Best email client: Apple Mail vs. Gmail vs. Outlook vs. Thunderbird

This guide analyses the four popular email clients: Apple Mail, Gmail, Outlook and Thunderbird to find the ideal email client choice for you.

Best email client: Apple Mail vs. Gmail vs. Outlook vs. Thunderbird


Email clients are the digital post offices of our time, and selecting the right one is essential for seamless communication. In this detailed guide, we will critically evaluate the four popular email clients, Apple Mail, Gmail, Outlook and Thunderbird to find the best email client for you. We scrutinize these email clients on various critical aspects, helping you make an informed choice.

User Interface

Apple Mail: Known for its elegant design and user-friendly interface, Apple Mail offers a visually appealing experience. Its clean, minimalistic design makes it easy to navigate, creating an effortless email management process. For instance, the unified inbox in Apple Mail brings all your emails together in one place, streamlining access to your messages, regardless of which account they originate from.

Gmail: Gmail’s web interface is renowned for its simplicity and efficiency. It’s designed with the end-user in mind, featuring a clean, ad-free interface. Gmail’s tabs, such as Primary, Social, and Promotions, automatically categorize your emails. For instance, when you receive a newsletter, Gmail automatically categorizes it as a promotion, keeping your primary inbox clutter-free.

Outlook: Microsoft Outlook, with its professional and business-oriented design, is tailored for corporate users. It integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft Office applications. Outlook’s “Focused Inbox” is a notable feature that prioritizes essential emails over less important ones, ensuring you don’t miss critical messages.

Thunderbird: Thunderbird offers a straightforward, albeit slightly dated, interface. However, what sets Thunderbird apart is its high degree of customization. You can personalize your email client with various add-ons and themes, tailoring it to your preferences. For example, you can install a dark mode theme or an add-on for PGP encryption.

Integration and Compatibility

Apple Mail: Apple Mail is primarily targeted toward users within the Apple ecosystem. While it smoothly integrates with macOS and iOS, it may not be as versatile when it comes to third-party services. For example, setting up a non-Apple email account may require manual configuration and some limitations in terms of features.

Gmail: Gmail is well-known for its extensive integration with various Google services. It also supports third-party applications and extensions. For instance, you can connect your Google Drive to Gmail and easily send large files as links to recipients.

Outlook: Microsoft Outlook seamlessly integrates with other Microsoft Office products and services. This includes direct integration with Microsoft Teams, making it convenient for businesses to manage emails and online meetings in one place. However, its compatibility with non-Microsoft services might not be as comprehensive.

Thunderbird: Thunderbird offers a high degree of flexibility in integrating with various email services, including support for add-ons and extensions. For instance, you can install the Lightning add-on to manage your calendar within Thunderbird, and you have the freedom to configure your preferred email providers.

Security and Privacy

Apple Mail: Apple places a strong emphasis on user privacy and security. iCloud Mail offers end-to-end encryption for messages sent between iCloud users, ensuring that even Apple can’t access your email content. While Apple Mail doesn’t offer built-in email encryption, it upholds strict privacy policies.

Gmail: Google invests heavily in security and offers features like two-factor authentication and robust spam filtering. However, Gmail scans email content for advertising purposes, raising privacy concerns. For example, if you receive an email discussing a vacation, you might start seeing related ads in your Gmail interface.

Outlook: Microsoft Outlook provides advanced security features and encryption options, suitable for business users. Microsoft has made significant strides in ensuring the security of its email services. However, as with Gmail, some users may be uncomfortable with Microsoft’s data access for various purposes.

Thunderbird: Thunderbird, as an open-source and privacy-focused client, provides users with control over their data. It supports encryption options such as S/MIME and PGP. Thunderbird is often used by privacy-conscious individuals who want to protect their email content from prying eyes.

Productivity Features

Apple Mail: Apple Mail offers standard email management features. While it provides essential functionality, it may lack some advanced productivity tools. For example, it does not have features like AI-driven categorization and automatic responses.

Gmail: Gmail excels in productivity features, thanks to features like labels, filters, and AI-driven email categorization. Gmail’s integration with Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) provides access to productivity tools like Google Docs, Sheets, and Calendar.

Outlook: Outlook is a productivity powerhouse. Its robust calendar, task management, and contact management features make it a go-to choice for business users. For instance, you can schedule meetings, manage tasks, and share calendars with colleagues effortlessly.

Thunderbird: Thunderbird offers basic email management features but may require the installation of add-ons to match the productivity features of other clients. For instance, you can add the “Lightning” extension for calendar management and “Enigmail” for email encryption.

AI Integration

AI integration is an emerging trend in email clients, helping users automate tasks and enhance their email experience.

Apple Mail: Apple Mail offers limited AI integration, primarily focusing on Siri suggestions for autocomplete and smart notifications. It lags behind Gmail and Outlook in this aspect.

Gmail: Gmail is at the forefront of AI integration. It employs machine learning algorithms to categorize emails, offer smart replies, and detect potential phishing threats. It even includes a feature that suggests complete sentences as you type emails.

Outlook: Microsoft Outlook leverages AI for tasks like prioritizing emails in your Focused Inbox, offering predictive typing suggestions, and generating meeting insights to help users save time and improve efficiency.
Thunderbird: Thunderbird’s AI integration is less advanced compared to Gmail and Outlook. Users may need to rely on third-party add-ons to incorporate AI-powered features.


In conclusion, the choice of the best email client depends on your specific needs and priorities. Apple Mail is an excellent choice for users deeply entrenched in the Apple ecosystem who prioritize an elegant and user-friendly interface and are willing to make some compromises in terms of advanced features and third-party integration. Gmail is perfect for users who rely heavily on cloud-based tools, Google services, and require advanced features like email categorization, productivity tools, and extensive integration with third-party apps. Outlook caters to business professionals who need a robust, feature-rich email client with a strong focus on productivity and integration with Microsoft Office applications, even if it means potentially sacrificing some aspects of user privacy. Thunderbird is an open-source, privacy-focused client that offers extensive customization and encryption options, making it a solid choice for privacy-conscious users who don’t mind investing some time in configuring and personalizing their email client.

In the end, your choice should align with your workflow and preferences, ensuring that your email experience is efficient, secure, and tailored to your needs. This Apple Mail vs Gmail vs Outlook vs Thunderbird guide provides the initial introduction to these email clients. It’s worth noting that some users may even opt for a combination of these email clients for different aspects of their digital lives. So, explore your options, consider the aspects that matter most to you, and select the email client that best suits your requirements.

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