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Excellent Portable Email Programs

Kim_Wood - August 11, 2009 - 10:11am
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I have looked over the last few months at a range of email programs - open source, freeware and commercial - some portable - and have come to a few conclusions. I haven't been exhaustive with links to each app, but they can all be found with a few simple Google (or your own favorite search engine) clicks.

Some givens: I will only use email programs that I can easily import/export my data from. All of the email clients discussed below have some import/export functionality. Furthermore, if the email app is not portable - or cannot be made portable - I will not use it. Robustness and speed are my primary concerns. Furthermore, the ability to gracefully handle multiple email accounts, including POP and webmail are important to me. Finally, I want to be able to have the email program display on my menu. I was happy that these objectives were mostly met.

Some of the more interesting ones are listed below.

1. Thunderbird Portable, the open source email client available on this site, works like a charm - but runs like a dog! It is by far the slowest and most lumbering of the lot. It provides all of the Mozilla magic sauce - regularly updated, quality code, extensions and goodies galore. If only it ran (much, much) faster... I no longer rate Thunderbird highly purely because you can grow old waiting for it to perform its email duties. I have given up using it, and migrated my emails to more nimble packages.

2. Sylpheed - lean email client. Freeware. Inherently portable, but not in format. Little effort required to make it sing and dance. Does not render html, and the interface is clean and minimal. Stable, fast and full of goodness. I like this one. It was my portable email package of choice for a time.

3. EssentialPIM (Paid and freeware) Available as a portable app. PIM functionality as well as nice email functionality. The paid version allows multiple email accounts. I paid for the pro version, and like it reasonably well. It reminds me of the Linux world's Evolution PIM. Worth keeping in mind. Not at all bad.

4. DreamMail ( Freeware, and by far the most interesting of them all. Very rich functionality, inherently portable, fast and very robust. This is the killer portable email client. It is not in format, but is easily worked up into that if you want a different icon, app name, etc... The home website is in Chinese. Some initial concerns about the language issues but far too good to ignore. Yep, it is indeed the killer app.

5. Others? FoxMail (pretty), Claws-Mail (Sylpheed fork and functionally rich), and PegasusMail (quirky but functional). All interesting and good. Claws-Mail is the only one of the whole bunch that couldn't be configured to run (more or less) as a portable easily. It needs the full portable treatment.

In conclusion, I guess that John has made the right choice by offering Thunderbird as the default open source email client on this site - primarily because of its quality and the communities commitment to maintaining and updating it. However, there are some much faster and IMHO much better portable email clients available. The freeware DreamMail is well ahead of any other email app I have tested. Essential PIM and Sylpheed are both good contenders if you want a robust and fast package.

I have no plans to offer launchers for any of the nominated freeware products. But if any of the forum's NSIS hotshots are looking for a new email client project, I believe that you will find a likely candidate amongst the applications mentioned above. Happy coding!

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but I just wonder how one does measure the speed of mail client. I used once the dream to, som eof out techs here use it, but in simple mail protocola like SMTP and POP3 I have a problem to see how can one client be faster then the other. All can be after all done on command line on telnet and it will have to work exactly the same way, mainly depending on the connection speed and the the load on the mail server. The mail client has nothing to do except to send few characters with established and not much changable protocol to get the mails, the actual download of mails is done without big work for the mail client. Possible speed differencies can be later in displaying the mail contenet if such is made of some complex objects and external files, but that again has to do with the actual connection to such external server.

So if I interrogate a mail server by telnet and give the command retr 21 to retrieve the mail number 21, there is nothing the actual mail client is doing extra then waiting until the mail is here. And this is definitely not different , this is just the speed of the connection. The duration of the mail download is then for all clients the same.

Pls enlight me somehow what you mean by the speed of mail client in the case I missunderstud something.
Or better: how do you measure speed of mail clients?

Otto Sykora
Basel, Switzerland

Gizmo's recomendations

I always use web-mail so I cannot offer a personal recommendation.
Take a look at Gizmo's list:

Opera has mail built into the browser. That might work for you. It is portable.
The other users at Gizmo have their own favorites.
It may be worth checking the replys to read what they use.

Thunderbird slow?

I hadn't ever realized Thunderbird was slow. Since moving off Eudora to Thunderbird long ago, the only other mail client I've used has been (bleh) Outlook at work. Never noticed that Thunderbird was slow. I used Sylpheed long, long ago, and always liked it, so I may check, it out again with the mention above.

And What About Emailaya

ThunderBird slow? Sure is! Try out Sylpheed, DreamMail or emailaya to get a qualitative (but very obvious) comparison. Now here is another very cute and fast freeware email client --> emailaya. Can be downloaded at Natively portable, lightning fast, skinnable, but not in paf format. Nevertheless, very interesting. DreamMail is still my email client of choice. Fast, great import/export, and numerous other niceness.


The slowest thing I've found

The slowest thing I've found about Thunderbird is the compacting of the folders.
Thunderbird can compact folders automatically when it can save space.
By default it's set to do this when it can save 100KB.
If I delete the cr@pmail in my inbox, it usually would kick off the folder compacting, which takes forever.

I changed the setting to 2000KB, and now I compact the folders when I have time.

I made this half-pony, half-monkey monster to please you.

compacting speed

depends on operating system.

On XP it will definitely take much longer then for example on w2k or even w98.
Compacting needs to read lot of small items, handle them and put them back. This is kind of weak point on XP, no idea if this has been fixed on vista.
While XP will handle large data amounts much faster, it is slow on handling large number of small data packages.

So if I delete lot of things, make bigger changes in my folders, I keep the compacting for home work. There a very old and slow w2k laptop will do the job in seconds, while my workshop XP desktop will need abt 20min for exactly the same job.

Try it on w98 or w2k and you will see what difference.

Similarspeed difference you might find when simply starting the portable apps menu and you have many , many apps installed. It has to look for all the icons in all of those folders etc. On XP machine which has incidentally abt double the speed and double ram the start of the menu will take abt 3min, on old w2k laptop it takes about 12sec. Same when I select refresh icons from the menu.

Otto Sykora
Basel, Switzerland

Gotta have IMAP protocol

Yes... I'd sure like to see a few more portable email client applications than Thunderbird and Seamonkey.

DreamMail looks interesting although so far as I can tell from the softpedia page hyperlinked above it does not support the IMAP protocol...

Might anyone know how to go about making Sylpheed and/or Claws-Mail portable so as to run completely from a USB drive? How about Mulberry?

To be honest, I've been

To be honest, I've been really satisfied with Seamonkey as a stand-alone program. The only time it lags is updating my millions of feeds. Otherwise, it does a great job with email and RSS.



I use one called Wikmail. Install it on your computer and then just copy the wikmail folder from the Programs directory into Portable Apps. Works for me..Cheers

avoid DreamMail

The EU support site/forum has just reported a serious vulnerability and recommends not using/switching to alternative as a matter of urgency.

Not truly portable anyway. Found a bunch of files on my c drive. When using from laptop can only send using the rapid reply mode which means you can't format anything.