A free email client can change your life. That might sound ridiculous, but consider how long you spend each week checking your inbox, replying, forwarding and composing. It could easily be several hours, and even more if you use several different email addresses (as many of us do).
Using a dedicated email client not only makes it easier to deal with multiple email accounts, it also means you can take full advantage of extra features such as a calendar, contact management, and neat integration with other desktop software you're using. As with so many other types of software, email clients are not born equal, and it's important that you don't lumber yourself with one that is underpowered, confusing to use, or that offers poor performance.
Take a browse through our best free email client selection and you will undoubtedly see a few familiar names. But you'll also find some that you may not have heard of or tried, so perhaps it's time for you to test drive a new email client!
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1. eM Client
The best email client, with support for a huge range of email providers, integrated chat, smart translation, and simple migration
eM Client has been around for nearly 10 years now, and throughout that long development it's evolved into the best free email client for Windows.
eM Client makes it easy to migrate your messages from Gmail, Exchange, iCloud and Outlook.com – just enter your email address and the client will adjust the appropriate settings for you. eM Client can also import your contacts and calendar, and it's easy to deselect these options if you'd prefer to manage them separately.
There's an integrated chat app too, with support for common platforms including Jabber and Google Chat, and the search function is far superior to those you'll find in webmail interfaces.
Unlike most free email clients, eM Client is also packed with advanced options like automatic translation, delayed send and encryption. It's a remarkable set of tools, and for managing two email accounts, it's ideal.
If you have more accounts, it's well worth considering upgrading to eM Client Pro for a one-off fee. This lets you connect an unlimited number of accounts, access VIP support (in the unlikely event that you need it), and use the email client commercially.
A great-looking client packed that connects all your social apps
Mailbird Lite isn't just an email app – it's a whole communication platform to which you can add apps for scheduling, chatting, file syncing and teamworking.
Free users miss out on features such as speed reading, email snoozing and quick previews of attachments, but Mailbird Lite is still an excellent choice. The Lite version only lets you connect one email account but, it's optimized for speed, and looks great to boot.
Setup is simple; enter your email details and Mailbird Lite will find the necessary POP or IMAP settings automatically, then get to work importing your messages. It offers to connect with your Facebook account, so it can liven up your inbox with your contacts' profile photos, and can also link with Whatsapp, Google Calendar, free task manager Moo.do, and teamworking app Asana.
Packed with time-saving tools that'll improve email habits
Hiri is usually a paid-for premium email client, but it's free for TechRadar readers. It's designed primarily with business users in mind (it currently only supports Microsoft email services including Hotmail, Outlook and Exchange), but home users will also appreciate its productivity-boosting features.
If you find yourself spending too long managing, reading and replying to emails, Hiri is the email client for you. It includes a smart dashboard that lets you see how many unread messages you have at a glance and how long you should wait before checking them (after all, how many really need an instant reply?)
The Compose window is designed to save you time too, offering only the essential options (no fancy formatting) and including the subject line at the bottom so you don't have to write it until you know how to summarise the message.
These little touches make Hiri a truly exceptional client. If Microsoft is your email provider of choice, it should be well up your list.
Plenty of features and extensions – as you'd expect from Mozilla
Thunderbird, from Firefox developer Mozilla, has just undergone a total overhaul that brings it right up to date. Not only does it look smarter, it also works much better. You no longer need to download and configure an extension to make full use of your calendar, and cutting, copying and deleting events is effortless.
You can connect as many email addresses as you like to Thunderbird, and it's totally free, with no ads or prompts to upgrade. It's also very flexible, with a wealth of customizable options – and if you can't see a particular feature, you can expand Thunderbird with third-party extensions.
Thunderbird still takes a little getting used to (there are so many options, the interface is a little confusing at first), but it's a superb email client that'll serve you well – particularly if you have lots of accounts to manage.
Give your inbox the WhatsApp treatment
Spike is a versatile free email client, available for iOS, Android, Windows and Mac, with a handy web app for those occasions when you don't have time to spend installing software.
It's billed as the first 'conversational' email app, which essentially means it presents messages and replies in bubbles in real time, in a style that looks very much like WhatsApp. This works particularly well for the type of short emails that you're likely to send to friends and family, making it refreshingly simple to keep track of long email chains that would usually be a mess of nested messages.
Spike is free for personal use, with support for an unlimited number of email accounts and up to 10 'group chat rooms'. If you're sick of trawling through messy lists of replies, it's a breath of fresh air.