Outlook: free alternatives at a glance

Many users choose Outlook as their e-mail client and PIM (personal information manager). As a component of the Microsoft Office suite, it is often a standard solution (in connection with the Microsoft Exchange Server) for businesses. Many freelancers and small companies cannot afford solutions intended for large businesses, but there are numerous e-mail management programs that are available for free.

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Mozilla’s e-mail client Thunderbird is the most common Outlook alternative for both private and commercial use. The basic version of this program is streamlined and has all the most important features. As well as being free of charge, this open source solution has numerous add-ons. The e-mail program can be expanded with modules that allow users to manage meetings and tasks. Here are the advantages of Thunderbird at a glance:

Pros of Thunderbird

Cons of Thunderbird

Available for Windows, Linux, and Mac

Does not include calendar or task list function by default

Encryption possible

Configuration of some security features difficult

RSS feed management possible

Inefficient at showing related messages

Clear structure

Less features offered so extensions need to be installed

Practical functions for message management and categorization

Search function isn’t very fast

Windows Live Mail

Unlike Outlook, Window’s Live Mail is free. With its range of functions similar to those of Thunderbird, this alternative stands out with its clear and simple design. Using Windows Live Mail means you also have access to other Microsoft services. Live Mail is essential for users with Windows 7 and beyond since Microsoft’s current operating systems no longer include the simple, pre-installed e-mail program, Outlook Express.

Pros of  Windows Live Mail

Cons of Windows Live Mail

Available for Windows


Last updated in 2014 and has now been discontinued

Adjustable spam filter


Difficulties when working offline

RSS feed integration


Doesn’t support PGP

Calendar feature


Doesn’t support TLS


SeaMonkey presents an all-round solution for office communication. It also includes an HTML editor as well as a browser, e-mail, and chat client. Mail organization is carried out via instructions defined by the user and further features such as flexible sorting and visual highlighting are also available. The encryption is handled according to S/MIME.

Pros of SeaMonkey

Cons of SeaMonkey

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux


Not many extensions available

Receipt confirmation


User interface slightly outdated

Digital signature


Browser’s startup speed is sluggish

LDAP directory service integration


Not suitable for highly complex projects

Customizable spam filter


Page composer lacks some of the more helpful tools that a standalone editor offers

Management of multiple accounts possible



Opera Mail

A few years ago Opera Mail was only available as part of the browser; now, however, it can be downloaded as a separate program. The structure is simple, and all-important basic functions are accessible via an intuitive user interface. The connection occurs either via POP3/SMTP or via IMAP4/SMTP. In contrast to SeaMonkey, Opera Mail enables users to activate the transport encryption directly with SSL/TLS.

Pros of Opera

Cons of Opera

Available for Windows and Mac

Doesn’t support PGP

Good and clear structure

Is less intuitive that its previous web application

Various views available

Doesn’t offer many personalization options

Portable version available


Management of RSS feeds possible



Evolution is a free e-mail and groupware program that is relatively popular among Linux users as an alternative to Outlook. It supports the important features that Outlook has to offer: besides managing e-mail traffic, you can also organize contacts, meetings, tasks, and memos. The encryption occurs using PGP as well as S/MIME. Evolution is also suitable for professional use as it supports collaboration servers and the Microsoft Exchange Server.

Pros of Evolution

Cons of Evolution

Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux

Doesn’t offer flexible message templates

Adaptive junk e-mail filter

Searching and locating messages function is quite slow

Connection with Microsoft Exchange Server possible

Doesn’t support format=flowed messages (e.g. iPhone messages)

eM Client

Developed in 2006, eM Client is a Windows-based e-mail client with which you can send and receive e-mails, manage calendars, contacts, and tasks. The goal was to make it more user-friendly than other existing e-mail clients. It’s available in twelve languages under two types of license, Free and Pro. The former can be used non-commercially and supports two e-mail accounts, and the latter is for commercial use and supports an unlimited amount of e-mail accounts. It’s compatible with POP3 and IMAP4 servers, chat protocols (e.g. XMPP) and with programs like Skype, as long as the user has them installed on their computer.

Pros of eM Client

Cons of eM Client

Available for Windows

Free version only allows two e-mail accounts

Supports all major e-mail platforms

Doesn’t support PGP

User-friendly interface

Toolbar isn’t customizable

Automatic syncronization

The  'send as mass mail' option could make it easier for spammers


Inky was developed in 2008 and is compatible with Mac, PC, iOS, and Android and allows the synchronization of e-mail data across all platforms. Two popular feature among users (making it a great alternative to Outlook) include the ability to unsubscribe from messages and view all e-mail accounts together on one screen. Inky sorts out messages depending on their relevance and can organize them into individual folders. Since 2016, Inky has been offering end-to-end encryption and digitally signed e-mail.

Pros of Inky

Cons of Inky

Available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android

Is still not available for Windows Phone

Allows you to add Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo!, and others that support IMAP or POP

Many users have doubts about security due to it being a cloud solution

All accounts can be viewed on one screen

Doesn’t have incoming message alerts

Clear and intuitive user interface

Could appear unfinished in the eyes of more experienced users


Mailbird is an e-mail client for Windows 7, 8, and 10 and was awarded Best Windows E-mail Software Program three years in a row. It boasts a simple design, which makes it faster, and also offers a platform for e-mail productivity where other developers can create applications for the open source app community and platform. Mailbird provides support for various applications and allows you to configure different accounts, create identities, and organize folders and subfolders to store messages. It’s also possible to connect to Facebook and WhatsApp.

Pros of Mailbird

Cons of Mailbird

Available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android

The free version is quite limited (maximum of 3 accounts)

User interface is simple, fast, and easy to use

Keyboard shortcuts can’t be customized

It’s an innovative tool for beginners and private users

Advanced users may be disappointed with the lack of features

Overview of all mail clients

  Available for Portable version Security Supports Digital signature License Price
Thunderbird Windows, Mac OS X, Linux... PGP, S/MIME POP, POP3, IMAP, SMTP, NNTP, IPv6 MPL/GPL/LGPL Free
Windows Live Mail Windows - - POP3, POP3 over SSL, IMAP - Freeware, proprietary Free
SeaMonkey Windows, Mac OS X, Linux S/MIME, SSL/TLS POP3, IMAP4, SMTP, NNTP MPL/GPL/LGPL Free
Opera Mail Windows, Mac OS X - SSL/TLS POP3, IMAP, SMTP, NNTP - Freeware, proprietary Free
Evolution Windows, Mac OS X, Linux - S/MIME POP3, IMAP, SMTP, NNTP, LDAP LGPL Free
eM Client Windows - SSLT/TLS, S/MIME POP3, IMAP, SMTP,EWS Freeware, proprietary Free, but use is limited
Inky Windows, Mac, iOS, Android SSL/TLS, S/MIME POP3, IMAP, SMTP, EWS Freeware, proprietary Free, but use is limited
Mailbird Windows, Mac, iOS, Android SSL/TLS POP3, IMAP, SMTP, LDAPv2 - Freeware, proprietary Free, but use is limited

Outlook alternatives for mobile devices

Outlook is not usually the first choice for mobile internet users. Depending on the operating system, smartphones and other mobile devices come equipped with e-mail programs, calendars, and contact management functions. The pre-installed apps are a good solution for private users and Google apps are especially popular on Android devices. The same also applies to businesses, which increasingly consider Google products as the go-to choice. Synchronizing different apps, calendars, e-mails, and contacts is not complicated and Apple users can use pre-installed products and dock these onto an Exchange account or a Google app. Windows mobile device users can also make use of the Microsoft Office apps.