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 Outlook.

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Image: GettyImages/photoschmidt

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

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

But there is a slight problem. Which email client to use? There are quite a large number of apps available on every platform, and not every app is 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 the longest time, everyone just assumed MS Outlook was the single best email client on the planet. 

For anyone who’s had to troubleshoot Outlook problems, you know just how bad that client can get when it’s in a fussy mood. I’ve experienced Outlook problems so bad, the only way to solve the problem was a complete reinstall of the OS. Granted, that situation was not normal, but it is very indicative of what can go wrong with that particular email client. And although Apple Mail is a very good email application, its macOS-only limitation is problematic. I will go so far as to say if Apple Mail was available for Linux, macOS and Windows, it would probably wind up at the very top of this list.

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

That, however, is not the case.

With that said, is there a single email application that can claim the best email client for all three of the main desktop operating systems? There is, and it will surprise you which client has risen to the top. Why the surprise? Mostly because everyone had pretty much written this application off when the founding company looked to be jettisoning the software. That didn’t happen, and the email client enjoyed a bit of a renaissance, which led to it being one of the cleanest, most reliable email clients available. That client is Thunderbird.

Whoa! What about the cloud?

I get it, many of you opt to go the cloud or SaaS route for email. You have Gmail, Microsoft 365 and so many other cloud- or SaaS-based email services, and you’re content viewing them via a web browser. That’s the route so many people take. But it can get a bit unwieldy—especially when you’re already prone to having too many tabs open in your browser.  Good news: Thunderbird can handle the likes of Gmail and Office 365.

And that’s just one of the reasons Thunderbird gets this nod: Because of its flexibility and extendability. 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

Those services alone cover a very broad range. Of course, with some of the above, you do have to jump through certain hoops to make it work (such as enabling IMAP or using app passwords), but the point is, it works. And works quite well. 

But why switch?

You’re probably already heavily invested in your current email application. You’ve been using it for years and it (for the most part) serves you well. Or you mostly view your email from within a web browser. But if you’re like me, you have numerous email accounts you monitor throughout the day. I have to keep track of four primary email accounts, and the idea of having to hop between browser tabs to view them all makes me want to shut down and turn my back on communication altogether. To that end, I rely on Thunderbird to corral those email accounts into a single, easy-to-use interface.

But what about the calendar? 

One thing about Outlook is that it’s an all-in-one groupware suite. It’s email, calendar, contacts, todo, coffee maker, toothbrush and veggie crisper. But let’s be honest, the majority of people use Outlook for two things: Email and Calendar. 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 your calendar of choice. Even better, Thunderbird has just about every feature you could think of:

  • Tabbed interface.
  • Built-in encryption.
  • Highly customizable.
  • Do not track and remote content blocking.
  • Powerful add-ons.
  • Themable.
  • One-click address book.
  • Attachment reminder.
  • Quick filter toolbar.
  • Powerful search.
  • Message archiving.
  • Large files management.
  • Smart folders.
  • Remote image blocking.
  • Phishing protection.
  • Automated updated.
  • Built-in junk filters.

It’s all about performance and efficiency

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

The basic layout of Thunderbird brushes off any confusion and makes it incredibly simple to read, compose and manage email. There’s zero learning curve to this client, and its usage is as simple as it gets. On top of that, even with a massive amount of email in your account, Thunderbird performs incredibly well. I’ve experienced Outlook choke on what Thunderbird easily manages. My current Thunderbird client (running on both Pop!_OS and macOS) has archives dating back to 2009 and it shows no sign of slowing down or hesitancy. I cannot remember the last time I had a problem with Thunderbird.

On the contrary, the last time I had to work with Outlook, I frequently had to deal with PST and OST files. If those files weren’t cared for, fed well and burped frequently, Outlook would get fussy and refuse to do what it was told. All the while, Thunderbird keeps chugging on.

My day has become insanely busy. The tools I use must work and work well. Between web browsers and email clients, I don’t have time to deal with breakdowns and corrupt files. That’s why Thunderbird is the email client I find is best suited for Linux, macOS and Windows. It’s not perfect, but between it and the competition, selecting Thunderbird as my default is an absolute no-brainer.

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