Five Best (Free) Alternatives to Microsoft Outlook
In July 2013 we wrote an article about what we thought were the five best free alternatives to Microsoft Outlook at that time.
We had no idea that the article would prove so successful, and we thought it might be a good idea to spend some time looking at the options we mentioned and give you an update on where they stand right now.
We also thought it might be a good idea to mention any other solutions that have appeared on the scene since we wrote the article, or ones perhaps we missed the first time around.
But first of all, what of Microsoft Outlook? How’s it standing?
We all know Microsoft Outlook – it’s the best email and collaboration software on the market.
With its contacts and calendars features, it’s by far the best way to keep an office organized and even offers strong Customer Relationship Management (CRM) features.
Outlook is still going strong and is now up to Outlook 2016 – but there’s a catch.
In 2014, when Satya Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer as CEO, he brought with him a new vision. Microsoft is now a ‘Cloud-First, Mobile-First’ company and his innovations have included Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing infrastructure, and the introduction of ‘Office 365’.
Whereas once you bought Microsoft Office as software that you owned, now Satya Nadella has thrown everything into the cloud under Office 365.
To get Outlook 2016 you now need an Office 365 subscription – and for someone who just wants to send a few emails, that could become expensive.
Here’s the package. As you can see, Outlook is nestled in there quite nicely:
As we said in 2013, that’s money that can be better spent elsewhere within a startup or small business.
What about cloud-based email?
Of course, free cloud-based email provides a good alternative to Outlook.
Options include Gmail, Outlook.com and Yahoo! (amongst others) and each has gone from strength to strength over the period.
While adopting these as free solutions might negate the need for an Outlook alternative on your PC, it also means forfeiting having your domain name in your email address (firstname.lastname@example.org versus email@example.com).
To enjoy the luxury of having your domain name in your email using these solutions, you now need to pay a subscription fee. So, more than ever, a good free alternative to Outlook could be a boon for any company, especially a smaller company.
So, what changes have occurred in the solutions you originally looked at?
As promised, here’s an update on what we talked about in 2013:
Number 1: Windows Essentials 2012 and Windows 8 Mail, Calendar, and People Apps
The Windows Essentials 2012 suite reached ‘end of support’ on January 10, 2017 and is not available as a download anymore.
So, that’s that!
However, the fact that it isn’t supported doesn’t mean you can’t use it, and if you look around on the Internet, you will be able to find a copy – it just won’t be on a Microsoft site!
Windows 8 Mail, Calendar, and People Apps reached Windows 8.1 Mail, Calendar, and People Apps, but has been superseded by the functionality of Windows10, first launched July 29, 2015.
Windows 10 has excellent Mail and Calendar apps already built in, so if you took Microsoft up on its free Windows 10 upgrade, then you are all set.
Windows 10 also has a perfectly adequate ‘People’ app that will allow you to manage your contacts. So really, there’s no need for Windows Essentials 2012 anymore.
Where Windows 10 falls down though is that it no longer offers Movie Maker, which is a shame because it was an excellent tool. Again though, look around on the internet and you will still find it, again, just not on a Microsoft site.
Number 2: Thunderbird
Thunderbird was, and still is, the Geek’s weapon of choice.
A Mozilla project, it’s a free download and now up to version 52.3.0. Along the way it’s become a very sophisticated client indeed.
Again a free ‘Open Source’ solution, it now provides a range of features including a ‘Mail Account Setup Wizard’ and ‘Personalized Email Addresses’.
It also offers a ‘One-click Address Book’ alongside ‘Multiple-channel Chat’ for real-time conversations, as well as ‘Tabbed Email’.
It’s got more of a Mozilla Firefox feel about it than before, and you can even search the Internet whilst still in Thunderbird.
As in 2013, Thunderbird has a massive range of addons:
These add an astounding variety of functionalities to your email solution.
Thunderbird’s range of features keep it up there as one of the leading Outlook alternatives. And it’s more worth checking out than ever before.
Number 3: Zimbra Desktop
Cross-platform Zimbra Desktop is available on Windows, Mac OS and Linux.
It’s now up to version 7.3.0, so as you can imagine, there have been some improvements along the way!
An Open Source solution, it’s clearly inspired by Outlook and offers email, contacts, calendar, contacts and documents all in one application.
Available free of charge, it gives you “online and offline access to all your email accounts in one place”.
Zimbra Desktop operates with a range of email solutions and synchronizes email, contacts and calendar data between accounts.
Features include multi-account support, advanced search, a mini-calendar on email pages, and ‘Zimlets’ – addons that change the solution’s functionality.
Still, a genuinely good option.
Number 4: IncrediMail 2.5
It’s a bit curious that while other email clients have raced ahead as far as versions are concerned, IncrediMail is only at version 2.5.
We got a bit of flack for adding IncrediMail to our original list:
“Incredimail? Seriously, Incredimail? I’ve been in IT troubleshooting, repairs, software blah blah blah for 20 years, and I can say without a doubt that Incredimail is one of the worst applications ever foisted onto inexperienced users,” suggested one visitor’s comments.
That said, it is still free, and still specializes in allowing users to send emails that look nice.
Version 2.5 allows users to share photos in email and offers a lot of customization options, including decorating email with a variety of backgrounds.
Incredimail also offers a massive range of emoticons and animations that allow users to send fun email and animated ecards.
On reflection, Incredimail might not be a real Outlook alternative, but it does manage the email side of Outlook in a fun way.
Number 5: Opera Mail
Of course, we all know that Opera is a first rate
Internet browser, but Opera Mail is also a very usable email client.
Available in Windows, Mac and Linux versions, it’s now up to version 12.
Opera Mail is dealt with alongside Opera, meaning when Opera receives an update, so does Opera Mail.
It offers a good range of features, including labeling, and filtering options with tabs that enable users to view multiple email messages at one time.
It also offers an RSS feature.
So, that covers the list you came up with in 2013. Any additions?
Evolution has clearly been influenced by Outlook. It
is a ‘Personal Information Management’ app with integrated email,
address book and calendar – sound familiar?
A GNOME Project, the latest stable version was 3.24.3 (July 20, 2017) and it offers a good range of features. These include POP and IMAP capability with SSL, TLS and STARTTLS encryption and GPG and S/MIME email encryption.
Evolution offers good email filtering, a solid search facility and excellent spam filtering.
Again, another good Outlook alternative.
Mailbird is available for Windows 7, 8 and 10 and was recommended by one of the readers of our original article.
Available free of charge, it has won a number of “best email client” awards, so we really should have added this first time around.
As with other clients, it manages multiple accounts and supports IMAP and POP3. It also offers a ‘Unified Email Inbox’ alongside integrated messaging apps and integrated task management apps. Additionally, it provides a versatile contact manager and calendar.
Easily customized in terms of color and layout, Mailbird offers a good level of features and a practical design.
Paid versions are also available.
The SeaMonkey Project was launched in January, 2006, so perhaps we should have mentioned it back in 2013.
Formerly a Mozilla project, it uses a lot of the code that went into Firefox and Thunderbird.
It’s currently up to version 2.48 (released July 31, 2017), so it’s still going strong and it’s got a good track record.
Again, Open Source and free of charge, it represents a good office communication solution for a smaller office.
It is in fact it is a suite of solutions which alongside an email client includes an Internet browser, a newsgroup client, HTML editor, IRC chat and web development tools. It also leverages S/MIME for encryption.
SeaMonkey Mail supports multiple accounts, and offers junk mail protection. It has solid message filters and a good address books.
A solid solution for those looking for an Outlook alternative.