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Ask HN: What email client do you use?
41 points by tush726 on April 21, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 85 comments
I've been wondering what's the best application for email productivity. Browser v Desktop Clients v Mutt

I use Thunderbird - The only desktop client which has both Windows/Linux versions (with identical UIs), doesn't use Electron, and doesn't need you to make an online account for it. (I'm looking at you, MailSpring!) And the experience is... not that great for me. There doesn't seem to be a way to view email conversations cleanly, and the whole app seems a bit bloated. I really wish someone made a cross-platform email client that just simply works - I would gladly pay money for it.

> I use Thunderbird - The only desktop client which has both Windows/Linux versions (with identical UIs)

There's also Sylpheed (https://sylpheed.sraoss.jp/en/) and Claws Mail (https://www.claws-mail.org/).

Thanks, I've also noticed the two programs, but poor HTML support for both of those is kind of a bummer...

If I were just using email with developers I would not care about sending/receiving only text emails, but unfortunately the real world is a bit more complicated than that...

Thunderbird runs on XULRunner - strictly speaking it's not Electron, but the overall architecture is very similar, with highly comparable drawbacks.

Yep, I've noticed the performance wasn't that great. It seems like there isn't a native email app in 2019 that supports HTML... Maybe is it because displaying HTML itself is pretty hard without a runtime like Electron or XULRunner?

Have you tried Postbox https://www.postbox-inc.com/ ? It's based on Thunderbird, funded and staffed by former members of Mozilla.

Postbox does not have a Linux version. That kills it for me.

I've used Postbox when I was young and using OS X, but now I'm only in Windows and Linux. And I've tried the Windows version recently, and it seemed as sluggish as any other Electron app.

Some thoughts:

The tagline "for busy professionals, like you." immediately made exit the page without thinking.

It could be the best product in the world but I'm not going to use a product that treats me with such a patronizing attitude.

And whatever genius decided to hide the pricing behind another page doesn't understand their market. The price is the first and only thing I care about if we're talking about paid desktop clients. Everything else is secondary. And they might as well put the big honking "$40 per license" pricing right there at the top instead of further down the fishing rod. Anyone who considers that a worthwhile deal is going to pay it anyway. It's not a bad deal for a lifetime license.

However many customers would probably like something more than a 30-day free trial without a lifetime commitment. Offering a $3/mo subscription would probably majorly boost sales.

I meant to write founded, sorry.

There’s a conversation view addon that makes it look like gmail - too much so in my opinion. You might find it helpful.

Is your aversion to Electron-based apps practical or aesthetic? If it's practical, I'd be curious to know more.

it just needs a GUI overhaul. Badly.

Desktops are outdated. Why develop software for it?

I'm still using Thunderbird on desktop (personal and professional Linux boxes and professional Windows laptop) and K-9 on smartphone (Android). I'm far from being fully satisfied with either of them, but at least they are better than anything else I've tried to date and more importantly they are slowly improving whereas others I've used (eg. Gmail for the browser and Gmail for Android) are quickly becoming worse (except for the last two updates of Gmail for the browser, I've to admit).

I've some hope in getting a nice setup with notmuch, mu4e or some other power-user oriented MUA at some point (being able to type my emails in Emacs is a real selling point for me), but so far I've been hesitant to lose the ability to read non-plain text emails right in my MUA.

I was in the same boat. I’ve used Thunderbird since it was first released but eventually found my way to a mu4e setup. I’m happy about the switch because I do so much in emacs already but Thunderbird was perfectly fine for me otherwise.

I use default Mail.app for macOS. I tried the fancy clients like Spark etc but settled on Mail finally.

I prefer desktop clients because I have 6 email accounts and managing all of them in tabs is just a headache.

Mutt in shells and MailMate (https://freron.com/) if I'm using a GUI. It's the fastest email client that I've found, has super fast search, and is incredibly configurable and it's ONLY focused on email, nothing else. Its UX is perfect for me and is incredibly functional, but it's definitely not a "pretty" client.

