The Best Replacement for Windows Live Mail and Thunderbird

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 screeenshot
Microsoft Mail has a nice modern look, but lacks critical features.

Mail Pros

  • Modern look, optimized for touch screens

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

My Requirements

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!!

Thunderbird

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.

Thunderbird mail client screenshot
Thunderbird has a nice look in my opinion, but it is no longer supported by Mozilla

Thunderbird Pros

  • Lots of features and customization options (more than EM Client)
  • Can have local email folders

Thunderbird Cons

  • 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!

EM Client

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).

EM Client screenshot
EM Client has a good mix of features and is reliable

The Results

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 calendar. I emailed their service address and got a reply a day later. They tried a few things, but nothing worked. Eventually, they came out with a new version that fixed the problem. There are still occasional sync errors, but that’s probably more due to flaky Internet than EM Client, and these don’t interfere with my work.

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. Get it here:

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.
  • Pretty good support.
  • 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
  • Dated,┬áboring look
  • Occasionally shows popup error messages why trying to connect to Microsoft mail
  • Conversations (threaded) mode is not very usable; “From” column is cluttered with your own email address if you’ve replied to any messages in the thread. Preview window is also cluttered in conversations mode.
  • No RTF format for composing emails; You have to use HTML which can cause some formatting problems, especially when editing forwarded email.
  • Auto-complete is somewhat slow when typing in names. Windows Live Mail was faster.
  • Message body is loaded when you click on the email instead of in the background, making it slow when you are reading a lot of new email.
  • It’s difficult to see what month you’re on in the calendar, and entering dates is somewhat cumbersome.

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

 

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