Linux E-mail Software
by Scott Nesbitt

Have you switched to Linux and are looking for good e-mail software? Then this article is for you. It discusses what to look for in the software, and looks at some good Linux e-mail software choices.

E-mail is wildly popular. In fact, it's probably the most popular use of the Internet. Every day, literally billions of messages travel around the world. These include personal messages, business correspondence, and (of course) the much-hated spam.

But to send, receive, and read e-mail you need an e-mail client. On Windows, most people use Outlook or Outlook Express. But what can the new Linux user expect to find in the way of e-mail clients? A lot.

There are dozens of e-mail programs available for Linux. They range from text-based command line tools to fully graphical applications. And you can find an e-mail client that meets your needs.

What To Look For

Choosing an e-mail client is a personal matter. The process shouldn't be as complicated as, say, selecting a new wardrobe. But there are a few factors to consider when you're looking for the right Linux e-mail program.

Ease of Use

In order to get it to work, does the e-mail software require you to edit a configuration file? Or can you do the configuration within the application itself? If you've moved to Linux from Windows or MacOS, you should determine if the e-mail client that you're considering behaves like the software that you previously used. If it doesn't, expect it to take a while before you get the hang of the new program.


You should consider the number of features that you need and that you will actually use. Do you just want to send e-mails, or do you want your e-mail client to act as a contact and personal information manager as well? Is the ability to send and receive encrypted e-mails important to you? On top of that, if you have multiple e-mails accounts, you should make sure that an e-mail client actually supports multiple accounts.

HTML E-mail

And what about HTML e-mail? HTML e-mail is simply e-mail that's formatted using HTML -- you can add real lists, character formatting, and more to your messages to make them stand out. Many people love HTML e-mail, but not all e-mail clients support it. Some e-mail clients only send plain text, and when they receive HTML-formatted messages, they will display the HTML code as well as the message text.

Migrating Information

If you're moving to Linux from another operating system, or from one Linux e-mail client to another, you'll want to take your contacts and, maybe, your existing messages with you. Make sure that the e-mail client you choose can import contacts using one of the standard formats.

Your Changing Needs

Finally, look to the future. Your e-mail needs may change in the next year or two. You might have multiple e-mail accounts, or you might need to be able to send HTML e-mails. As your needs change, your e-mail client should.

What's Available

Linux e-mail clients run the gamut from command line applications to fully graphical applications that rival the features and functions of their Windows counterparts. Here is a sampling of some excellent e-mail clients for Linux. They're all easy to use, and they all have a number of common features, like contact lists, the ability to store messages in different folders, spam filters, the ability to include attachments, and (in most most cases) newsgroup and/or news feed readers.


Thunderbird has become one of the most popular e-mail programs for Linux (and for Windows, too). It literally packs everything you need. It's easy to use. You can use it to access messages from multiple accounts, and it contains a search feature that can help you find messages no matter where you stored them. On top of that, you can add features to Thunderbird using extensions. According to the Thunderbird Web site, extensions are small programs that "allow the application to be customized to fit the personal needs of each user." Thunderbird also enables you to send plain text or HTML e-mails. In fact, when you send a message Thunderbird asks you how you want to send it, just in case the recipient can't handle formatted messages.

Mozilla Mail

Mozilla Mail is a lot like Thunderbird. Which isn't surprising, because they share a common heritage. Mozilla Mail is part of the Mozilla suite, which also includes a Web browser and an HTML editor. It has many of Thunderbird's main features, and also includes an instant messaging tool. The main drawback of Mozilla Mail is that it's slow. But if you use Mozilla, there's no real need to go with another e-mail client.


m2 is the e-mail client built into the Opera Web browser. While fairly bare bones, m2 works. And it works well. You can use it to access e-mail on multiple accounts, including accounts on Web-based services like Yahoo! Mail and GMail. m2 also has a nice "quick reply" function. You just type a reply in the text box below your message, and press a button; no need to open a new mail window. The only drawback for some is that m2 doesn't support HTML email.


Evolution is a gorilla an e-mail gorilla. It's a lot like Microsoft Outlook. In fact, Evolution is designed to be a replacement for Outlook. It has a lot of Outlook's main functions, like a powerful calendar, scheduling, and contact management. Evolution also enables you to create tasks and to-do lists. With all of these features, Evolution is definitely intended for use in a company. But I know a few people who use it as their home e-mail client and love it.

Some Simpler Applications

If you like your software a bit simpler, you might want to check out KMail, and Balsa. These two e-mail clients are very similar in both their look and functions. They're quite small and easy to use, and yet pack enough features to keep most e-mail users happy. Beyond the basic e-mail functions found in other applications, KMail and Balsa allow you to encrypt your messages, search mail folders, and work offline. The latter is particularly useful -- the e-mail client won't automatically try to connect to your account the moment you start it up. Of this pair of applications, KMail packs the most functions, and Balsa is the fewest.

You have to be careful which one you choose. KMail is designed for the KDE desktop manager, while Balsa is intended for the competing GNOME desktop environment. Of course, if you have the proper libraries installed, then you should be able to run KMail in GNOME and Balsa under KDE.


Of course, these are only a few of the available Linux e-mail clients. You can find more by doing a search at any of the popular Linux software sites.

No matter what your needs are, you can find a Linux e-mail client that suits your needs. You may have to do a little hands-on investigation to find the right software for you, but isn't that one of the joys of Linux?