I'm in the middle of switching from webmail to mu4e. I have a decent mutt setup that I never use, but I switched to Emacs this year and mu4e-conversation (https://gitlab.com/ambrevar/mu4e-conversation) looks like it may actually make a desktop client pleasant to use.

Thunderbird for now.

I want to shift to a CLI based email client. But my previous attempts in making that shift have been unsuccessful. I had spent a couple of hours in shifting to Gnus Emacs but because of my inability to configure it properly I had to move away from it.

Some common issues I faced while configuring it were -- 1. Would always start downloading the mail metadata everytime I did =M-x gnus=. I am pretty sure there is some way to pull that into local filesystem once and just download the incremental metadata. 2. With the basic vanilla config, there was no support for notifications which is an essential factor in my workflow i.e. interrupt based working rather than polling.

I have heard there are other CLI based clients like Mutt, m4uemacs in Emacs which are a bit more practical for a beginner than a Gnus but I am yet to get those a shot.

I don't recommend CLI mail clients, try TUI or "full screen text mode" ones instead. If you really want CLI, I think the Unix mail program might be your only choice.

pine/alpine has its strength! But I found it unhandy with handling several email accounts.

MailMate on macOS even though I only use a fraction of its features.

eM Client on on Windows, because is it comparable with Thunderbird in managing my mails but also comes close to Outlook with its calendar and contacts management. Unlike Outlook, it support more open protocols like CalDAV and CardDAV out of the box.

AquaMail on Android, because of its customizability.

I don't use any web clients, because I prefer a unified experience across email providers but from those I tried, I prefer Fastmail's web clients. It somehow feels faster than all these native desktop apps and if I could use it as a generic IMAP/SMTP client like Roundcube, I would use it instead of native desktop apps.

Outlook for pretty much everything. I've been using email since it was a thing, and i've tried many others over the years, but i've also always had interaction with exchange servers since version 5.5 (last 15 years maybe?), so I had a reason to stay with Outlook.

As part of being a consultant I need to interact with about 6-7 exchange/o365 e-mail accounts, so Outlook is mandatory anyway.

On Android I use Nine. Sandboxing of exchange accounts was my primary reason for buying it several years back, and it's an excellent e-mail client.

I use gmail both mobile and web (Also in Outlook) for anything signup/newsletter/forum/junkmail related.

Default macOS or iOS mail app with Fastmail as my mail provider. I never had any issues with it and it works well. Search works well enough and I don’t need a lot of fancy features as I just archive emails to get to inbox zero. Everything that’s still in my inbox is stuff I have to deal with so it’s part of my todo list.

The churn rate on third party iOS mail apps always seems way too high and I don’t want to get used to a new app every 2 years.

I use Claws-Mail.


A simple GTK 2 interface, extremely stable, very fast, and does the job really well.

I am a GNU/Linux user and specifically a Plasma 5 desktop user. Due to that fact, I am partial to KMail/Kontact. However, several years ago, back in the KDE 3-4 transition, I lost data with Kontact in one of the upgrades. Since then, I began to use Claws-Mail and while I miss that smooth Plasma integration afforded by Kontact, Claws-Mail's reliability is legendary.

Claws Mail now manages my inbox, with several gigabytes and going back to a lot of years, without hiccups. And that's the best part. The Linux version builds fast and cleandly; and for cross-platform convenience, it has a Windows version. Recommended.

EDIT: seconded what others said about K-9 Mail in Android. Great app, and my go-to place for email in my phone. Also highly recommended.

My journey was between four clients (Mac). For a long time, I used Postbox. It was reasonably fast, its search wasn't great but wasn't too bad either (it still doesn't search Chinese well), but as I grew bored, I decided to try something new.

Comes Spark. All shiny, with nice fast search and much fresher UI. Fast-forward half a year, and after an update, it loses all my custom signatures (I use a lot), rebuilds the whole search database (took almost a whole day), and still no support for SOCKS proxying neither app-wide nor per account.

