Guide to Free Email Accounts and Clients

March 27, 2011, By Christian Cawley

If you’re looking for a free email solution, your main choices might well be Hotmail or Google Mail, also known as Gmail.

While other providers offer free web based email – and you might also have an email account provided by your ISP – these two choices offer the largest degree of compatibility with other services and devices, from Windows Phone 7 and Android phones (and beyond) to social networking services like Facebook or LinkedIn.

There are of course differences between these two email solutions, both in how they’re used via your browser and how they can be accessed and utilised in an email client.

Guide to free email accounts and clients

Choosing The Best Free Email Solution for You

In order to make a decision on whether to choose Hotmail or Gmail – assuming you don’t just go ahead and try them both out – the best thing to do is decide on what you’re expecting from a free email solution.

Free webmail from Microsoft and Google can offer the following benefits:

  • Universal access via the browser
  • Additional storage
  • Simple folder management
  • Push-style email to suitable mobile device
  • Good quality junk mail filter

Additionally if you’re prepared to pay for it, you can use Gmail to host emails sent to your own private domain, something that is not possible with Windows Live Hotmail.

Note however that both solutions have a notable shortcoming if you’re accessing them via the browser window. It is impossible to bulk forward emails in either solution, which mean if you have a group of emails to forward to one or more recipients you will need to resort to an email client.

This is clearly less than ideal, but thanks to the wide choice of email clients on Windows, Mac and Linux it is easy to setup your Windows Live Hotmail or Google Mail/Gmail account on a desktop email client.

Choosing the Best Desktop Email Client for Your Webmail Account

However it isn’t a straightforward case of choosing an email account, choosing a desktop email client and the two solutions automatically working, no questions asked.

Sadly there are likely to be some compatibility issues that need addressing. Most particularly these occur with Microsoft Outlook and Windows Live Hotmail. If you have a version that predates Microsoft Outlook 2007 then you will need to find an alternative solution, as only the later versions are compatible with the Outlook Connector software that makes viewing Hotmail accounts possible.

Beyond this, however, compatibility for these two webmail solutions and the most popular email clients is pretty good, with solutions on all three major operating systems.

Microsoft Windows

On Windows PCs, the following popular email clients can be used to access both Windows Live Hotmail and Google Gmail accounts:

  • Thunderbird
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Windows Live Mail

Apple Mac OS X

Apple users have a choice of email clients from the most recent Microsoft Office versions, 2008 and 2011:

  • Microsoft Entourage
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Mac OS X Mail

Linux/Ubuntu/related distros

Evolution email for Linux distros is capable of handling Gmail and Hotmail email accounts.

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