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Best email client for Linux 2021

woman typing on laptop at desk
(Image credit: Unsplash)

While web-based email has become the norm and can be accessed from any web browser, many users prefer a native email client. On Windows, you have applications like Microsoft Outlook and Thunderbird. On Android or iOS, there are clients like Nine and K-9 Mail. But what about Linux?

Hundreds of native email clients for Linux have come and gone, and only a few offer comparable features to Windows native clients. But one of the great things about Linux is that most applications are available for free, forever, so you can try them all out to find the best email client for Linux for your needs.

There is also a more diverse range of email clients for the Linux desktop than you’ll find on Windows. When developers don’t like something about a piece of software written on Linux, they often make their own version and release it free to the world. This has resulted in some unique email clients that you might find suit you better than the usual suspects, and which may yet rank among the best email providers.

In this article, we’ll look at some top native email clients for Linux. Whether you’re looking for a GUI (graphical user interface) email client, or one you can use at the command line, these are all great apps for managing your email on your computer.

Thunderbird's homepage

Thunderbird is still being actively developed by a subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation (Image credit: Thunderbird)

1. Thunderbird

Best email client for Linux overall

Specifications
Open-source: Yes
GUI: Yes
Available for: Windows/macOS/Linux/BSD/Unix
Reasons to buy
+Support for online storage providers+Tabbed email interface+Extensive add-on library
Reasons to avoid
-Dated interface-Some key features require third-party addons

On desktop, Thunderbird remains one of the top choices for Linux users. It’s free and open-source, naturally, and was originally modeled after the Mozilla Firefox internet browser. This is most evident in Thunderbird’s tabbed email interface, which you can use to keep multiple emails open at a time for quick reference.

Users coming from a Windows email client like Microsoft Outlook will find Thunderbird easy to get started with, as it follows roughly the same interface design. It has strong theme support and ships with a dark and light theme as standard.

The quick filter toolbar is an advanced search tool for finding specific groups of emails, and the search tools in Thunderbird have some neat timeline graphs showing you how many emails you received over a time period. You can arrange incoming emails from multiple accounts into smart folders through the use of filters.

Thunderbird has support for online storage providers, so instead of attaching a large file to an email, you can upload the file and share a link.

The add-ons manager in Thunderbird is great, too. There are almost 1,500 add-ons for Thunderbird that add to or change the functionality of the software, all easily installed from within the application.

Evolution's online support page

Evolution is often the default email client on Gnome-based Linux distributions (Image credit: Evolution)

2. Evolution

Best mail client for the Gnome desktop

Specifications
Open-source: Yes
GUI: Yes
Available for: Linux/BSD/Unix
Reasons to buy
+Supports Microsoft Exchange servers+Stylistically fits the Gnome desktop
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively resource-intensive-Old-school interface

Evolution snaps at Thunderbird’s heels as the best Linux-based email client. It’s generally considered part of the Gnome desktop environment, but you can use it on other desktop environments.

Setting up Evolution with online services like Gmail takes seconds thanks to the simple wizard. Evolution has no qualms about working with proprietary email protocols, so you can use it with Microsoft Exchange, Novell GroupWise, WebDAV, LDAP, Kolab, and many other services.

But Evolution isn’t just an email client. It also includes a task list, memos, contact lists, and a calendar. You can use these features to better leverage the power of Exchange, Outlook, or Gmail accounts. There’s also an RSS plugin you can use to aggregate RSS and Atom feeds.

There’s a lot of customization in how each of the panels appears, but it still has a somewhat dated appearance. Evolution is a bit of a resource-hog, too, so it isn’t the best choice for older computers.

KMail's homepage

KMail comes from the developers of KDE (Image credit: KDE)

3. KMail

Best email client for KDE users.

Specifications
Open-source: Yes
GUI: Yes
Available for: macOS/Linux/BSD/Unix
Reasons to buy
+Built-in support for OpenPGP end-to-end encryption+Support for spam checkers
Reasons to avoid
-Can’t use with Microsoft Exchange-Cumbersome install if you don’t use a KDE distro

KMail is the default mail client you’ll find on most KDE-based Linux distributions. This means it has tight integration with the KDE desktop and other applications made by KDE. For example, meeting invitations you receive can be automatically detected and sent to KOrganizer calendar, and the auto-completion of email addresses is handled by KAddressBook.