Tried Mailspring after that, similar UI, good search, but too many bugs and freezes on core things: sending emails, receiving emails can take forever. Also the need for Mailspring account is creepy and unnecessary.

So I'm back to Thunderbird, it got a bit better over the years, but still, if I need to search Chinese I have to go to the corresponding web UI.

Will try MailMate once I have some spare time.

Gmail for personal, Outlook for work. Outlook is surprisingly not terrible if you invest some time in learning it.

I use gmail both for home and work. I'm not really an email power-user though. I do like the gmail keyboard commands - they're surprisingly Vim-like, and I would remember them better if I worked with email more.

Haven't found any email desktop applications that were enough better to get me to switch back.

I wrote my own, inspired by mutt, because I wanted more flexibility and a real scripting language (lua in my case)


This is now my second console-based mail-client. I'm almost ready for #3, but I know it will be a huge timesink.

Very interesting!

In case you hadn't noticed: the “ASCII video” has been archived by asciinema (whatever this means), meaning there's a dead link in the first paragraph of the Lumail home page.

Thanks for the notification; I also received a bug report about it. I'll try to fix over the next day or two.

On desktop, I use Thunderbird, although it’s showing its age on performance and search. The lack of native integration with MS Exchange is also a drawback for me (I have used some extensions, but they’re not very reliable). I do donate to the Thunderbird project regularly though.

On mobile, I use Mail.app from Apple and connect to mailboxes using IMAP. The only exception is ProtonMail, which doesn’t support IMAP directly, needs a bridge software on the desktop and supports it only for paid tiers (which is a fine business decision).

For productivity, I don’t think any desktop app or webmail could compete with well configured command line applications (like Mutt, Emacs, etc.).

I stopped using Pine/Alpine since it is not well suited if you have several email accounts. Not I use Evolution AND Thunderbird. While both have their strengths, both also have major flaws. Thunderbird is a resource hog, evolutions search function is barely functional. Easier to use recoll to find emails in Evolution than to use Evolution.

Had problems with Claws Mail, dont use it.

This never got off the ground: https://ivelope.com/

Also tried this one out: http://www.memecode.com/scribe.php

I've used Thunderbird on my desktops since it was launched and, despite its shortcomings, find it works well for my multiple accounts. I host my own calendar and contacts services and these integrate well too. The current desktops I use email on are all Linux Mint; on the rare occasions I need to access mail on other machines I log into one of my server's webmail clients (usually Squirrel).

Mobile? I'm still running a Blackberry Z30, hopefully replacing it with a Librem 5 later this year. I use the default Blackberry app and it works superbly with my multiple accounts (I'll miss it).

I use a MacBook Pro as remote terminal to a Linux VM with mosh and iTerm2. In the VM I run tmux, and emacs runs in one of the windows. (Other windows run shell sessions in the Linux VM, the Linux server the VM runs on, and the MacBook Pro, respectively.)

For email I have used VM (<http://www.nongnu.org/viewmail/>) for 24 years. It does a great job of rendering HTML mail in a text console. When I choose a URL (whether HTML or in plaintext), Emacs sends the URL to the Mac's browser over ssh.

I used Thunderbird, then sylpheed when I was on Linux, then gmail, then App.mail on osx... with the Mail-Butler add-on (I schedule my mails a lot)...

I always wanted to leave App.mail, and then Mail-Butler 2 went broke and begun losing scheduled mail (sic).

Thus, I got the motivation to switch back to Thunderbird which might be old and clunky, but mail is old and clunky.

I am super-fine with Thunderbird right now. It's stable. It's free. It got tons of add-ons. It's a great piece of software.

PS : I used pegasus mail on windows 3.11 and I loved it for its simplicity and good choice of features

I use mutt - but then I also run my own email server on my own domain.

