The 5 best open source mail clients for Linux

There are plenty of great mail clients for Linux desktops. Here are the best of the bunch.

mailbox
Simply the best

Windows users have Outlook; Mac users have Mail. What options are there for Linux users? As it turns out, Linux land is rich with mail clients. I have chosen five of the best, fully open source mail clients (with two exceptions) for Linux users.

Each has its pros and cons, and which mail client is best for you is heavily dependent upon your needs.

thunderbird
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Thunderbird

Mozilla Thunderbird was developed by the Mozilla Foundation, the same organization that developed the Firefox browser and Firefox OS, the mobile operating system. Back in 2012, Mozilla decided to freeze any further development of the mail client and put it in maintenance mode. That's where the beauty of open source came into play and the community took over the development of new features.

Thunderbird remains the best Linux email client for many reasons:

Pros:

  • The ability to choose the location of your data. If you are on a SSD and multiboot from different OSes, you can tell Thunderbird to save all emails to the preferred location and that partition can be shared with other OSes or will remain untouched.
  • Unlimited features due to third party extensions and plugins just like Firefox.
  • Ability to chat with users.
  • Ability to integrate calendar and the like through plugins.
  • Extremely customizable, thanks to third party themes; you can make it appear like Outlook or Mail if you want to make the transition to Linux easier for users.
  • Cross platform: it can be installed on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Cons:

  • The search feature of Thunderbird leaves a lot to be desired

Download and install Thunderbird

evolution copy
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Evolution

Evolution Groupware has quite an evolutionary history. It was initially developed by Ximian as a mail client for corporate Linux users. Ximian was acquired by Novell in 2003 and Evolution moved to new ownership. Novell also acquired SUSE, which was a heavy contributor to many open source products such as Gnome and KDE. Evolution has been the default mail client for Gnome, which was developed by Ximian co-founder, Miguel de Icaza. Novell transferred Evolution to SUSE, which decided to drop further development. Later, Red Hat, which is also heavily invested in Gnome, invested more resources to Evolution due to Mozilla's disdain towards Thunderbird.

This is once again an excellent example of an open source model where a business competitor is capable of taking over the development of a project; something you won't see in the proprietary world.

Evolution is far more complete than Thunderbird. It has a built-in calendar and contact support. Once you configure Evolution in Gnome, the rest of the components are automatically configured. Evolution has an extremely simple interface compared to the 'heavy-looking' UI of Thunderbird.

Pros:

  • Everything works out of the box. Tightly integrated calendar.
  • Simple interface

Cons:

  • It's no longer actively developed for Mac and Windows.
  • It is a bit unstable and prone to crashes

Download and install Evolution

kmail 1
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Kmail

As much as I love the Plasma Desktop and other KDE software, I found Kmail and the entire PIM (personal information management) to be in utter contrast with the rest of the KDE family.

Kmail is extremely rich in features, but it is also extremely complex to configure and use. It's also very hard under KDE to get all the components - calendar, chat client, address book and mail client to work together just by configuring one account.

If you don't bother with the rest of the components and just want to use a mail client with just one email account, you may give Kmail a try. If you have more than one email account, configuring them would be a hair-pulling experience under KDE.

If Kmail is so bad, why am I listing it among the best mail clients? The tools themselves (Kmail, Addressbook, etc.) are excellent -- even better than the other mail clients I've mentioned. But for some reason the developers decided to make it extremely hard to configure.

Kmail seems to have been developed without the user in mind.

Whenever I manage to get Kmail to work, I love it and I only hope that since developers are working on Plasma 5, they will focus some resources on Kmail and its better integration with the rest of the system.

Pros: Extremely feature rich and customizable
Cons: Good luck configuring it

Download and install Kmail

geary
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Geary

Geary is a new and great mail client for the Gnome 3 desktop. It supports Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook.com, and popular IMAP servers (Dovecot, Cyrus, Zimbra, etc.). It's developed by the Yorba Foundation.

Geary is a new product (the latest version is 0.8). Unlike Evolution, Geary doesn't have any calendar integration; the mail client doesn't support calendar. The foundation is now working on a calendar application called California. They believe in keeping the two components separate instead of what they see as bloating the email app with too many features.

If you are looking for a great, simplified mail client with modern, minimalistic, and elegant design, then Geary it is.

Pros:

  • Simple design and configuration
  • Upcoming calendar app

Cons:

  • Limited features
  • Early stages of development

Download and install Geary

trojita
Trojitá

Trojitá is a Qt based mail client which recently became part of the KDE project. It is quite the opposite of Kmail and offers a bit cleaner setting configuration. However, unlike Thunderbird, you need to enter the server information.

Trojitá is in a very early stage of development and supports only one email account at a time. So, from a multi-account user's point of view it's not a desired solution.

Since it's in the early stage, I assume developers are open to feedback and suggestions. I hope they will have some calendar and addressbook integration as well as support for multiple email accounts.

Pros:

  • A much simpler, and easy to use Qt-based mail client for KDE desktops (considering how hard Kmail is to use)

Cons:

  • Very early stage of development
  • No support for multiple email accounts.

Download and install Trojitá