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Missing Mozilla Thunderbird? Here are five email alternatives

Mozilla has put Thunderbird out to grass, halting development on the venerable desktop email client. Here are five multi-platform, open-source alternatives for fans looking for a replacement
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By Ben Woods, Senior reporter on
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1 of 5 Ben Woods/ZDNet

With the news that Mozilla will no longer be developing its long-standing email client, there will undoubtedly be a lot of disappointed Thunderbird users out there. Worry not: ZDNet has put together a list of five alternative desktop email clients that can be used in place of the venerable software.

In general, we've gone for similarly open-source multi-platform clients, eschewing native options such as Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail. All testing was done a Windows XP machine, so the clients may look slightly different depending on which platform you are using.

Opera Mail

Opera Mail comes integrated into the Opera web browser. It provides a powerful collection of integrated options for organising messages. For example, it can identify all emails with attachments and display these in a separate box on the side of the screen, and even sub-divide them according to the kind of attachments they contain.

Like all self-respecting email clients, it will sync with Outlook and Microsoft Exchange, as well providing a very easy set-up and sync of web-based services like Gmail and Hotmail. It also supports shortcuts, allowing you to skip through a loaded inbox with ease.

We also liked the speed with which it imported our old emails, something competitors like Sea Monkey took, much, much longer to do.

Opera Mail is available for free for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Screenshot: Ben Woods/ZDNet

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emClient

Unlike some of the other software on this list, emClient offers a paid-for version for commercial use, in addition to the version that's free for home users. The commercial emClient costs around £32 ($49.95) for a lifetime licence, with 12 months of free upgrades.

emClient is closer to Opera Mail and Thunderbird than Sea Monkey. As well as providing support for syncing multiple accounts, it offers calendar, tasks and widget tools, and has a way to link into instant messaging.

Screenshot: Ben Woods/ZDNet

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Sea Monkey

Sea Monkey was born out of the Mozilla Application Suite, using community-driven software to continue its development.

It's not as fully featured or easy to set up as Opera Mail or emClient, but once it's up and running, it can happily handle your daily email chores. It'll also sync Microsoft Exchange accounts or other web-based email accounts such as Gmail.

While functional, it's not the best looking of the clients, and it did take the longest to import messages. It also failed to respect my Gmail folder structure when dealing with other email accounts rerouted to Gmail.

Nevertheless, it's free forever and is available for Mac, Windows and Linux, so could be worth a look.

Screenshot: Ben Woods/ZDNet

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EudoraOSE (Open Source Edition)

EudoraOSE is a free-to-use derivative of the Eudora mail client that uses Thunderbird code with additional code, features and UI elements from Qualcomm's Eudora client.

It supports multiple syncing of accounts, and is available on Windows, Mac and Linux. It has a number of advanced features, such as message redirection, comprehensive session restore, advanced attachment handling and content display controls.

It also offers handy options like 'group selection' and 'type-to-select' for quickly finding and retrieving messages.

Screenshot: Ben Woods/ZDNet

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Zimbra

Zimbra rounds off this list of open-source, free desktop email clients. It works on Windows, Mac or Linux machines.

Unlike most of the others on this list, Zimbra can integrate communications from social-networking services such as Twitter (pictured), Facebook and Digg.

Like the rest of the bunch, it supports multiple accounts. Naturally, it comes with email services such as syncing, forwarding and auto-responders.

However, it is perhaps one of the more fully featured clients: it has advanced options such as viewing email searches as a virtual inbox (for example, all email with attachments from 'Ben'). It also plugs into Yahoo for 'web mash-ups', which show addresses on Yahoo Maps and allow you to preview web pages as thumbnails before opening them, among other features.

Screenshot: Ben Woods/ZDNet

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