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Specialization is the key to efficiency, especially in the realm of software. Programs that try to "do it all" end up becoming bloated, messy, and subpar in most of what they do. On the other hand, programs that have a specific focus tend to excel. Email clients are no different.
Having a specialized desktop client that handles your email for you is a great way to stay organized and free up time. There's nothing wrong with using the actual web interface provided by most email services like Gmail and Hotmail, but having a dedicated desktop client is great when you don't want to keep your browser open 24/7 with a permanent email tab.
Personally, I use Postbox for my emailing needs, but it'll set you back around $10. Fortunately, there are plenty of free email clients available – you just need to look in the right places.
When Mozilla Firefox came onto the scene in 2004 (known as Firebird back then), it gave Microsoft's Internet Explorer a run for its money. In the same year, Mozilla released Thunderbird which became a big contender to Microsoft's Outlook. Since then, Thunderbird has maintained its popularity even until now.
Thunderbird is packed full of features without being slowed down by excess. It can handle multiple email accounts, POP and IMAP, message filtering, folder organization, email labels and priorities, themes, and RSS/Atom feeds. In addition, it has a plugin system that allows new features to be added at your discretion. The only thing about Thunderbird is that, despite its pervasive popularity, it will not be getting any new features from here on out.
Thunderbird is open source and cross platform. Use it on Windows, Linux, or even Mac if you so choose.
Though Thunderbird is the most popular free client on Windows, eM Client may have a better feature set. It synchronizes flawlessly with any Gmail account, including emails, calendar dates, contact lists, tasks, and even GTalk. If you're switching over from Outlook, eM Client has an easy import tool. On top of that, it looks polished and clean.
eM Client is fully secure and encrypts everything it sends out. It even has a widgeting feature that allows you to create custom widgets. PC Magazine included eM Client in its list of best free software for 3 years running–2010, 2011, and 2012. Once you've used it, it's not hard to see why.
eM Client is available in Free and Pro versions. The Pro version costs $50 and grants you a commercial license for commercial use as well as VIP support priority. The Pro version also lets you create an unlimited number of email accounts.
If you're using a genuine version of Windows, you can install Windows Essentials and get a great free email client called Windows Live Mail. It handles all of your email accounts and is very easy to set up. If you use SkyDrive, even better! Windows Live Mail synchronizes with SkyDrive on the fly.
Windows Live Mail is available for Windows Vista, 7, and 8. If you use an earlier version, like XP, then you're unfortunately out of luck here.
Zimbra Desktop was a top-notch email client for a while but it's since fallen off the radar – and I'm not sure why. Its main distinguishing features are that it synchronizes locally so you can read all of your email while you're offline and it aggregates all of your accounts in one place, whether those accounts are for email or social networks.
Basically, you can use Zimbra Desktop as a place to consolidate all of your communication needs. And contrary to what I said before, Zimbra Desktop doesn't feel bloated. Even with so many features, it works fast and looks great. I can barely summarize all of its awesome features because there are so many.
Zimbra Desktop is free for all and available on Windows, Linux, and Mac.
Claws Mail is a desktop email client built on a GTK+ foundation. Because of this, it has a clean and minimalistic layout with quick response times. Everything is intuitive in design and the preferences are easily configured. With that said, the program is robust and extensible with all the features you'd need in an email client.
Upon using Claws Mail, you'll be able to import your settings and emails from other clients like Outlook and Thunderbird. If you ever feel the need to switch away, everything can be exported just as easily. With plugins, you can install extra functionality – like reading RSS feeds, event calendars, and more.
Claws Mail is available for Windows and Linux.
Which desktop email client do you prefer?
Image Credit: Email Computer Via Shutterstock