Many people now use a browser based solution, like Gmail, for all of their e-mail needs however there are still plenty of reasons why someone might want to use a local e-mail client as well. In this post I’m going to take a look at some of the graphical e-mail client options available on Linux.
I have to admin that I hadn’t even heard of Balsa before looking up e-mail clients to include in this list. In my limited time using it Balsa seems to be a relatively simple e-mail client that still offers quite a few options (supports POP3 and IMAP as well as PGP/GPG and even includes a spell checker) while still maintaining a very low memory footprint (less than 7MiB of RAM for an empty inbox). However one thing I couldn’t seem to get working was actually sending e-mail – it’s not that it was difficult to setup, I just simply couldn’t get it to connect to my SMTP server to send the mail. It kept timing out without giving me a cause which was annoying.
Similar to Balsa, Claws is also a very lightweight e-mail client that offers quite a few standard features but can also be expanded upon via plugins. Interestingly I couldn’t figure out a way to compose a non-plaintext (i.e. HTML) e-mail so perhaps the developers are of the opinion that e-mail should only be sent as text?
Evolution is/was (depends on who you ask) the golden standard for what an e-mail client on Linux should be. You can think of it as a complete Outlook replacement as it does so much more than just e-mail (contacts, calendar, memos, etc.) all without the need for additional plugins. This does come at a bit of a price as Evolution certainly feels heavier and uses more memory than some other e-mail only clients.
Geary is a relative newcomer and has been getting quite a bit of attention as it is included as the default e-mail client in elementaryOS. This application is beautiful however very, very streamlined. You won’t find things like plugins, PGP/GPG, or loads of configuration options here, instead Geary focuses on being the best user experience it can be out of the box.
GNUMail.app is quite a bit different from the other e-mail clients on this list. It is associated with the GNUstep project and runs on both Linux and Mac OS X. Unfortunately while trying to use it on Linux I found myself at a loss… I simply couldn’t figure out how to use the thing! I managed to configure my account settings but could never get it to actually download any e-mail. So without actually being able to use the application I don’t have much else to say about it.
KMail provides the e-mail duties for the Kontact Personal Information Manager collection of software. It is a fully featured e-mail client and, because of the other Kontact applications, offers a compelling pseudo-integrated alternative to something heavy like Evolution. This is especially true if you are using the KDE desktop environment where things feel even more integrated.
Slypheed and Claws Mail are very similar, which makes sense because they used to be the same project (one was simply a place to try new features before putting it into the “real” project). Even though they share a linage Slypheed and Claws Mail now have different code bases and development teams. That said there aren’t very many obvious differences between the two at this point.
Thunderbird is one of the most popular free/open source e-mail clients around and for good reason. It offers a good amount of features and can make use of plugins to add even more functionality. While it may not quite match up to Evolution in terms of advanced functionality for most people, myself included, it works very well.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).