Top 6 open source desktop email clients |

This article was originally published on October 8, 2015 and has been updated to reflect new information and project changes.

mobile and web technologies have not yet made the desktop obsolete, and despite some regular claims to the contrary, desktop clients don’t seem to be going away any time soon.

and rightly so. For many, a preference for a native application (and corresponding native performance), easy offline use, a wide range of plugins, and meeting security needs will far outweigh the pressures to switch to a high-end email client. webmail. Whether you’re sticking with a desktop email client due to corporate mandate or simply personal preference, there are still plenty of great options to choose from. And just because you’re stuck on windows doesn’t mean outlook is your only option; many open source clients are cross-platform.

In this roundup, we take a quick look at six open source options for desktop email, share a little about each, and give you a few options you might want to try.

thunder bird

For many years, Mozilla Thunderbird was the king of open source email clients. It was available on all major platforms and was very successful alongside Mozilla’s flagship project, Firefox. thunderbird has been around for over a decade and was instantly popular from the start, receiving over a million downloads in its first 10 days of public release.

In recent years, the thunder behind thunderbird died down a bit, and in mid-2017, the project announced that it would be moving out of the Mozilla infrastructure, but would keep the Mozilla Foundation as its legal and fiscal seat. Several new hires were made to move the project forward, with plans to bring in new developers to fix persistent issues and transform the code base to be based on web technologies.

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thunderbird is fully featured, with a number of well-supported plugins that add everything from calendar support to advanced address book integration, and many specialized features including themes and large file management. Out of the box, it supports pop and imap email synchronization, spam filtering, and many other features you’d expect, and works flawlessly on windows, macos, and linux.

thunderbird is available under the mozilla public license.


claw mail

claws mail, a fork of sylpheed, is a fast and flexible alternative that may appeal to anyone concerned about performance and minimal resource usage. It’s a good choice, for example, if you’re working within the limited processing power and memory of a raspberry pi, for example.

but even for those with virtually unlimited computing resources to throw at a mail client, claw mail might be a good option. it’s flexible, probably more so than thunderbird or some of the other options on this list, and has several plugins available for those who want to extend it. and it prides itself on being fast and reliable, as well as having a simple interface that might be ideal for new users.

claws mail is based on the gtk+ framework and is available under the gpl.


If you’re a user of the popular fedora or debian distributions, you’re probably already familiar with the next option on our list, evolution. evolution is an official part of the gnome project, but it didn’t start out that way. Originally developed at ximian, and later at novell, evolution was designed from the ground up to be an enterprise-ready email application.

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To this end, evolution supports exchange servers and other email setups you might find in a corporate environment. It’s also a full-featured personal information manager (PIM), with a calendar, to-do list, contact manager, and note-taking app, as well as handling your email. Even if it’s not the default mail app in your distribution, you might want to check it out if you’re interested in these features or the included spam filtering, gnu privacy guard (gpg) support, libreoffice integration, or lots of other functions.

evolution is available as open source under lgpl.


geary is a project originally developed by the yorba foundation, which created several different gnome software tools. geary supports several popular webmail services like imap mail server.

geary isn’t very feature-rich compared to other clients on this list, but its simple interface may appeal to users frustrated with the unnecessary complexity of other email programs. geary is available under lgpl.


kmail is the mail component of kontact, the personal information manager included with kde. kmail supports a variety of email protocols, including imap, smtp, and pop3, and through its integration with the other components of kontact, it could be considered a complete groupware suite. despite its linux paths, a windows build is also available.

With its long history, kmail has developed most of the features you’d expect to find in a modern mail program. while it fits nicely into the kde application pool, some may find its interface clunky compared to others. but give it a try and see what you think.

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kmail is available under the gpl.

source of mail

mailspring, the new kid on the block, is a relaunch of the now defunct nylas mail by one of the original authors. it replaces nylas’s javascript sync engine with a c++ core, which is said to minimize application power and ram demands, and remove heavy dependencies to add speed. its features include a unified inbox, imap support (but not activesync), gmail-style search, themes, and message translation.

mailspring is available for macos, windows and linux, and is licensed under gplv3.


Of course there are many more options besides these, including the full featured pim zimbra desktop or one of the lightweight alternatives like gnumail which might be the best option for your situation. what is your favorite open source desktop email client? And with webmail being the first choice for many users, what do you think the role of the desktop email client will be in the coming years? let us know in the comments below.

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