Accessing your email accounts can be done in a lot of ways, but most people opt for a web based client or an application on their desktop with a client on their mobile devices. In most cases, companies will only give access to the corporate email servers via webmail clients, which are approved by the IT Security department.
If you are planning on installing a webmail client for yourself (maybe on a dedicated server or a VPS) or picking one for your employees, or your hosting company offers you different choices in terms of webmail, you will our review of best webmail clients useful for making the right choice.
Almost all hosting providers will have SquirrelMail in their list of web based email clients. It’s free and open source. It has a pretty draconian user interface, but it will work on almost any browser, and that applies to Internet Explorer 6 as well. It has IMAP and SMTP support, as you would expect from a mail client.
One of the nice features it has is POP3 support, this means that it can download the emails and store them locally, but still leave a copy on the server. You will still need to have IMAP access to the main mail server.
Despite its look, it has many features like creating and managing folders, address book, anti-spam features by SpamCop, search, etc.
SquirrelMail has been around since 1999, it’s a pretty stable and robust web mail system, and despite its interface, it offers many advanced features, and it can be extended using plugins.
Like SquirrelMail, RoundCube is also a free software. It also supports IMAP and SMTP, and it has a nice user interface, with drag and drop support.
RoundCube has a lot of features, which are geared towards business usage like address book with groups and LDAP connector, multiple sender identities, canned response templates, and support for ACL (Access Control Lists).
This does not mean that it’s only suitable for business users since a lot of its features can become handy for anybody else. RoundCube also supports rich text / HTML emails, both in terms of sending and receiving and displaying them. It also has a lot of privacy related settings.
Besides having a lot of privacy oriented settings and spam / scam protection, it also supports PGP Email encryption, which is a nice feature to have in this day and age, when there is a lot of talk about mass surveillance and privacy infringement issues.
Besides SquirrelMail, RoundCube is also often provided as a choice of webmail client by hosting companies as they come pre-bundled with a lot of hosting panels like cPanel, Plesk, etc.
Also known as “Horde IMP”, Horde Mail is a free and open source web-mail client written in PHP. Its development started in 1998, so it’s a mature and well tested platform. It can do much more than your average run of the mill webmail client.
It has a lot of advanced features besides supporting IMAP, POP3 and SMTP protocols. It has native PGP Encryption and Signing support, a full/blown WYSIWYG HTML editor for composing messages, built-in attachment viewers, displaying messages in a thread, etc.
Another great feature is that you can download attachments as a ZIP file, instead of downloading them one by one.
Horde Mail is a great choice for a web based mail client, which can be accessed from anywhere unlike a desktop application. One nice feature is that it has support for mobile browsers as well, so if you are looking for a complete solution, Horde Mail might be it. Also, you don’t have to worry about becoming accustomed to it on desktop and not finding a substitute for it on your mobile device.
Besides its mail feature, it has a full-blown calendar form, which you can export to iCalendar, for example. You can set up meetings, reminders, etc. You can also manage tasks and events, so all in all, Horde Mail is a complete solution, not just a simple webmail client.
SmarterMail is a MS Exchange alternative, it goes beyond the basic functionality of a webmail client, but if you are looking to step away from Microsoft Exchange, then SmarterMail would be a great candidate.
SmarterMail is not a free solution; the Enterprise solution with 250 accounts, will set you back $499, while the unlimited option is $1399 currently. SmarterMail offers a free, self-hosted option, with the limitation of 1 domain and 10 users.
SmarterMail offers a webmail client, group chat, desktop and mobile sync. It also has support for calendars tasks and notes. You can share anything with your team, instantly and securely. Its anti-spam and anti-phishing solution is up to par with Microsoft Exchange.
SmarterMail is an ideal solution for an organization. Besides all the business features, they also provide an API, which exposes every aspect of the application. Being a business centric solution does not mean, that it won’t benefit single users. You can go ahead and try out their free solution without any commitment.
To sum it all up
There are a lot of solutions when it comes to webmail clients, most of them offer extra features like calendars, issue and event trackers, etc. There is no one size fits all solution to webmail clients – if you are looking for a simple webmail client and you don’t need all the bells and whistles featured by some, you can opt for a simple one like Roundcube. You might also play it safe and pick a more feature-rich one, so you can have a task organizer or a calendar in case you will ever need it.
Most of commercial email clients, but also the free ones, usually provide a demo interface where you can try them out, and see if it works for you. In case that your hosting provider or your company offers you this option, go ahead and try them out for a couple of days, and thus, you will be able to choose the one that works best for you