Web-based email is fine, but nothing quite comes close to the power of a native email client, especially if you need to manage multiple accounts. And there's no shortage of Windows email clients that can boost your email productivity.
These desktop applications remove your browser from the equation and allow you to monitor multiple email addresses from one place. Some take unique approaches to managing email, while others are built with specific services in mind.
After evaluating nearly 30 Windows mail clients, I'm confident there's one out there that will meet your needs. Based on my testing, here are my seven picks for the best Windows email app.
The 7 best email apps for Windows
eM Client for customization
Thunderbird for a free email client
Mailbird for people who live in their inbox
Windows Mail for simplicity
Microsoft Outlook for email with a robust business platform
Kiwi for Gmail for Gmail power users
Twobird to turn your inbox into a to-do list
What makes the best email client for Windows?
How we evaluate and test apps
All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.
I started my research by defining the category and clarifying what criteria I was basing my reviews on. Here's what was most important as I tested each desktop email client.
Compatibility with most email service providers. This was the starting point for my search and evaluation. The best mail app for Windows will allow you to connect to multiple email providers (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo!, iCloud, etc).
Ease of use. People of all technical abilities might want an email app for Windows, so I looked for apps that most users will find easy to set up and use. For features that aren't self-explanatory, help documentation or an active community should be able to fill in the gaps.
Customization. For folks who want more control, I looked for clients that provide a degree of user flexibility for look and feel. This includes changing how basic functions like notifications and swipes work or toggling between inbox views and email grouping.
Productivity and integrations. Additional features and compatibility with external integrations can vastly speed up your workflow. I looked for apps that enhance or transform the email experience and provide the means to expand what your email client is capable of and how it fits into the rest of your digital life.
With the criteria identified, I then searched far and wide for mail clients for Windows that have a relatively broad customer base. I poked around on each vendor's website to review features and the support offered. For support, I wanted to know if there were recent responses to forum questions (having good support dialogue showed an active community of users and a better chance you'll get your questions answered). From there, I downloaded each of the clients that fit the criteria and had active support communities.
I made notes on ease of setup and use for each client. For example, some clients fetched the wrong configuration when setting up an email account, resulting in an inbox that wouldn't sync without manual intervention. This is arguably worse than a client that insists on a fully manual setup since it requires more work and head-scratching to solve.
For customization, I set and tested various elements like themes, inbox look and feel, notification options, and rules handling mail, such as filtering and quick actions. I tested and noted the productivity tools that made some clients stand out over others and whether or not they were limited to only certain types of accounts (like Gmail). For clients that have integration capabilities, I connected it and used it with a popular app like Dropbox or Zoom.
After all that testing, these are the seven apps I'd recommend.
The best Windows email clients at a glance
Highly customizable interface and handling of emails
Free license available for two accounts; $59.95 one-time per-device payment for the Pro version
Free email client
Massive expandability through add-ons
People who live in their inbox
Numerous integrations with other apps
From $3.25/user/month for Mailbird Personal (paid annually) or a one-time $99
A robust business platform
Advanced features and Microsoft 365 integration
New Outlook for Windows is free; Microsoft 365 plans starting at $1.99/month or $19.99/year
Gmail power users
Native Gmail experience with enhanced features
Basic licenses from $2.75/month or $30/year
Turning inbox into a to-do list
Focused email management
Free (premium plans may be offered in the future)
Best Windows email client for customization
eM Client pros:
Highly customizable, from the interface to the way email is handled
Integrates with video chat, cloud storage, Google Talk, and more
Packed with productivity features like templates, contact overviews (with message history), and shortcuts
eM Client cons:
Interface and theme could take a little while to set up, depending on what you're looking for
eM Client's intuitive, modern UI makes it a pleasure to use, but it may not be to everyone's liking. Fortunately, you get several dozen themes and the ability to customize nearly every aspect of the UI to make it your very own.
To start, pick your layout: messages on bottom, to the right, or turn them off. Common actions, such as reply, forward, archive, and others are conveniently located at the top of your inbox, but you can add, delete, and rearrange what's shown here by right-clicking on any of the actions. On the right side, you'll get a list of previous emails with that address to make finding past conversations simple.
For most of the UI fine-tuning, go to Settings > Appearance > Themes. Click on your theme, and select Theme Editor. Want to change hovered-over buttons from your theme's blue to purple? No problem. Spinning wheels, progress bars, links, and other elements can be changed with a few clicks too.