KMail has a template system you can use to automate some of your writing. There’s a powerful filter system and mailing list management, and KMail can automatically detect flight or hotel reservations and feed them into KOrganizer. In addition, you can pair KMail with popular spam checkers like Bogofilter and SpamAssassin.

KMail doesn’t support Microsoft Exchange, which could limit its usefulness in some environments. But it supports end-to-end encryption through built-in OpenPGP. If you’re not using a KDE-based distribution, you usually need to install quite a few other components to get KMail to work, which can make it use quite a lot of disk space.

BlueMail's Linux email app homepage

A native BlueMail app for Linux was first released in 2019 (Image credit: Blix)

4. BlueMail

A modern email solution with a native Linux client

Specifications
Open-source: No
GUI: Yes
Available for: Windows/macOS/Linux/Android/iOS
Reasons to buy
+Slick interface+Unified inbox
Reasons to avoid
-Proprietary code-Has had privacy leaks in the past

BlueMail is an email client available for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. In 2020, native clients were added for Linux desktops.

BlueMail offers a more modern look and feel than most email clients on our list. Its stylish menus, colors, and themes feel light years ahead of some of the clunky interfaces we’ve gotten used to on Linux. It has a built-in dark mode.

BlueMail uses a unified email inbox approach, whereby you import all your email accounts and they all appear together as one inbox. It has support for IMAP, POP3, Exchange, and other protocols.

A bunch of BlueMail’s features are focused on smartly organizing your inbox. Clusters organize people and conversations into collections, and you can define groups of people with the groups tool, giving each group a name and a photo for easy recall. People mode only shows emails coming from people, hiding distracting newsletters or email alerts.

BlueMail isn’t open-source, which for some people means it’s off the table. Earlier versions of BlueMail were suspected of leaking password data to BlueMail servers, too, though it appears to have patched those problems. If you can get past these misgivings, BlueMail is a solid, modern email client that has clients for all your operating systems.

Geary's homepage

Geary is a simple email client for the GNOME 3 desktop (Image credit: Gnome Project)

5. Geary

Best lightweight email client

Specifications
Open-source: Yes
GUI: Yes
Available for: Linux/BSD/Unix
Reasons to buy
+Works well on older machines+Small footprint
Reasons to avoid
-Basic features only-Weak email search feature

All the email clients listed above require a relatively modern machine to run. But if you’re working on older hardware and using the GNOME 3 desktop, a lightweight email client like Geary may be a better option.

Geary has fewer bells and whistles than most email apps here. There’s no calendar or smart contact management system, and the email search options are rudimentary. There’s no support for labels, either, but this feature appears to be in development. Despite this, Geary has a stylish interface that’s arguably more modern than those of Thunderbird and Evolution.

What Geary does well is keeping email simple, and it doesn’t hog a lot of resources. Consider it if you like to use a GUI email client, but don’t want all the extras like calendars and address books that bloat some of the competition.

Sylpheed's homepage

Sylpheed is the default mail client of several small Linux distributions (Image credit: Hiroyuki)

6. Sylpheed

Best client for high-traffic email inboxes

Specifications
Open-source: Yes
GUI: Yes
Available for: Windows/macOS/Linux/BSD/Unix
Reasons to buy
+Great performance+Low hardware requirements
Reasons to avoid
-Dated user interface-Uses some deprecated GTK+ APIs

Sylpheed is another lightweight email client for Linux, Windows, and macOS. It uses a three-panel display similar to Outlook Express, which is decidedly dated but preferred by many users.

It has been written in the C programming language with a focus on performance. If you work with tens of thousands of emails, some email clients will slow to a crawl, but Sylpheed will just keep on working fine. Sylpheed rarely crashes too, even if you use it to manage thousands of emails at a time.

Sylpheed has other basic features like email filtering, automatic junk mail control, and support for the signing and encryption of emails using GnuPG. You can use the email filters to pass specific emails to external commands to help automate your workflow. On the other hand, Sylpheed has very limited support for HTML emails.

Claws Mail's about us webpage

Claws Mail is actively developed by seven developers and hundreds of contributors (Image credit: Clawsmail)

7. Claws Mail

A lightweight email client that does more.

Specifications
Open-source: Yes
GUI: Yes
Available for: Windows/macOS/Linux/BSD/Unix
Reasons to buy
+Fast and lightweight+Plugin and theming architecture
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively complicated setup-Old-school UI

In 2005, Sylpheed was forked into two projects, one of which is now known as Claws Mail. Accordingly, it shares a lot of the same DNA. There are Claws Mail clients for Windows, macOS, Linux, BSD, and Unix.

