February 16, 2013, 7:45 AM — I don't like Gmail...I love Gmail. But I'm not wild about using it from within my Web browser, as I find the interface, well, lacking. (Unattractive and unintuitive are two words that come to mind.)
Sure, I can tolerate it if I have to, but I find that I work much better within the confines of a more traditional desktop mail program.
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For years that program was Outlook, but I think that's overkill for most home users, and I certainly don't like having to buy Microsoft Office just to get it.
Consequently, I've spent a lot of time investigating consumer-friendly Outlook alternatives. Here's a rundown of four programs you might want to use with Gmail instead of Gmail proper:
1. eM Client 5
The newly updated eM Client is one of my favorite mail programs. It now supports Windows 8 and includes an auto-archiving feature, mail backup and restore, an improved calendar, and other welcome improvements. Its integrated instant-messaging module is icing on the cake.
Just one problem: When you reply to an email, it doesn't mark it as read. That's a crazy oversight, one I was hoping the developers would fix in this version. Other than that, it's nearly perfect.
The free version allows you work with two email accounts. If you have more, you'll need the $49.95 Pro version.
Although Mozilla is no longer actively developing Thunderbird, the program remains solid, stable favorite that I continue to use daily. One reason is that it supports a Firefox-style corral of add-ons, which can add great features and improve others.
For example, Thunderbird shares eM Client's odd refusal to mark replied-to messages as read, but there's an add-on that solves that problem. It's not the prettiest mail client there is, but Thunderbird deserves its reputation as one of the best.
3. Windows Live Mail
Though part of the dwindling Windows Essentials collection, Windows Live Mail remains a well-rounded and attractive solution for anyone seeking a desktop mail client, especially one that fits in with Windows' overall look and feel (to say nothing of Microsoft Office's).
It hasn't been updated in a while, but as PC World's Preston Gralla points out in his review, "It doesn't include all the bells and whistles of Microsoft Outlook, such as tasks and a full-blown calendar, but given that it's free, Windows Live Mail is well worth the download."