The handy sidebar shows contact details, past conversations, your agenda, your calendar, and any invitations you may have. These items can also be rearranged and removed. If you need to add a task to your agenda, click the checkmark icon in the sidebar, type in a task note, and select a due date with reminders. eM Client also supports video meeting integrations with Webex, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other providers, chat integration with XMPP/Jabber (including Google Talk), and hosting attachments in the cloud using providers like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and others.
If you send a lot of emails with the same message, the Quick Text feature lets you create templates to populate the email body with a click. Perhaps eM Client's Achilles heel is the absence of a mobile app. But if you use a different mobile app, eM can automatically sync to that app so that your emails are always up to date. In addition to the Windows version, eM Client is also available for macOS.
eM Client price: Free license available for two accounts; $59.95 one-time per-device payment for the Pro version that includes VIP support, unlimited accounts, and commercial use. Option to increase this payment to $129.95 to add lifetime upgrades.
Best free Windows email client
Massively expandable thanks to a well-stocked add-ons library
A mature, completely free and open source email client
Interface feels a bit dated out of the box
An almost modular approach to building an email platform that won't work for everyone
With Thunderbird, you can specify where your email is stored locally, schedule backups, and manage server settings. It also provides some security features like end-to-end encryption that aren't found in other clients. Because it's open source, Thunderbird has a catalog of add-ons by various developers to help enhance the user experience. And it's all free.
For a mail app in the age of Windows 11, Thunderbird doesn't have the most modern UI. The app is modeled after Mozilla's browser, Firefox, and uses a tab system. You wouldn't choose Thunderbird for its style points, but the client has options. To see them, click on the hamburger menu at the top-right. From there, you'll be able to customize the look of the app, select privacy settings, and access basic functions like email composition options. Themes such as Suave, Dark Fox, and Two Little Birds provide different looks for your inbox.
In testing, Thunderbird was a mixed bag for sending and receiving speeds. Outbound emails were received almost instantly from my web-based Gmail account. But receiving emails in the Thunderbird client took anywhere from 10 seconds to several minutes. IMAP fared better, and overall speeds were far from unacceptable considering what Thunderbird is capable of when fully decked-out.
Click Tools > Add-on Options to see the huge number of extensions available to get more out of Thunderbird. Smart templates ($5/year) and Quicktext let you create email templates for quick responses. Send Later lets you schedule future times to send emails or send messages repeatedly using rules such as "every two days."
Thunderbird price: Free
Postbox is a solid alternative to Thunderbird if you appreciate a modern client that still has a traditional look and feel. It's the closest thing to Apple Mail on Windows, uses a simple column layout, and offers a lifetime license for $49/user.
Best Windows email client for people who live in their inbox
A huge number of integrations makes Mailbird an excellent center of operations for more than just email
Attractive and modern interface with plenty of options for changing layout styles, themes, colors, and more
If you don't intend to make use of Mailbird's integrations, you may find more value in an app like eM Client or Outlook
One of the more modern and user-friendly email clients I tested, Mailbird's array of third-party integrations makes managing both email and your most-used apps easy. When connected, the integrations share the UI with your inbox, which makes Mailbird attractive for users who don't want to leave. Slack, Trello, Google Drive, Dropbox, and ChatGPT are just some of the apps with native integrations.
To get started, download the client, add your email (or connect to an existing client), and you're ready to go. As your emails sync, you'll be asked to select a layout and connect third-party apps. To connect, click on your app, sign in, and you're ready to go without leaving your inbox. Each app you add appears as an icon in the sidebar for one-click access. With my Slack account connected, I just had to glance at the sidebar to see activity and quickly respond to messages.
Mailbird claims it will increase your email productivity using the speed reading feature, which allows you to quickly absorb sentences all at once rather than identifying individual words. Select the speed read option from the dropdown menu while reading a message and the message will begin to play back. You can choose how fast (from 100 to 1,000 words per minute) you want the email to be displayed. Speed reading flashes your message on the screen one word at a time at your desired speed.
One way to use your inbox without resorting to other tools is the Snooze feature. If you want to be reminded of an event such as a webinar, right-click the email, pick a date and time, and the email will appear back in your box at that moment. It will also be stored in your Snooze folder to let you see what's coming up. With the unified mailbox feature, you can add multiple email accounts and manage all emails and folders from your one inbox.