I really like thunderbird. Because it is the only client I know of that has all the features I use:

- multiple identities

- multiple accounts

- a very good search

- imap idle support

- nntp client

It could be better on a lot of aspects, like the ui looks a bit outdated (I use it on kde, so it does not integrate very well with the rest of the de), the search could use some more filters, and I can not sort folders in the left pane. But apart from that, it has all the bells and whistles a real email client needs to have to make it really useful.

FastMail's web client on my laptop, the Spark app on iOS. I'd use a CLI but so much of email is in HTML form that I suspect it wouldn't render well.

Home PC, personal emails: Windows 10 Mail. I don't need anything smarter. Mac, work and personal: Mail.app Android, personal emails: AOSP Email (It's no good, but less annoying than Gmail, and on the Android tablet I use it so rarely that Gmail would update the app more often than I open it)

I haven't tried Thunderbird though. I guess I'd like it because I like Firefox very much.

Gmail web and android app for me. The search feature simply does not work properly in third party clients.

Ditto for me.

ProtonMail's web & Android clients. It works pretty well: tags, folders & sieve filters.

The only problem is that their mobile apps don't have full text search.

And their mobile apps don’t allow more than one account in the free tier (which may be a good decision for ProtonMail, but is not for me). Since the free tier doesn’t support IMAP, and since the paid tier supports IMAP only through a bridge and only on the desktop, I don’t have a paid account with it. Seems like a lot of hassle for me.

Since it seems that a lot of people are using Gnus to read mail, I have to ask: is anyone using Gnus with Evil-mode? I would like to try Gnus, but lack of support by evil-collection is holding me back.

mu4e in Emacs; tried many others and it's far and away the best.

I use claws-mail, its super easy to use. Thunderbird was too heavy for my computer (still the best one though), claws-mail is light on memory and just works.

For personal use (I host my own domain and mail server) I use Thunderbird and, occasionally, mutt.

At work we're a Google G-Suite shop, so Gmail web interface.

I mostly read email in my phone's GMail app. I mostly write email in Emacs, using message-mode. I also often read it in Emacs, using Gnus.

I use Thunderbird on the desktop and GMail on Android. I would love an alternative to the latter but have not managed to find a suitable one.

What about k9mail? It has a unified mailbox and a clean interface.

Only problems I had with it were when searching for mails and when I had a bug in dovecot.

There are some other up and coming open source solutions (FairEmail/SimpleEmail), bjt I don't like the interface

k9mail does not work so well on my phone. I can read emails but never got SMTP to work.

That sounds like either a user error or worth a bug report. Did you create one? Which email server? What did the logs say?

Common Email server from infomaniak.ch

Apple Mail. It’s search function is amazingly fast.

Desktop: Gmail web app

iOS: Gmail.app

I don't love either one, but for Google's Advanced Protection program, I don't have much of a choice. They're fine.

Apple Mail

For work I have to use Windows and Outlook is pretty decent. Then for Linux I just stick to thunderbird.

Gnus on Emacs! The only mail client that's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

AirMail. And I hate myself for it.

Why? I use airmail on macOS and iOS and I love it.

It's the buggiest app I've ever encountered. A few examples I've seen in the last few hours alone:

1. The new "dark mode" periodically sends emails with white background and white text. (Check out their support forum/Reddit and lots of people experience the issue. Users are asked to send it in and… nothing changes.) I've just disabled dark mode because of this.

2. There has been a bug which causes the app to erroneously display "Inbox Zero" despite being badged with new messages. This error has been in the app for 3-4 years.

3. Searching a large inbox throttles up CPUs. On my i9 MacBook Pro CPU usage goes to >250%.

4. It struggles with quotes/signatures. I send long emails which regularly get folded in bizarre places in the preview panel.

5. Periodically hitting forward/reply on an email will not include any of the text in the chain, when the original email is archived.

