Sick of Outlook? Here are our picks for the best alternative email clients

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Despite the sheer amount of unfledged devotion Microsoft’s flagship e-mail client since it arrived on Windows computers in the mid-’90s, there’s more than just one capable offering on the market for sending and retrieving email. Desktop email clients are an absolute necessity in today’s digital age, designed to access email messages regardless of an Internet connection and provide a convenient means for simultaneously accessing and consolidating multiple email addresses under one, banner application. Most also tout more storage than your run-of-the-mill Web client, whilst offering robust syncing with various calendar apps and file-hosting services such as Dropbox in addition to continual access to previously-downloaded emails. Although it’s impossible to access a desktop client on the Web, the pros and cons of having a quality desktop client at your fingertips are difficult to overlook — especially considering nearly every developer worth mentioning offers their commendable program free of charge or for a small, premium fee. sdgs

Here are our picks for the best email clients for PC and Mac OS X, whether you’re willing to pay a premium price or, well, not. Also, check out our hand-picked selection of the best sites for creating a disposable email address and our choices for the best Web-based email clients. Sifting through junk mail has never been easier.

Unibox (Mac OS X/$10)

unibox
Unibox

Unibox is a sleek, Mac-friendly alternative to Outlook. As you’ll notice once you get started, Unibox showcases conversations on the left and select messages on the right. The client offers a inline previews of media attachments in a similar fashion to Google, and users can change the viewing mode to see larger previews on the fly. There’s also no need to scour individual messages for a particular attachment as the software automatically compiles all attachments from any one person in a single location, organized by date. Setup is minimal, requiring little more than a valid email address and password, and the application even imports old messages into the client for future reference.

Although Unibox doesn’t feature an address of it’s own, the software’s utilizes standard IMAP protocol, thus allowing access to Gmail, iCloud, Hotmail, Outlook.com, Live.com, Yahoo! and a host of other popular clients. Other features come standard, such as the ability to trash and archive individual messages, along with options for forwarding and including additional emails in a thread. However, the software’s hallmarks lies within its exceptionally clean interface and uncluttered design.

Postbox (Windows/Mac OS X/$10)

postbox
Postbox

As a cheap alternative to Apple’s innate Mail client, Postbox offers similar functionality at a price. Unlike Mail however, the application is equipped with the ability to convert Postbox messages into Evernote notes and can easily share content via Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social networks. Users can also link the client with their Dropbox account and utilize previously-created Gmail labels, in addition to pushing archived messages directly from Gmail. It’s an industrious client, compiling both LinkedIn and Facebook contacts in a single location, along with standard contacts from any email address associated with the user’s Postbox account.

Postbox’s aptly-titled Inspector Pane — not to be confused with some kind of action villain — also collects any information pertaining to others with who you converse. With the click of a button, users can view any and all personal information ever referenced by the person with which they’re conversing, allowing Postbox users to view occupations, addresses, attachments, links, tracking numbers, and a slew of other data previously mentioned in the conversation thread. Furthermore, the program boasts an admirable stock message feature, allowing users to quickly send and save bulk messages with slight variations. It appears copy and pasting is at an end (at least in Postbox).

Mailplane (Mac OS X/$25)

mailplane
Mailplane

Let’s be honest, almost everyone who regularly uses the internet has had a Gmail account at some point their life. If you’re looking for a quality email client capable of bring the Gmail experience to your desktop — albeit at a price — then look no further. Mailplane was specifically designed to run the popular email service, allowing users to sign in and switch between up to three Gmail accounts using a handful of streamlined tabs located at the top of the window. It’s a minimalist feature, but a welcome one, providing a simple means of transferring copy between personal and work accounts within seconds. Moreover, not only does Mailplane feature a built-in Google Calendar, but it also supports various Gmail plugins like the heralded Rapportive and notification-immersed Boomerang.

