In mid 2016, Microsoft announced that they were no longer going to support Windows Live Mail. This was bad news for me, because I had been a long-time user of Windows Live Mail, dating back to when it was called Outlook Express. I used it not only for email, but for my calendar and contacts. It had just the right set of features and worked well for me.
In spite of the move towards browser-based email, I still like having a local email client for viewing all of my accounts together, and without needing an Internet connection.
Why I Can’t Use Microsoft Mail
Microsoft encouraged people to switch to Microsoft Mail (now called “Microsoft Mail and Calendar”). I tried it. Like everyone else, I thought it sucked. It was really a bare-bones email program missing some basic features that I needed, like support for local folders and a unified inbox. Even worse, Microsoft seems to limit the sync period, instead of re-syncing the whole inbox. As a result, my inbox slowly accumulated old email that I had already deleted from my server using my phone. It was simply unusable.
Microsoft Mail Pros
- Modern look, optimized for touch screens
Microsoft Mail Cons
- Can’t have local email folders
- No unified inbox
- Does not completely sync your inbox, possibly leaving messages deleted in other applications in your inbox – not cool!!!
- Very limited customizability
- Very limited feature set
So, I started investigating third-party solutions. I wanted a free or low-cost Windows client, not as bloated as Outlook but with more functionality than Windows Mail. For example, I wanted the ability to have local folders and a unified inbox with mail from several accounts. Also, it had to properly sync with the email server and my phone – not too much to ask!!
Mozilla Thunderbird has a large installed base, and some rabid fans, so I checked it out. I installed it and liked the interface, although it seemed a bit more complicated than I needed. Thunderbird also has some detractors who say it’s slow. There’s also the big issue of Mozilla not supporting it anymore, which concerned me. Thunderbird is now supported by donations, which doesn’t inspire confidence. I didn’t want my email client going away yet again.
- Lots of features and customization options (more than EM Client)
- Can have local email folders
- Would not import my Google contacts (did not spend a lot of time debugging this)
- Users say it’s slower than EM Client
- Possibly too complex for some users
- No longer supported by Mozilla; supported by volunteers working for donations.
- Crashed a few times during my short testing period.
Although I liked the look and features of Thunderbird, the nail in the coffin for me was the uncertain support situation. I really didn’t want my email program going away yet again!
I did some more research and found a newer program called eM Client that had some good reviews.
I went to their website and downloaded it to my Windows 10 machine. Installation was easy. There was a wizard to install my Live and Google accounts. The wizard did not work on my POP3 email account, but I was able to set that up manually with no problems.
After playing with it for a while, I ended up paying for a Pro license for $50 because I had a lot of email accounts I wanted to use with it (the free version only supports 2 accounts – but hey, that’s enough for many people).
I put eM Client through its paces, scrutinizing every setting, moving hundreds of messages into folders, and so on. It held up well and I think only crashed once.
EM Client has just the right level of cusomizability without going overboard. You can customize the top menu, how your email message header pane looks, and the arrangement of the panes.
After a while, I started getting sync errors with Windows Live Mail due to Microsoft changing their service. I submitted a ticket, and someone from eM Client got back to me and helped me solve the problem within 24 hours! (The solution was to select the Microsoft Exchange option when setting up Live mail accounts, instead of letting it auto-choose for you).
So, after many months of using eM Client, I can now fully recommend it! It’s fast, has just the right number of features, and hasn’t let me down. I use it on Windows, but it’s also available for Mac. Get it here:
Note: This is a professional review site that receives compensation when you purchase through the affiliate links at no extra cost to you. I personally test or research each product before endorsing it. This site is independently owned and the opinions expressed here are my own.
EM Client Pros
- Emailing is fast and reliable – it “just works”.
- Has the right level of features and customization.
- Can have local email folders.
- “De-Duplicator” is nice – it removes duplicate contact entries.
- “Contact Details” pane shows message history by just clicking on any contact.
- Good support for paying customers.
- Built-in auto backup.
- Can create “quick text” when you have an email template that you use often.
EM Client Cons
- Need to pay if you want to use it with over 2 email accounts
- Somewhat of a bland look
- No RTF format for composing emails; You have to use HTML which can cause some formatting problems, especially when editing forwarded email. Not a frequent issue though.
- It’s difficult to see what month you’re on in the calendar. I just use the native Windows calendar instead.
So, EM Client isn’t perfect, but none of these defects are show-stoppers, and it’s reliable and does what I need. It has just the right amount of functionality and customization for me. I’d recommend eM Client if you are a user of Microsoft Live Mail, Windows Mail, or Thunderbird and are looking for something different.
Question? What’s your favorite email client? Please comment below. – Brian