Best free Outlook alternatives (and how to choose the right one)

If you’re looking to move away from Microsoft’s native email service, there are various free Outlook alternatives to consider. Learn about the best options.
With 400 million users worldwide, Outlook is among the most popular email services for personal and business use. This is the case largely due to Microsoft’s prime position in the market combined with Outlook’s many features included in the free plan.Still, Microsoft’s email service isn’t ideal. Some of its weakest points are the user interface, security, and third-party integrations, pushing many users to look for free Outlook alternatives.If you’re one of them, this guide will teach you what to look for in your new email provider. You’ll also learn about some of the best email platforms worth considering and their most notable features.
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How to choose a new email provider

Switching to another email service can be challenging due to vendor lock-in. If you’ve been using Outlook for a long time, you likely have lots of data to transfer and an established workflow you’ll likely disrupt.You need to choose your next service wisely to avoid unnecessary additional changes down the line. If you’re not sure what to look for in your Outlook alternative, use the following criteria:
  1. Ease of use
  2. Feature availability
  3. Integrations
  4. Security

Ease of use

One of Outlook’s main disadvantages is its relatively complex and cluttered user interface. While advanced users might appreciate the variety of features, beginners may struggle to get used to it. An ideal alternative should eliminate this problem by ticking two boxes:
  1. Clean user interface
  2. Intuitive functions
If you compare Outlook to many competitors, you will likely notice it has a more outdated interface. It’s similar to Yahoo’s in terms of a squared, busy design with numerous icons around the inbox. Many providers offer a cleaner, minimalistic interface that is far more esthetically pleasing.This isn’t only a matter of visual appeal—a minimalistic user interface is also easier to navigate, especially if the email client has well-structured features and commands.All of this makes for a smoother, more efficient user experience. A well-designed platform can minimize distractions and increase productivity, making everyday email tasks easier.

Feature availability

You might have heard the popular saying: “If you’re not paying for a product, you are the product.” Unfortunately, this is true for many email providers that either keep advanced features behind a paywall or offer them at the cost of privacy.Outlook, Gmail, and most other Big Tech services show ads in free users’ inboxes to monetize their services, and you get a more robust set of features in return. Other providers might not take this approach, in which case the free plan will likely have limited features so that the user is motivated to subscribe to a paid version.Finding a service that doesn’t come with such trade-offs is a bit challenging but possible. There are providers that don’t invade your privacy or limit their usability for free users. Some of the main features you should look for while browsing such options include the following:
  • Sufficient storage
  • Email organization features
  • Spam and phishing detection
  • Account security (two-factor authentication, biometric login on mobile devices, etc.)


Most email services integrate with at least some additional tools, such as:
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Note-taking
  • To-do’s
Outlook is no different—you get several connected apps that help you expand your workflow without using additional platforms. Unfortunately, third-party app integration is nowhere as good as integration with Microsoft’s native apps.That’s why you should look for an option that seamlessly connects to other productivity tools, especially if you need an email service for work.


Free email services—Outlook included—typically don’t provide strong security. Like with other Big Tech providers, you get encryption in transit using the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol as the main security layer.The problem with TLS is that it’s an outdated protocol full of vulnerabilities. It also encrypts your emails on the provider’s servers using encryption keys created and stored by the service, which means your provider can decrypt your messages and see their content.Besides the obvious privacy concerns, this practice exposes your data to a significant risk of theft. If someone attacks and breaches a server, they can steal the keys and intercept your messages while they’re traveling to the recipient.The best way to achieve email security and privacy is to choose an email service with end-to-end encryption (E2EE). It’s the gold standard of email security that encrypts emails on your device before they leave it. The decryption key is also created and stored on the recipient’s device, so the email provider can’t access them or decrypt your emails.Free email solutions rarely use E2EE. You must either pay for it or choose a privacy-first email service offering end-to-end encryption by default. If you go with the latter options, you should pick one that doesn’t sacrifice usability for security, and only a few providers strike this balance.
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Seven free Outlook alternatives reviewed

Now that you have an idea of what to look for in an email service, it’s time to compare a few popular Outlook alternatives. We’ll cover three options in detail:
  1. Thunderbird
  2. Spike
  3. Skiff Mail
You’ll also discover four honorable mentions that didn’t make the shortlist but are worth checking out if none of the top picks suits you.


Source: ThunderbirdBuilt by the well-known browser provider Mozilla, Thunderbird is one of the few free services that combine robust features with decent security. It’s an open source platform, which is a major benefit in itself because it ensures more transparency than you can get with Outlook or another Big Tech provider.As an email client, Thunderbird doesn’t give you a new email address—you can connect your existing Outlook account alongside virtually any other you’re currently using, and the unified inbox will bring them all together.The platform offers a solid user experience through a few smart features, most notably:
  • Tabbed email that lets you open multiple threads and switch between them easily
  • Advanced search and filtering by keywords, tags, senders, and more
  • Attachment reminders that alert you if you mention the word “attachment” in the body but don’t upload the file
Thunderbird offers end-to-end encryption, which is a pleasant surprise for a free platform. Unfortunately, its E2EE implementation is far from ideal.The platform uses the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) protocol, which is outdated and criticized for its vulnerabilities. Worse yet, you must manually configure PGP in Thunderbird, which requires you to first install and set up two different programs:
  • GnuPG for PGP implementation
  • Enigmail add-on for encryption key migration
The process is quite complicated for beginners and users who aren’t tech-savvy, so not everyone can secure their emails with Thunderbird’s E2EE.Another notable downside is a lack of Android and iOS versions—you only get desktop platforms for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Support for most email providersComplicated E2EE implementation
Useful email management featuresNo iOS or Android apps
End-to-end encryption.