Though not completely necessary, Mailplane even inserts a little icon into your task bar indicating the number of unread messages within your inbox, ensuring you’re always aware of potential emails while you work on other things. Clicking the icon will provide a quick summary of what’s new, or if you prefer, you can click the Do Not Disturb button to opt out of any notification you deem obtrusive. Inline media previews akin to Gmail are also available for viewing email attachments, but as indicated above, the entire package will cost you more than any other client on our roundup.

eM Client (Windows/Free)

em client
eM Client

Forewarning: don’t be alarmed by the number of unread messages in the application screenshot above, it’s merely a junk account. However, although the image is for a junk account, eM Client is anything but scrappy. The Windows-exclusive program is lined with unique features, each of which is accessible directly within the free incarnation of the software. The client touts all the standard messaging tools for sending and receiving messages, along with integration with Google Apps and a barrage of importation features for transferring established contacts from Microsoft Outlook. Other features, specifically the software’s auto-archive functions, allow users to easily clean their inbox of clutter by — you guessed it — automatically placing old inbox messages in the program’s archive folder. The feature won’t save you anything in terms of memory, but there’s no need to peruse 20 pages of messages if you can consolidate them in another location directly out of view.

Similar to Mailplane, the freemium version of eM Client allows users to utilize up to two emails at once, while the premium version grants even more functionality. Once properly setup, the second email will appear to the bottom left of the first email, with options for accessing both messages’ inbox, sent folder, and trash components readily available from the left-hand side of the window. Additionally, users can click All Inboxes to view all incoming email, regardless of which address the email in question was sent to, or exercise the software’s De-duplicator function to scan and eradicate any duplicate message that are potentially cluttering the inbox. Those, plus the girth of standard tools for chatting and filtering junk mail, make eM Client an easy sell whether you prefer Gmail, Exchange, iCloud, Outlook.com, or any other popular Web-based offering.

Inky (Windows/Mac OS X/Free)

inky
Inky

Arcode’s Inky has a nice little setup going for it. Conversations are organized folders encapsulating the entire inbox and filtered inbox, as well as various folders housing any personal, social, and marketing emails you receive. The application’s interface is attractive and streamlined, providing filters for sorting emails by day, sender, subject, size, time, and relevance among other topics from directly within the top navigational panel. It’s an organizational behemoth, laying out threads in a very ergonomic manner while providing a relevance icon with every email, which alerts you to the pertinence of a particular message, based on its content and your personal tastes. A dark-blue droplet indicates what Inky assumes to be a highly-relevant email, whereas a light-blue icon represents one you can likely overlook.

Moreover, Inky features a myriad of unique facets designed exclusively for the software. The Notes feature allows users to view emails they’ve sent themselves as reminders, and similarly, the Maps feature allows them to see any and all addresses they’ve ever received in a unified location. Package Tracking is also a standout, keeping tabs on assorted tracking numbers, and Inky even allows users to choose which email addresses appear in the Unified Inbox if they prefer rampant consolidation over separate folders. Many smart inbox features, such the social folder or daily deals folder, can also be disabled entirely, rendering the software one of the best when it comes to supreme organization.

Opera Mail (Windows/Mac OS X/Free)

opera mail
Opera Mail

Many of you are likely familiar with the open-source, Opera Web browser. However, I doubt many users are aware of the browser’s associated, freemium email client. Dubbed Opera Mail, the desktop clients offers an abundance of labels — from To Do to Call Back — while retaining all emails with documents, images, music, or video in structured folders for easy browsing. Address support is fairly robust, supporting addresses from the likes of Outlook and Gmail among others. The client isn’t feature rich as others clients on our list, but the dearth thereof renders the software incredibly easy to use if you’re someone who can forgo add-ons and excessive features.

However, one thing setting Opera Mail apart from the competition is the way it effortlessly handles mailing lists. A left-hand sectional panel constantly shows you which mailing lists you’re subscribed and subsequently centralizes all incoming mail of that nature to a single location. With the mailing list feature, you can also opt out and unsubscribe from any mailing list you deem a nuisance, or if desired, view all mail from a particular list in one fell swoop. Tabs are also set up nicely, allowing simultaneous viewing of  multiple emails, and the client’s built-in feed reader provides automatic notifications whenever your favorite website posts new content. It’s not quite Google Reader, but hey, it’s a welcome addition not present elsewhere.

What do you think of our picks for the best desktop email clients for PC and Mac OS X? Which do you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments below.

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