The State Of Modern Email Clients in Linux

I’ve been a big fan of Thunderbird ever since I started using my own mail server as opposed to Gmail. From a UX perspective, everything is easily accessible and functional but the inner design snob in me wishes that it was ‘more modern’.

Thunderbird mail client in Fedora [1]

Moving to clients such as Geary and Nylas Mail which both feature very similar modern interfaces has been a challenge. After some reflection I have some possible reasons as to why myself and others refuse to move to a ‘more modern’ email experience.

A Lack of Real Estate

Both Geary and Nylas Mail use a card-like layout which follows Google’s Material Design principles. The visual appeal of displaying emails in this manner comes at the cost of screen real estate.

Nylas Mail client in MacOS [2]

In Thunderbird, roughly twice as many emails in the same size window are visible; and that’s while having half of the vertical screen space used by the message preview box.

Tables Are Better

Using Thunderbird, if I want to find an email from a particular sender, my eyes move to the Correspondents column and proceed to move south until I’ve found the sender I’m looking for.

Geary mail client in Elementary OS [3]

When the senders address is nested inside a card, it takes more effort to jump between cards and while doing so, differentiating the sender from all the other information being displayed.

In the very simplest of terms, when searching for one specific item such as a sender or subject, having all that information in a table seems to be easier.

Functionality over Design

Most long term Linux users don’t use the OS for its aesthetic but more for its functionality. Both Geary and Nylas Mail have a minimalist interface which is easy on the eyes but comes at the cost of being unable to sort emails by sender in one click.

Maybe I’m just stuck in my ways! Feel free to comment your reasoning as to why you use a more traditional or modern email client.


There’s a discussion over on Reddit about Linux email clients which you can find here.