The desktop email client Microsoft Outlook is well known and well used by millions of individuals and business owners all around the world. Partly because of this, because it’s so ubiquitously famous, many people just assume it’s the only product they should really be using.

Of course, this isn’t true at all and there are numerous competing products available on the marketplace that at least match the quality of Outlook and in some cases downright beat Microsoft’s own service. Many of the competing email clients come from well known and trusted brands like Mozilla, Opera, Apple and IBM. Now, let’s go over five competing products and give you the lowdown on how they measure up against Microsoft.

1. Mozilla Thunderbird

The Mozilla Thunderbird client is a fully developed, very reliable, quite and secure email client application. With thunderbird you can efficiently handle all your mail in a way that’s streamlined, easy to use and mostly junk free.

Some of the pros that come with Thunderbird include: a system of tags, smart folders and filtering processes that allow for extremely organized email management, Email style RSS feed structure built into the application, and rich HTML formatting that improves appearance and creates a more secure email client. Thunderbird also uses very sophisticated Junk and Spam filters that are particularly efficient at keeping your inbox clean and gives you the ability to encrypt your emails with an OpenPGP client plugin that is extremely secure.

On the other hand, with Thunderbird you will have to deal with a couple of cons such as the inability to show you related messages and documents for a given email or file and a lack of text response suggestion protocols; pretty minor cons in comparison to the client’s benefits.

2. Opera Mail

Opera Mail is smooth, compact and very efficient. Its internal workings are also intuitively designed and learn quickly from their users sorting and organization preferences. Furthermore, with Opera you get a rapid search system that filters your emails’ accessibility for maximum speed and efficiency. The internal tagging system is designed to learn quickly by example and Opera’s spam filter is at least the equal of Thunderbirds or Outlook’s.

With regards to Opera’s cons, the client is not as organized as it could be in terms of all it’s abilities and has a major security weaknesses in that it doesn’t offer encrypted email signatures or content encryption. These are not major setbacks, but they certainly put Opera behind Thunderbird by a few select degrees.

3. Zimbra

Zimbra Desktop is an excellent alternative to Outlook in several ways. It can connect to online mail systems like Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail and is also capable of connecting itself to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. The Zimbra interface also provides features such as an ability to be used with Windows, Linux or Mac and a fully equipped calendar, briefcase and address book application. On the other hand, the free edition of Zimbra is somewhat limited in its features and this particular client’s interface can seem a bit confusing and cluttered until you get used to it.

4. Pegasus Mail

One of the best and most powerful email clients available on the market, Pegasus Mail gives you an assortment of features that easily match outlook and other competitors in most regards. The mail client gives you access to an excellent Bayesian spam filtering program, full security features that allow you to encrypt and digitally sign your emails, distribution listing features for very easy and quick bulk mailing, a system of highly flexible message templates for automated replies and a message editor that allows both plain text and rich HTML reply creation.

Although Pegasus has few drawbacks: its interface can be confusing and hard to adapt to, many features are not easily accessible unless you know where to look for them and the tag/filter system doesn’t learn by example like is common in some other email client programs.

5. Claws Mail

Claws Mail is one of the finer email clients you can download today. It’s extremely flexible design allows it to be reconfigured in all sorts of versatile ways, gives you access to all sorts of extremely useful plugins and surprises you with one of the fastest load times of any email client available today.

Furthermore, Claws Mail includes a large number of more sophisticated tools such as an external editor, support for SSL over POP3, SMTP, NNTP and a whole series of unique and potentially useful plugins. A drawback of Claws Mail is that it can be a bit tricky to use for those who are looking for more simple email client tools. Furthermore, Claws Mail seems to lack RSS feed capacity.