Source: SpikeWhile Thunderbird is a solid option for personal users, Spike is among the best Outlook alternatives if you’re looking for a team collaboration platform. It streamlines your workflow by turning traditional emails into a chat-like interface with all the functionalities you get with a direct-message platform.This innovative approach isn’t for everyone, so Spike lets you opt out of it and use the traditional email interface. You’d still get access to various useful features, such as:
  • Video meetings
  • Unified email and file search
  • Collaborative document creation
  • Groups and channels
Spike offers a web app alongside iOS and Android apps, so you can collaborate from the office/home or on the go. There are no dedicated desktop versions, though, so you can only access the platform from your browser.Spike’s main downside is that it’s only free for up to five people. If your team is larger, you need to sign up for one of the two annually billed paid plans:
  1. Team—$6/user per month
  2. Business+—$9/user per month
The free plan gets you 15 GB of storage per user, which can fill up quite quickly if you collaborate on many projects and upload numerous files.Another drawback of the platform is a lack of end-to-end encryption. Data is encrypted with the AES-256 algorithm, which is decent but not on par with E2EE.
Chat-like interfaceLimited free plan
Advanced searchNo E2EE
Various collaboration features .

Skiff Mail

Source: SkiffSkiff Mail is a privacy-first email provider and client that uses strong end-to-end encryption to give users complete control of their data. The platform’s encryption relies on two mathematically related keys:
  1. Public key—Used for encryption and shared between the sender and the recipient
  2. Private key—Used for decryption and safely stored on the user’s device
Much like Thunderbird, Skiff Mail is open source, except you don’t need to go through complex setups to take advantage of E2EE—it’s enabled by default, so you can rest assured your correspondence is kept safe.For additional security, Skiff Mail implements the following protective measures:
  • Two-factor authentication as another account security layer
  • Zero-knowledge login that lets you sign up without leaving personal information
  • Secure Remote Password, which encrypts critical account data like your login credentials
Skiff is free and offers all essential features with the free plan. You get various benefits, including:
  • Fast email and text search
  • 10 GB of end-to-end encrypted storage
  • One custom domain and four aliases
  • Email organization tools (folders, labels, and filters)
  • Integration with various crypto wallets (Coinbase, MetaMask, etc.)
  • Schedule and Undo send options
For more information on the platform’s features and security, you can read Skiff’s whitepaper.The only notable drawback is the platform's inability to protect you fully if your device is already infected. As encryption keys are stored on your device, existing malware can impede Skiff’s ability to provide complete protection, though the same goes for other providers.
Source: Skiff

Skiff Mail integrates with three additional E2EE productivity tools

When you sign up for Skiff, you can secure personal information and files beyond email, as you’ll get access to three other end-to-end encrypted platforms at no cost:Skiff Pages is a secure alternative to Big Tech document editing tools like Google Docs and Dropbox Paper. It lets you create and share unlimited documents, fully encrypting their contents and metadata.You can store your documents and all other files in Skiff Drive to ensure their safety. The platform also features optional integration with the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), the largest decentralized storage solution.To stay on top of your tasks and events, you can use Skiff Calendar, which automatically syncs with Skiff Mail. It also comes with a built-in video conferencing tool to facilitate collaboration.All platforms are available on browsers, iOS, macOS, Android, and Windows, offering outstanding cross-platform support.
End-to-end encryption by defaultCan’t fully protect your account if your device is corrupted by malware
More encrypted storage than you get with most privacy-first platforms.
Integration with encrypted tools including Drive, Calendar, and Pages.
Rich free plan.

Start using Skiff’s encrypted workspace in minutes

You can access Skiff’s entire product suite by taking the following steps:
  1. Visit the signup page
  2. Choose a username and password
  3. Explore Skiff’s E2EE platforms
The rich free plan should satisfy the needs of an average user, but if you need more storage or additional features, you can upgrade for as little as $3 per month.

Honorable mentions

If you need to compare a few more providers before choosing your Outlook alternative, the following options are also worth considering:
eM ClientWell-designed interfaceOnly available on desktop
.Solid third-party integrationsAdvanced management features (snooze, send later, undo send, etc.) only available with paid tiers
.Tracking-pixel blocking.
SparkNumerous organization tools are included in the free planNo web or Linux versions
.Available on desktop and mobile devicesThe most notable feature (AI Assistant) isn’t available for free
.Email session scheduling.
Proton MailEnd-to-end encryptedPGP used for encryption
.User-friendly interfaceOnly 1 GB of free storage
.Additional platforms included for free (Drive, VPN, Pass, and Calendar).
Zoho MailGDPR-compliantNo end-to-end encryption by default
.Free custom domain25 MB attachment limit with the free plan
.Web and mobile access.

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