For most of us, email is something we check in a browser or from a phone. But there’s value in having a dedicated desktop app just for managing our mail. This software loads our inbox faster than a browser and offers more functionality than we have on our phones.
There is plenty of diversity in the Linux world and this is on display when it comes to email clients. Which is the best Linux email client for you? Well, that depends on what you want and what you want to do. Here are ten of your options.
Thunderbird comes from Mozilla, the non-profit behind Firefox. Thunderbird is the most popular Linux mail client, and for good reason. Thunderbird comes with many of the same advantages as Firefox. It’s cross-platform. It supports add-ons. It has relatively large name recognition.
The setup experience takes the complication out of setting up a desktop email client and usually guesses the correct settings using only your email address and password. Thunderbird makes it easy to hit the ground running if this is your first time using an dedicated email software.
This email client is also powerful enough for power users. If you want to encrypt your email, Thunderbird is one of the few clients that supports GPG/PGP encryption. While there are encrypted webmail providers, a desktop client like Thunderbird allows you to encrypt the mail you send using services like Gmail or Yahoo.
With the right add-on, Thunderbird also supports Microsoft Exchange. That makes this client suitable for corporate use. These days, the client also comes with calendar functionality built-in.
Evolution is the most mature email client for the GNOME desktop environment. It’s a substantial Microsoft Outlook alternative that includes added functionality such as a calendar, a place to write memos, and a to-do list.
Evolution supports Microsoft Exchange out of the box, opening it up to wider corporate use. This is the key reason many people turn to Evolution over most of the other Linux email clients.
With all of these features baked-in, Evolution is one of the bulkiest options on this list. For some, that’s a big plus. You can manage much of your communication and organization from a single piece of software. If you want to tweak something, there’s a decent chance you can.
On the flip side, Evolution can feel like a bit much. This amount of features means dealing with added clutter. But if you’re looking for something akin to Microsoft Outlook, that comes with the territory.
While Evolution has long served as the official GNOME email client, the app’s interface does not fit GNOME 3’s design language. That’s where Geary steps in. Geary is a simple and lightweight mail client that feels at home on a modern GNOME desktop.
Geary does email and email only. POP3 and IMAP support come included, but you won’t find Exchange. Yet for all that Geary lacks, it makes up for with one of the most straightforward and streamlined interfaces among Linux email clients.
Geary is my personal favorite of the Linux email clients. No, it is by no means the most feature-rich, nor does it have the best performance. But having an app that integrates with the rest of the desktop so well, to me, makes email feel far more accessible.
That said, I no longer use this client since it doesn’t yet support encrypted email. Fortunately developers are working on this functionality, but it may not arrive anytime soon.
Elementary Mail (originally Pantheon Mail) is a fork of Geary that began when development on the latter came to an end. Work on Geary would pick back up a few years later under a new developer, but Elementary Mail remains a separate project.
That said, aside from appearances, Elementary Mail and Geary remain very similar email clients. Elementary Mail is an app for elementary OS, a stylized version of Linux with its own look and feel.
Yet while the difference seem minor, you might find that Elementary Mail’s design makes email feel even more approachable. The icons are easy to find and understand, the interface has zero clutter, and any excess is gone. If you’re just looking for a simple and less-cluttered way to keep up with your inbox without having to leave a tab open all the time, Elementary Mail delivers.
Developers create most Linux email clients for GTK-based desktops. KMail is the largest exception. KMail is an app for the KDE Plasma desktop environment, which uses Qt rather than GTK+.
KMail is packaged with features, and it can serve as part of a full personal information manager known as Kontact. Kontact, like Evolution, offers a calendar, notes, to-do list, and more. I like this approach. If you only want email, you don’t have to download and slow down your experience loading all of those extra components.
When pitting KMail vs. Thunderbird or Evolution, note that KMail does not support Microsoft Exchange. But it does support encryption.