These features and Mailbird's UI can be customized under the Settings menu. The app features a large number of background images, the ability to pick a color, and the option of matching your system's light or dark theme depending on the time of day. On top of this, you can set up a custom schedule for the Snooze feature, apply rules to incoming mail with Filters, and customize identities and signatures on a per-account basis.
Mailbird price: From $3.25/user/month for Mailbird Personal (paid annually) or a one-time $99. The Business plan ($5.75/user/month paid annually) adds priority and Exchange support and unlimited email tracking.
Best Windows email client for simplicity
Windows Mail pros:
Free, easy to use, and bundled with Windows
Includes features like Focused Inbox, automatic replies, and support for a wide range of accounts
Windows Mail cons:
A little too simple for some users
Windows Mail is a solid choice if you're looking for a free and simple mail client that comes with Windows. It's got everything you need for checking an inbox or two and shooting off a quick message. It even integrates nicely with Windows Calendar, Windows People, and Microsoft To Do.
Click the settings cog to find a selection of options, from personalization to notifications. You can create a signature and set up basic automatic replies. Personalization lets you create a few different themes with accent and background colors.
One feature I like is the Focused inbox—a filter that learns which emails you read regularly and places these in a separate inbox. All other emails are put in the Other inbox. You can specify Other emails to be moved to the Focused inbox by right-clicking and selecting Move to Focused. The app also features @mentions that allow you to quickly insert a contact's name from your list of contacts.
You won't really find many bells or whistles in Mail for Windows—which, for plenty of people, is perfect for your inbox. Just one thing: Microsoft has announced that Windows Mail will be replaced with Outlook for Windows in 2024.
Windows Mail price: Free
Best Windows email client with a robust business platform
Microsoft Outlook pros:
A highly customizable email and organizational platform designed for power users
Suitable for a range of requirements and budgets, for both home and business users
Microsoft Outlook cons:
New Outlook for Windows lacks the full suite of features as it's still under development
Since the '90s, Microsoft Outlook has been the go-to mail app for Windows for businesses large and small. It's a sophisticated platform with many advanced features, but it's still relatively easy to use. And when bundled with Microsoft 365—a suite of several dozen productivity apps including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and SharePoint, among others—it makes for a powerful platform. For any business that wants to buy one email client and never look back, Outlook is that platform.
There's now another way of using Outlook on the desktop with the arrival of Microsoft's New Outlook for Windows (pictured above). This free app is destined to replace Windows Mail in 2024, and offers a modern simplified design, while still retaining many of the features that make Outlook so appealing. That includes the Focused Inbox, which highlights important messages, the My Day view, and Outlook's signature calendar and contact management features.
New Outlook for Windows has some limitations not present in the Microsoft 365 subscription. Though modern web add-ins are supported, Outlook's traditional library of COM add-ins is not. Offline support is planned, but the feature has yet to be implemented. Outlook for Windows only supported Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo accounts when I was testing. And since it's free, you'll also see some promoted messages appearing at the top of your inbox. For the full range of Outlook features, you can take on a paid Microsoft 365 subscription, which is something you should consider if the free version comes up short.
You can customize both versions of Outlook with a handful of themes and seemingly limitless options for organizing all of the functions within the UI. That includes customizing the horizontal top menu (the Ribbon), which contains all of your commands for performing tasks.
Also within the email client are pre-made templates, built-in dictation, read-aloud text, and rules for managing emails with keywords, flags, sender name, to/from field, and more. Paid Outlook customers have access to hundreds of third-party integrations (called Add-Ins) to customize your experience.
A relatively new productivity suite is Viva, which is included in enterprise plans and available as separate modules for Business plans starting at $4/user/month. Click the blue Viva Insights icon on the top-right ribbon to get your insights for the day: view tasks, prepare for upcoming meetings, things like that. One particularly helpful feature sends you a daily briefing for following up on requests you've sent. For example, I emailed a contact about trying to get a meeting last week. In the briefing email, I can click Done or Remind me, which automatically sets a reminder for the next day (or a custom date). Or click the bar graph icon above your name to see insights into your productivity. How is your day spent (e.g., meetings, email, calls)? Are you distracted by email? You'll get productivity tips based on your most recent work patterns.
New Outlook for Windows offers a huge step-up in terms of productivity compared to Windows Mail, and a paid Outlook plan offers yet another step-up over that. And you can do even more with Outlook when you connect it to Zapier. Learn more about how to automate your Outlook email.
