The best email client for Linux, Windows, and macOS isn’t Outlook


In businesses and homes, email is still a necessity for communication. But which email client is the best to use? You might be surprised to find out that it’s not Microsoft Outlook.

Image: GettyImages / photoschmidt

I rely on email. In fact, it is my main method of communicating with the outside world. While most people are busy on Slack and other chat platforms, I still prefer email. Why? On the one hand, I keep a digital trace of my communication. I can search threads to easily follow conversations with a single person (or multiple people). Another reason is that I’ve been using email since the late 90s, so it’s a very comfortable and familiar format.

SEE: Electronic communication policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Does this mean that I ignore chat and other types of communication platforms? Not at all. But my primary method of communicating with clients, editors, and publishers is email all the way. It’s easy, fast and always there. I don’t have to worry about whether a recipient is online or not; they will get the communication one way or another.

But there is a small problem. Which email client should I use? There are quite a few apps available on every platform, and not all apps are available for every operating system. You have Apple Mail for macOS, Outlook for Windows and macOS, Evolution for Linux, and a host of other possibilities. And for a very long time, everyone assumed that Microsoft Outlook was the best email client on the planet.

For anyone who has had to troubleshoot Outlook issues, you know how uncomfortable this customer can be when in a hectic mood. I ran into the Outlook issues so much that the only way to fix it was to completely reinstall the operating system. Granted, this situation was not normal, but it is very indicative of what can go wrong with this particular email client. And while Apple Mail is a very good email app, its limitation to macOS only is problematic. I’ll go so far as to say that if Apple Mail were available for Linux, macOS, and Windows, it would probably end up at the top of this list.

SEE: The best browser for Linux, Windows, and Mac isn’t Google Chrome in 2021 (TechRepublic)

This is however not the case.

That said, is there a single email app that can claim the best email client for all three major desktop operating systems? There are, and you’ll be surprised which customer has made it to the top. Why the surprise? Mainly because everyone pretty much ditched this app when the founding company seemed to ditch the software. That didn’t happen, and the email client got a certain renaissance, making it one of the cleanest and most reliable email clients available. This client is Thunder bird.

Wow ! And the cloud?

I understand, a lot of you are going for the cloud or SaaS for email. You have Gmail, Microsoft 365, and many other cloud-based or SaaS-based email services, and you view them through a web browser. This is the path taken by so many people. But it can get a bit cumbersome, especially when you’re already prone to having too many tabs open in your browser. Good news: Thunderbird can handle Gmail and Office 365.

And that’s just one of the reasons Thunderbird gets this nod: because of its flexibility and expandability. You see, Thunderbird isn’t just limited to POP and IMAP. With this open source email client, you can connect to:

  • Gmail
  • Exchange
  • Office 365
  • iCloud
  • and more

These services alone cover a very wide range. Of course, with some of the above there are some hurdles you need to jump over for this to work (like enabling IMAP or using app passwords), but the point is, it works. And works quite well.

But why change?

You’re probably already heavily invested in your current messaging app. You have been using it for years and it (for the most part) serves you well. Or you primarily view your email from a web browser. But if you’re like me, you have a lot of email accounts that you monitor throughout the day. I have to keep track of four main email accounts, and the thought of having to jump between browser tabs to see them all makes me want to shut down and turn my back on communication altogether. To this end, I rely on Thunderbird to consolidate these email accounts into a single, easy-to-use interface.

But what about the schedule?

One thing about Outlook is that it is an all-in-one groupware suite. It’s email, calendar, contacts, tasks, coffee maker, toothbrush, and crisper. But let’s be honest, the majority of people use Outlook for two things: messaging and calendaring. And the majority of home users probably only use Outlook for email.

Guess what? Thunderbird has a built-in Calendar feature that can connect to any calendar you want. Best of all, Thunderbird has just about every feature you can think of:

  • Tabbed interface.
  • Integrated encryption.
  • Highly customizable.
  • Do not track and block content remotely.
  • Powerful add-ons.
  • Thematic.
  • One-click address book.
  • Attachment reminder.
  • Quick filter toolbar.
  • Powerful search.
  • Archiving of messages.
  • Large file management.
  • Smart folders.
  • Remote blocking of images.
  • Protection against phishing.
  • Automated update.
  • Built-in unwanted filters.

It’s all about performance and efficiency

The two main reasons I list Thunderbird as the best email client for all platforms come down to performance and efficiency. Of all the email clients I’ve ever used (and I’ve used a metric ton of them figuratively), Thunderbird offers the best mix of performance, efficiency, and features. And given how busy life can be, performance and efficiency are essential.

Thunderbird’s basic layout eliminates confusion and makes reading, writing, and managing emails incredibly easy. There is no learning curve for this client, and its use is as easy as it gets. On top of that, even with a huge amount of emails in your account, Thunderbird performs amazingly well. I’ve seen Outlook choke on what Thunderbird easily handles. My current Thunderbird client (running on both Pop! _OS and macOS) has archives dating back to 2009 and it shows no signs of slowing down or hesitating. I can’t remember the last time I had a problem with Thunderbird.

On the contrary, the last time I had to work with Outlook I often had to deal with PST and OST files. If these files were not neat, well fed, and burped frequently, Outlook would become difficult and refuse to do as it is told. All the while, Thunderbird keeps blowing.

My day has become incredibly busy. The tools I use must work and work well. Between web browsers and email clients, I don’t have time to deal with crashes and corrupted files. This is why Thunderbird is the email client that I find best suited for Linux, macOS, and Windows. It’s not perfect, but between that and the competition, choosing Thunderbird as the default is a no-brainer.

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