Those who work with email detest it, but it is still a daily part of many of our lives – and the provisions made for email within Windows leave a lot to be desired. As someone who works online, I send and receive many emails a day and need a trusty email client that won't break or falter.
After the disaster that was Windows Vista, Microsoft ditched Windows Mail (later brought back in Windows 8), leaving a gap in the market for email conscious users of Windows. Luckily, developers have created many free email clients that do the job: here are the best five.
Best all-rounder; best for non-Outlook users.
Created by Mozilla, the same people behind the Firefox web browser, Thunderbird is minimalistic in design, offering simple options such as "Get Mail" and "Write". Setting up my email account was quick and easy, needing only my email address and password – no server settings here – with options to import my Calendar and Contacts alongside my mail.
Thunderbird filters out junk emails effectively, as would be expected from a renowned web brand. In fact, having Mozilla as the developer of Thunderbird is one of its greatest strengths; regular updates and bug fixes are forthcoming and support is good.
The clear and well designed interface sets Thunderbird apart, with over 1,000 add-ons – integration with social networks, design tweaks, and so on – coming as a bonus.
Mozilla makes sure Thunderbird's user base of just shy of 10 million people worldwide are never short of new features with updates being delivered at a similar rate to the Firefox browser it first grew out of.
Best for those who want a good indie email client.
Offering an interface reminiscent of Microsoft's desktop Outlook client, eM Client – a clumsy name – offers a host of email services tied up in a streamlined way that works well and is, above all else, no frills. All of the options – Delete, Write New, Reply All, and so on – are presented at the top, with the three column layout offering a clear view of your emails, inboxes and email accounts.
Of the five, eM Client is the best mix of simplicity of design and power, easily importing my emails and offering an Outlook-style experience for free. Updates are sporadic but do offer useful trinkets every so often such as the addition of support for Google's oAuth authentication recently. One of the only drawbacks is the lack of a big backer, which means development could be slow.
Best for people with multiple email accounts.
Offering a more casual twist to email, Inky is a fantastic option for those who want to use multiple accounts in one place. The interface is simple, with a two-column system offering easy access to all of your accounts as well as other utilities, such as the Calendar.
Inky works with every major email service available and offers support for custom settings, enabling anyone to add any account if they know the server's inputs. Alongside this, Inky also has cloud syncing—via a proprietary account—which means that your email is synced across versions of Inky. You can even sort messages by relevance so that those from close contacts have an added drop of blue ink alongside them and each one automatically shows up at the top of the unified inbox.
As someone who has multiple email accounts, Inky's ability to seamlessly make them into one – at least for appearance's sake – is impressive, and earns it a place on this list.
Best for those who love simplicity.
Unlike all of the other email applications on this list, Claws Mail is a throwback offering an interface reminiscent of Windows XP. For those who don't like the mess of unneeded animations or the swoosh of a tiled interface, Claws Mail offers a refreshing change: grey and blue is the colour scheme, offering a simple, straightforward interface.
Don't let the utilitarian interface fool you though. Underneath, Claws Mail has all of the features and functions of a more illustriously designed email client, with the ability to have multiple email accounts and email threading. It's email convenience without the clutter.
Best for those who rely on Outlook.
For the 420 million users of Outlook, Microsoft's built-in application has always been the best option. Built by Microsoft for Exchange and Outlook accounts, the program offers extensive enterprise-level options and syncs Calendars, Contacts and Notes seamlessly between Windows devices.
The Windows 7 version of Outlook is starting to look slightly outdated – despite being used in almost every work place around the world – when compared to the slick Windows 8 app, but it still does a great job and is the best client for those who rely on Microsoft's email option.
Even though the Windows 7 version of Windows 10 hasn't been updated for some time, the Outlook for iOS and Android apps are now an adapted version of Acompli, the email company Microsoft bought last year. Outlook.com, the web based version of the service, on the other hand, is being completely redesigned ahead of Windows 10's release in the style of the popular cloud-based Office 365 productivity suite.