlook on my working laptop, but for a few years I've been trying out Thunderbird with a couple of email addresses and Spicebird for another (past year) and really like it. Thunderbird had an issue recently with an upgrade, but the thing I like about Spicebird is that you get contacts, calendar & tasks like Outlook. Spicebird is solid and stable!

va_navigator
va_navigator

Don't give up on Eudora! Ports can be changed, but it's hidden. See To summarize: "First exit Eudora. Look in the Eudora directory for the folder "Extrastuff". In this folder there is a file named "esoteric.epi". Drag this file into the main Eudora directory. Restart Eudora then go to the Tools menu, Options, Ports, and change the ports here as needed."

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