It seems that there is no middle ground when it comes to Microsoft Outlook: people either love it or hate it. Maybe you fall into the latter category, or maybe you just do not want to pay for a copy (although it generally comes bundled with Microsoft Office). Or maybe you have heard some horror stories about security holes in Outlook. Whatever your motivation, the good news is that there are other competing e-mail clients out there, and many of them are free (or have free “lite” versions).
Thunderbird is a free open source e-mail client from the same group that developed the popular Firefox browser. Its interface is clean and sleek, and Outlook users should feel right at home. Features include smart junk-mail detection, a powerful search function, excellent security credentials, and even an integrated RSS reader to manage weblog and newsgroup subscriptions. It lacks a calendar function, but if you can live without that, Thunderbird is a great replacement for Outlook.
Thunderbird is the new kid on the block, but Eudora has been around since 1988. Eudora sports a long list of features, including spell-check, search and filter, and tools to block both spam and scam e-mails. One unique feature, called “MoodWatch,” will even warn you before you send an inflammatory e-mail!
There are three different “modes”: a full-featured paid mode, a cheaper sponsored mode with some integrated ads, and a free “lite” mode with no ads. Both PC and Mac versions are available.
Pegasus Mail is another e-mail client that seems to polarize users: they either love it, or they hate it. On the one hand, users report that it is very secure and stable. On the other, the user interface is not at all intuitive, and people accustomed to Outlook-style e-mail clients will experience a steep learning curve. It does have its hardcore adherents, and it’s free, so a test-drive won’t cost you a thing, except your time.
Not to be confused with Firefox, Foxmail is yet another free e-mail application. It’s light on features, but big on ease of use. It’s especially useful for managing Web mail accounts. It also supports the use of vCards. Many users complain about the sparseness of technical documentation, so Foxmail may not be the best choice for technophobes.
With its lighthearted multimedia emphasis, Incredimail certainly wasn’t designed for business use. But don’t let its good looks fool you: Under all the extraneous smileys and sound effects lurks the heart of a serious e-mail client. You may even find business uses for some features, such as the handwritten signature and audio-attachment features.
In the final analysis, Outlook is a very good e-mail program. However, because it is, by far, the most popular e-mail client, it will always be a target for hackers: They can make the biggest splash by writing a virus to exploit a hole in Outlook. Whether you are concerned about security, cost, or ease of use, there are other e-mail clients out there. Download and install a few different programs until you find the one that’s right for you.