What is a lightweight minimal email service

The best free email clients

Email clients are still the best choice when it comes to managing email across multiple accounts. This is because the provider's web mail clients running in the browser usually only support a single e-mail account and do not allow the management of mail accounts from other providers. If you want that, you should install a mail client instead. The best-known is Microsoft Outlook, which, as part of Office 365, is chargeable. We present some free alternatives and show you what to look for when choosing the right client and when dealing with email.

Clients not for all operating systems

While web mail clients run on all systems such as Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android and iOS, this is not the case with locally installed e-mail clients. Therefore, not only the functions are interesting here, but also the operating systems under which they run. It becomes difficult if you use several computers and systems, because this limits the selection and also makes it more difficult to synchronize the address book and other settings.

Functions of the e-mail clients

The standard functions for messages such as creating, sending, receiving, forwarding and replying are included in every e-mail client. An address book as well as the SMTP, IMAP and POP3 protocols are now standard. SMTP is responsible for sending messages and POP3 for downloading messages to the local computer. With IMAP, you usually leave the e-mails on the e-mail server and use the settings and folder structures there. When working with multiple computers and mobile devices, you always have the latest status and access to all e-mails.

Depending on the client, there are other functions that do not necessarily have to have something to do with e-mails. Chat, news groups and feeds can also be used with the Thunderbird mail client. The Lightning add-on, which has now been integrated into Thunderbird, offers a calendar.

The filters offered by e-mail clients are helpful. These can be used, for example, to move standard newsletters straight into the designated folders so that the inbox is not flooded with them. The spam filter is particularly important, as it correctly recognizes spam mail and moves it to the spam folder. E-mail clients like Thunderbird go through a learning process here and become more and more reliable over time. Even if the spam detection is usually quite reliable, it can still happen that an email is accidentally classified as spam. That is why it never hurts to take a look at the spam folder, especially when you are expecting an important message.

Set up clients

The setup of e-mail clients like Thunderbird and Opera Mail is almost automatic, so that you only have to enter your e-mail address. Nevertheless, it is worth taking a look at the account settings to check whether the default settings are correct. You can also determine whether a search for new e-mails should be carried out automatically and whether e-mails downloaded from POP3 should be deleted from the server. With IMAP, Thunderbird downloads the emails to the computer by default. Since this is not absolutely necessary with IMAP, you can remove the corresponding check mark for message synchronization. You save so much storage space on your computer, especially with well-filled mailboxes.

Setting for the e-mail service

E-mail services such as GMX, Freenet, Web.de, T-online, Freeware, Gmail and Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail) use e-mail standards such as POP3, IMAP and SMTP and allow a client to e- To send emails. With GMX and Web.de you don't need to make any extra settings. However, depending on the provider, a chargeable e-mail account may be required.

This is different with Gmail: Here you have to go to the Gmail settings on the corresponding Google website in order to approve the retrieval via POP3. Access with an e-mail client also requires an extra activation in the "Less secure apps" area. E-mail communication with a client is then possible.

If you don't do that, Google will usually block Gmail access via the client. However, under Thunderbird, IMAP access is automatically configured in such a way that the login does not take place in the client, but in a website that opens, in which access with Thunderbird is approved.

Encrypted email delivery

Email security was neglected for years until the 2013 NSA affair woke up. That is why many e-mail services now offer secure Internet connections via SSL / TLS. This can be recognized by a green lock in the browser if you are using the web mail client and of course the https in front of the web address. What you have to pay particular attention to is described in the blog post Encrypted surfing with HTTPS.

You do not only get a secure connection to your e-mail provider via the browser. Good e-mail clients also establish encrypted connections over the Internet. You can check and specify this in the settings. It is also important to take a look at the settings if the e-mail client takes over the configuration in whole or in part based on the e-mail address entered. Because it may be that the unencrypted connection was used.

Even if your e-mail client or web mail client has an encrypted connection to the e-mail provider, sending e-mails is only partially secure. After all, an email is forwarded to the recipient, which can be done unencrypted. Whether this is the case depends on the email providers involved. For example, T-Online, GMX and WEB.de have joined forces in the "E-Mail made in Germany" initiative and send encrypted e-mails to one another. If the recipient of the e-mail uses the same e-mail service, the e-mail remains securely in the provider's internal network. In the end, however, the normal user has no choice but to trust the email service providers involved.

Encrypt emails

If you do not trust, you have to provide encryption yourself, which is possible with PGP, for example. We have already pointed this out in the topic special Encrypting emails with PGP. The advantage is the complete encryption of the e-mail content so that no one can read it who is not authorized to do so. In addition, with PGP, e-mail is not only protected when it is sent, but also in the e-mail folder on the e-mail provider's e-mail server. Unencrypted e-mails are in this unprotected and could be viewed by secret services and hackers if they crack the e-mail server or the e-mail account. Encryption of the e-mail message and the attached files is therefore important for data protection.

Recommended free email clients

The top dog among the free e-mail clients is the already mentioned Thunderbird from Mozilla, which offers many functions in addition to the pure mailbox management to help your own productivity on the jumps. But there are also alternatives to Thunderbird. We present some of them to you in the following gallery:


Thunderbird and Opera Mail turned out to be uncomplicated in our test and got along with Gmail and other e-mail services without any problems. If you have an e-mail account with a well-known service, the setup happens automatically after entering the e-mail address, so that we could in principle dispense with manual intervention.

With SeaMonkey and Pegasus Mail, we had to manually make or correct the settings for our Gmail test account in the client. It was also necessary to configure the Gmail settings so that the e-mail client could access and send e-mails.

But the tastes and requirements are different. Accordingly, everyone has to decide for themselves which software they prefer.

Do you have experience with email clients and tips that you want to share with others? Then just leave a comment.