Google Alternatives

Best Free and Open Source Alternatives to Gmail

Google has a firm grip on the desktop. Their products and services are ubiquitous. Don’t get us wrong, we’re long-standing admirers of many of Google’s products and services. They are often high quality, easy to use, and ‘free’, but there can be downsides of over-reliance on a specific company. For example, there are concerns about their privacy policies, business practices, and an almost insatiable desire to control all of our data, all of the time.

What if you are looking to move away from Google and embark on a new world of online freedom, where you are not constantly tracked, monetised and attached to Google’s ecosystem.

In this series we explore how you can migrate from Google without missing out on anything. We recommend open source solutions.

EmailEmail is one of the most popular online activities, so let’s kick off this series in this area.

Gmail is a free email service which offers 15GB of storage, a search-oriented interface and a ‘conversation view’. It’s hugely popular with more than 1.7 billion active users. But you might not like the automated scanning of email content.

What do we recommend as an alternative? The best solution really depends how you wish to consume your email.

Click image for full size

You might prefer a self-hosted solution. If so, Roundcube is our favorite browser-based open source IMAP email client. The software offers an awesome range of features including MIME support, canned responses, message searching, spell checking, impressive address book integration, threaded message listing and much more.

Roundcube is written in PHP and requires a web server (Apache, Lighttpd, Nginx, Cherokee or Hawatha web server), and a database (MySQL, PostgreSQL or SQLite database). With its plugin API it’s easily extendable and the user interface is fully customizable using skins (3 are supplied).

Alternative self-hosted open source solutions include Horde, Nextcloud, and Zimbra.

If you’re not looking for a self-hosted solution, Tutanota is an open source service solution. They offer secure email and the free version gives 1GB storage. The service offers paid subscriptions offering more storage.

What if you’re not ready to ditch Gmail but want to experience a native Linux client? One possibility is Thunderbird, our recommended desktop Linux email client. It can be configured to work seamlessly with the Gmail service. Messages are synchronized between your local version of Thunderbird and the web-based Gmail.

All articles in this series:

Alternatives to Google's Products and Services
GmailEmail is an essential activity and starts the ball rolling in this series
MapsWeb mapping service offering satellite imagery, aerial photography, +
PhotosStore your images in the cloud for convenient access from anywhere
TranslateMultilingual neural machine translation service
CalendarManage your busy life with a digital calendar
ChromeApplication software for accessing the World Wide Web
SearchPrivacy-focused alternatives to Google Search
DriveFile storage and synchronization service
Earth ProMaps Earth by superimposing satellite images, aerial photography, and GIS
DNSResolve a particular domain name to its IP equivalent
YouTubeOnline video sharing and social media platform
Google DocsWeb-based productivity office suite
Popular series
Linux for StartersNew to Linux? Read our Linux for Starters series.
Free and Open Source SoftwareThe largest compilation of the best free and open source software in the universe. Supplied with our legendary ratings charts.
Linux ReviewsHundreds of in-depth reviews offering our unbiased and expert opinion on software.
Alternatives to GoogleAlternatives to Google's Products and Services examines your options to migrate from the Google ecosystem with open source Linux alternatives.
MicrosoftAlternatives to Microsoft's Products and Services recommends open source Linux software.
AdobeAlternatives to Adobe Cloud is a new series looking at free and open source alternatives to products available from Adobe Cloud's subscription service.
Linux System ToolsEssential Linux system tools looks at small, indispensable utilities, useful for system administrators as well as regular users.
Linux ProductivityLinux utilities to maximise your productivity. Small, indispensable tools, useful for anyone running a Linux machine.
Home Computer EmulatorsHome computers became commonplace in the 1980s. Emulate home computers including the Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST, ZX81, Amstrad CPC, and ZX Spectrum.
Now and ThenNow and Then examines how promising open source software fared over the years.
Linux at HomeLinux at Home looks at a range of home activities where Linux can play its part, making the most of our time at home, keeping active and engaged.
Linux CandyLinux Candy opens up to the lighter side of Linux. Have some fun!
Best Free Android AppsBest Free Android Apps. There's a strict eligibility criteria for inclusion in this series
Programming BooksThese best free books accelerate your learning of every programming language
Programming TutorialsThese free tutorials offer the perfect tonic to the free programming books series
Stars and StripesStars and Stripes is an occasional series looking at the impact of Linux in the USA
Share this article


  1. Gmail is a great service. Too much faff having to install my own hosted replacement unless there’s a really easy way of doing it?

  2. I’ve used Gmail for years even though their implementation of IMAP is dodgy. Lately they’ve been blocking IMAP altogether on my mobile provider’s network, so this article is timely.

Share your Thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.