As is often the case with KDE software, I find KMail’s interface less straightforward to figure out. The experience feels like one intended for power users, but it’s easy enough to figure out if you know your way around KDE Plasma in general.
Mailspring is a fork of Nylas Mail. The app’s interface is open source, but the sync engine is currently closed source. The company plans to open source the latter in the future.
Mailspring offers a pro subscription with features tailored toward people who send a lot of email. You get perks such as read receipts, link tracking, and quick reply templates. Contact or company profiles can also appear next to messages, complete with links to websites and social media pages.
While many Linux email clients can feel a tad old-fashioned, Mailspring is more like what people have come to expect from a modern commercial app. That’s because Mailspring is actually the only commercial app on this list. Other commercial Linux email clients include the cross-platform Hiri, the best Microsoft Exchange client on Linux .
Sylpheed is one of the older email clients available for Linux, having been around since 2000. The app looks dated, but that’s part of its charm. Sylpheed is lightweight and familiar for people who want precisely that. It’s also capable of handling folders with tens of thousands of emails without breaking a sweat, making this a recommendation for people whose email brings other clients to a crawl.
Slypheed supports plugins and advanced features such as PGP encryption. However, some features are intentionally left out. The app cannot send HTML mail, for example, though it can receive such messages. There’s a certain class of technically proficient and security-minded user for whom Sylpheed may be ideal.
That said, Slypheed remains very easy to setup and use. While there are an abundance of preferences to configure, they’re easy to navigate. Slypheed also supports importing and exporting your mailbox in the MBOX, EML, and MH formats.
Claws Mail began as the development version of Sylpheed back in 2001. In 2005, it forked into a separate project. Both projects continue to exist and some design decisions are consistent between them (such as the inability to send HTML mail).
You can navigate Claws Mail entirely using your keyboard, but that’s not the only appeal for power users. Plugins are available that enable you to extend the functionality. With the right one, Claws Mail can become your calendar or RSS reader.
Between Claws Mail and Sylpheed, I find Claws to be more difficult to navigate. Plus adding an account requires you to know all of the configuration settings, as the app does not guess for you. When importing and exporting your mailbox, Claws only supports the MBOX format. On the flip side, I like that Claws allows you to easily hide the menubar. I wouldn’t say one app is inherently better than the other.
Back before Firefox, Mozilla began as the steward for Netscape’s opened sourced Netscape Communicator suite, which became the Mozilla Application Suite. After Mozilla decided to break the functionality into separate apps, namely Firefox and Thunderbird, SeaMonkey was born. SeaMonkey is a community-run continuation of the Mozilla Application Suite.
SeaMonkey looks like Netscape and maintains the XUL architecture. That made SeaMonkey compatible with modified Firefox and Thunderbird extensions up until both of those projects switched over to the WebExtension format. While SeaMonkey may be a web browser and an RSS reader, it is also an email client. SeaMonkey joins Evolution and Kontact as an all-in-one personal information manager for Linux.
SeaMonkey is kept alive largely because it’s open source and people still like it. This is not an email client that is actively developed or regularly gaining new features. But if you like your email and browser bundled together, SeaMonkey is worth a look.
Looking for another Qt-based email client? Trojitá is an option that, like KMail, is part of the KDE community. It’s a standalone alternative designed to to be lightweight and use system resources efficiently.
You must use IMAP or SMTP to send mail with Trojitá, making it the most restrictive option on this list in that regard. But for many people, that isn’t much of an issue.
Trojitá is not the most attractive or powerful client out there, but it can run on older or under-powered computers. Fun fact: Canonical forked Trojitá to design the default email client on Ubuntu Touch. That’s proof in and of itself.
Do You Use a Linux Email Client?
Most email users don’t install a dedicated email client, on Linux or elsewhere. Webmail enables us to check email from most modern devices with a web browser. Smartphones have apps that simplify the job even further.
A colleague of mine has argued that we shouldn’t use dedicated email clients at all . What do you think?