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How to install Geary email on Linux (and why you should or shouldn't)

If you're looking for a more modern, simplified means of managing your email on Linux, look no further than Geary.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Busakorn Pongparnit/Getty Images

I've been a Thunderbird user for many years and it has served me very well. But lately, I've found myself a bit disillusioned by the Thunderbird interface. Although the developers and designers made some changes to the UI over the past year (and I was all in on those changes at first), I've had a change of heart recently.

I'm not talking about the functionality of Thunderbird, as that hasn't changed much over the years. This is all about the interface and I've started seeing the open-source email client UI as a bit long in the tooth.

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Because of that, I set out to find a different client to serve my needs. For this, I'm currently considering two different email clients: Geary and Bluemail. I've used both in the past but not as serious contenders to take the place of Thunderbird. This time around, I want to find out which of the two can serve me as Thunderbird has for so many years.

Here, we're going to look at the first candidate, Geary.  

Geary is a Linux-only, open-source email client that has been around since 2012. I first met Geary when I was using Elementary OS as my primary operating system. At the time, I found Geary to have a pleasant-enough interface but it lacked a lot of the features I depended on. These days, I don't require so many features for my email client (such as GPG support). What I require now is just the means to manage my email. I want something simple with an interface that doesn't look like I'm still back in the early 2000s.

The Geary UI.

The Geary interface is very easy on the eyes.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Gear has all of that in spades. I can add all the email accounts I need to keep track of and view them in a very well-designed interface that is as modern as it is simple.

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Although the Geary feature list is fairly basic, it offers what I need and nothing more. That list looks like this:

  • Easy email account setup
  • Full text and keyword search
  • HTML and plain text message composer
  • Desktop notification of new mail
  • Compatible with Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook.com, and other IMAP servers

There is one big caveat to Geary (I'll explain in a minute) that could lead me to not selecting this email client as my new default. But first…let's get this app installed.

How to install the Geary email client on Linux 

What you'll need: The only thing you'll need for this is a running instance of a Linux operating system. Because Geary can be installed by your default package manager or Flatpak, you should be able to install it, regardless of the distribution you use. I'll demonstrate this on Ubuntu Budgie.

1. Open your app store

You shouldn't have to bother using the command line to install Geary. Whatever distribution you use, open the GUI app store (such as GNOME Software of KDE Discover). 

2. Search for Geary

Once your app store has opened, search for Geary.

3. Select the type of install

This will depend on the distribution you are using. For example, when installing on Ubuntu, you might find only the .deb package available. However, if you're using, say, Fedora 39, you'll find Geary can be installed either via RPM or Flatpak. What you choose will depend on your preference. Flatpak can be a bit slower to run but updates are added more quickly. Make your selection and then click Install.

The Gear entry in GNOME Software on Fedora 39.

On Fedora 39, you can choose from a Flatpak or RPM installation of Geary.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Adding your account

One very nice thing about Geary is that, if you've already configured a Gmail account in your online settings of your distribution, it will automatically pick that up and your Gmail account will be ready out of the box. To add another account, click the three-dot menu at the top right of the left sidebar. When prompted, type your name and email address and click Next. Geary does a very good job of picking up the server address but if it's wrong, you'll need to type the correct URL. Add your password, click Save, and you're good to go.

The Geary account add wizard.

Adding an email account in Geary is very straightforward.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

That darned caveat

Although I've found Geary to be a very pleasant email client, it does one thing that I don't believe I can abide by. You see, when you click to open an email, instead of that email opening in a reading pane (or a new window altogether), the email takes up the entire window. That means not only can you not delete multiple emails, it means you have to commit to reading the email before you can go back and preview any other emails.

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For me, that's just inefficient and it also means that I'll probably not stick with Geary. That's a shame because I really enjoy the simplicity and modernity of the Geary email client. And although this might not be a deal-breaker for you, it probably is for me.

Even so, I would suggest you give Geary a try and see if it's not the best email client for your needs.

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