Microsoft Outlook price: New Outlook for Windows can be downloaded for free right now. You need a Microsoft 365 Basic subscription to use the fully-featured version of Outlook (after a free trial), starting at $1.99/month or $19.99/year. Business users will need a Microsoft 365 Business Standard plan at $12.50/user/month to get the desktop version of Outlook.
Best Gmail client for Windows
Kiwi for Gmail pros:
Brings Gmail and the whole Google Suite to your desktop as a native application.
Enjoy the full Gmail experience with enhancements like native notifications, the ability to quickly reopen closed documents, and quick launch for new email, calendar events, and documents.
Kiwi for Gmail cons:
Only supports Gmail accounts
No free plan available (and no free trial for Basic accounts)
If you want your Gmail experience replicated in a native desktop app, Kiwi for Gmail brings that—and then some. Not only does it provide the same Gmail UI you're used to, but it also lets you work on all your Google apps without leaving the client—no opening files in new browser windows.
Once you connect, your Google Workspace is automatically loaded into the UI on the left sidebar next to your familiar Gmail inbox. From there, it's just a click to open Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Your new window "floats" in the client by default, meaning you can drag it anywhere on your screen without having to perform another step (in Gmail, you have to press
Shift + →).
Control + Alt + Windows + M, you can open a compose window from anywhere you are on your computer or hit
Control + Alt + Windows + E for a new Google Calendar event. If you need to quickly access a closed document, click on File > Recently Closed Docs.
Now on its fourth major version, Kiwi for Gmail 4.0 introduces seamless multiple account switching via dedicated icons at the top of each Kiwi window. You can also now assign custom colors to your accounts, including support for dark mode. Under the hood, the backend has been rebuilt for a faster, leaner, and more power-efficient Gmail experience.
Because it's designed to mirror the Gmail experience, Kiwi doesn't provide many additional productivity tools or customization options, but you can use all of Gmail's settings to make the inbox your own. Kiwi offers integrations with Zoom, Grammarly, Boomerang, and a handful of others, though you'll need to spring for the Elite tier if you want to make use of these.
Kiwi is under ongoing development, with more features planned to arrive later in 2023, including tabbed interfaces to organize documents by type, and Google Meet support. Existing customers will get these upgrades as they roll out.
Kiwi for Gmail price: Basic licenses with support for one account start at $2.75/month or $30/year. Premium licenses support six accounts and additional productivity features at $39/year (with a seven-day trial). Elite plans include everything and cost $58.99/year (with a seven-day trial).
The best Windows email client for turning your inbox into a to-do list
Twobird is a purpose-built email client that takes a slightly different approach to email management than the other clients on this list. The app turns your inbox into a to-do list so that messages, notes, and calendar events appear alongside one another as an agenda. The service currently works with Google and Microsoft accounts, though there are plans to expand support for more services in the future.
The app gives you two choices when it comes to getting through your inbox. You can choose whether marking an email as read counts as completing an item, or whether archiving an email should check it off the list instead. You effectively have to go all-in on one of these approaches in order to effectively use the app, and it's an approach that will likely appeal to adherents of an "inbox zero" philosophy.
Incoming mail is organized by Twobird, with items the app deems important appearing directly in your inbox as to-do items. Everything else goes in "Low Priority" where you can move it to your main inbox if you desire. Though the interface is sparse, the essentials are there: buttons for composing mail or creating new notes, a tidy list of functions and labels (or folders) in the sidebar, and a search field for quickly finding threads.
Twobird isn't the most customizable email client, though there are options for customizing a schedule for the app's Remind function, setting up personalized keyboard shortcuts, and toggling a few simple options like dark mode and notification preferences. It would be nice to see more options, but it's not a reason to dismiss Twobird if you're looking for this type of email client.
This isn't the first time an app has taken this type of approach to email, but it is one of the more effective attempts, especially on the Windows platform. At its most efficient, the simple act of reading an email gets rid of it and lets you move on to the next. Just be aware that you aren't necessarily moving things around on the server (though those options are available to you via the context menu if you need them).
Twobird price: Free to use for now, though the website states "in the future, we intend to offer premium plans" while retaining a free option.
What's the best Windows mail app?
The best email app for Windows is the one you enjoy using. Not everyone uses email in the same way, and not everyone finds value in the same features. The best way to find the elusive "best" email app is to download a few and try them out. Keep testing until you find the one you'll feel like spending your day using.
This article was originally published in March 2019 by Joseph Yaker and has also had contributions from Chris Hawkins. The most recent update was in July 2023.