6. Saw this at the weekend but not today yet: the main window disappears sometimes and can only be brought back by quitting the app and reloading. Right clicking the dock icon and hitting "Show main window" does not work.

Honestly if any other email app was simply designed and had either mappable keys or by default mapped backspace to archive, I'd be using it.

Evolution mail with the exchange compatibility plugin has worked great for me! (On Linux)

Opera mail when I need to mass delete things quickly.

But mostly from within Gmail itself.

ProtonMail (so web), is clean and simple.

iOS: Apple Mail for personal, Gmail app for work macOS: Postbox for personal, Gmail in a browser for work

Spark on both desktop and mobile.

Since the 1990s I've been using Pine, Elm, Emacs VM, Mutt and/or Neomutt for mail, with Procmail for filtering mailing lists into folders. Over SSH, in a terminal window. These days Notmuch with Neomutt, with the occasional forwarding to Gmail to view HTML mails if they really need it (although I have other ways to view HTML mails too). I also forward things like invoices and receipts into data processing scripts that populate accounting databases for a couple of businesses, and manually check or fill out data linked to those.

I used to read a huge amount of mail, in particular most of linux-kernel and gcc-devel, and other things like that. Eventually it got burdensome to keep up, about 1000 mails/day incoming, and taking about 1 hour every day of fairly intense skipping through.

For a while I started to find mail traumatic. It was because of one, then another, person being abusive and pushy to the point that handling their mail was taking too much time and stressing me, on top of difficult personal experiences (partner illness, bereavement etc). As a result, I stopped reading mail regularly for a while. Naturally this had some unfortunate effects, and it put me off doing tasks that needed doing.

This was transformed when I started using Notmuch to filter mails, with the default filter being "everything in the last 1 hour", and two secondary filters: "all work mails in the last 7 days" and "all non-list mails addressed to me in the last 24/48 hours".

Even while the trauma issues continued, this one change transformed how I deal with mail, and it meant even when I felt tired I could approach little tasks that involved immediate emails quickly, instead of putting them off; and improved keeping on top of work and related things.

That won't apply to everyone, but it transformed my productivity with mail when I wasn't coping, and I suspect a similar time-based filtering can transform productivity for someone who is coping ok, but finding the quantity of mail, or their "ever expanding todo list stored in email", to be putting them off dealing with it.

Notmuch indexing and searching has also transformed how I file mail. I used to store mail from different people or organisations in separate folders. That by itself turned out to be quite a bit of grind every day (don't dare take a holiday!). Now I tend not to file mail, so much as add new search filters, which I add to auto-tagging scripts. When I add a new search filter, it isn't just used for new mails (as Procmail is). Updating filters re-tags older mails as well.

One of these days I will link my search-tagged mail to an app (of my own) on my phone so that I get notifications for "important stuff", but nothing else. For the moment, I avoid mail notifications, and take a look when I feel like it, every few hours, or when I'm expecting something. If something's important and time-sensitive (like a server alert - I look after a number of critical services), it's linked to SMS as well as mail, so I won't miss an alert. And people know to call me if something is time-sensitive.

Polymail for mac and ios.

Spark is really decent

Windows: The Bat!

Android: AquaMail

Webmail: Roundcube


that's hard core

Gnus in Emacs.


Nothing better!

I was always limited by mutt; it feels like it has a real scripting language, but doesn't. So you use per-host hacks. Gets a bit messy.

I wrote an alternative; https://lumail.org/


The features of that app sounds too good to be true. Also sounds like a privacy nightmare taking gmail and laying more AI processing on it across more servers.



Mutt, unless you have to interact with people who are incapable of using email a lot (there are limits to handling broken emails if you want things to be fast and secure).

Desktop (Debian Sid, Xmonad etc): claws-mail

CLI: mutt

Mobile (Android): K9

Claws because it starts in less than a second and does all I want, mutt because of the same reasons, K9 because it it does most of what I want and is free software like all other software on my mobile devices.

for productivity- outlook, hands down.

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