Claws Mail takes a slightly less minimalist approach than Sylpheed, so there are a few more features and support for newer authentication methods. There’s support for RSS and Atom feeds and iCalendar, for example, through the use of plugins. There’s inline PGP support, too.

Claws Mail also stands out for its useful plugin system. There are around 30 plugins and another 30-odd command-line scripts you can use to extend Claws Mail’s functionality. These include a PDF viewer, mail archiver, and HTML email viewer. Though it makes Claws Mail a little fiddly to set up in the first place, this modular approach keeps the core codebase small while still offering features you might need.

Similarly, there are around 40 themes you can download and install. They don’t drastically change the interface, just upgrade the application’s icons.

Claws Mail is just as great as Sylpheed, and you may want to check it out if you want a lightweight GUI email client with a plugin and theming architecture.

Mutt's latest news webpage

Mutt has been many users’ command-line email client of choice for over 25 years (Image credit: Mutt)

8. Mutt

Best command-line email client

Specifications
Open-source: Yes
GUI: Yes
Available for: Windows/macOS/Linux/BSD/Unix
Reasons to buy
+Easily navigable command-line interface+Highly configurable
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks all the modern email conveniences of a GUI-It takes time to learn all the shortcuts

Sometimes, those fancy graphical user interfaces just get in the way. If you want to check and send email from the console, Mutt is a top choice. It’s easy to install, there’s color support, and once you’ve gotten used to the interface, sending and receiving emails is straightforward.

Mutt was first released in 1998 and is based on the even older ELM client, but it’s been actively developed over the years. It has support for message threading, color, mailing lists, and PGP/MIME.

Mutt is particularly customizable. You can create your own key binds and macros so that working with emails is lightning fast. It includes features like searching for emails using regular expressions, delivery status notification (DSN), and even an email tagging system. Mutt is also tiny, easy to install, and very low on resource usage.

Mutt, and all command-line email tools, aren’t for everyone. But if you spend a lot of your development time using the console, being able to quickly check or send emails by typing a few commands can make your life a lot easier.

Trojitá's about page, discussing its services as an IMAP email client

Trojitá supports IMAP email only (Image credit: Trojita)

9. Trojitá

Best Linux email client for IMAP

Specifications
Open-source: Yes
GUI: Yes
Available for: Windows/macOS/Linux/BSD/Unix
Reasons to buy
+Efficiently uses network resources+Loads emails quickly even if you have a large inbox
Reasons to avoid
-IMAP only-No calendar

While most of our choices have support for a range of email protocols, Trojitá is different. It’s an IMAP-only email client. By default, emails are kept on the email server instead of being downloaded to your local computer. This has the benefit of taking up less local hard drive space and other hardware resources.

Trojitá is designed for older hardware or underpowered tech like touchpads. It has a pretty basic user interface design, but there are three layouts you can choose from to suit you. It’s easy to set up with Gmail. Trojitá is a fast, lean application that can load large inboxes in seconds without putting a strain on your bandwidth or computer.

Mailspring's homepage

Mailspring offers a modern, slick interface (Image credit: Foundry)

10. Mailspring

Best commercial email client for Linux

Specifications
Open-source: No
GUI: Yes
Available for: Windows/macOS/Linux
Reasons to buy
+Powerful feature set+Modern interface
Reasons to avoid
-Poor customer support-Most features require a paid subscription

Mailspring is a unified inbox email app, so you can use it to consolidate all your email accounts into one place.

You can keep rich profiles of your contacts that contain social links and location information. With the Snooze feature, you can set emails to a lower priority and deal with them when you’re not busy. You can schedule emails to be sent later, send customized emails to large groups using Mail Merge, and get analytical data on the click counts of your sent links.

This advanced functionality comes at a price. While there is a free version of Mailspring, most of the best features require Mailspring Pro, which costs $8 per month.

Mailspring has a reputation for having poor customer support. In our testing, the customer support we received was adequate, but this is something to be aware of and one reason that Mailspring only just makes our list.

Richard Sutherland

Richard brings over 20 years of website development, SEO, and marketing to the table. A graduate in Computer Science, Richard has lectured in Java programming, and has built software for companies including Samsung and ASDA. Now, he writes for TechRadar, Tom's Guide, PC Gamer, and Creative Bloq.