As regular readers know, I'm a big fan of ditching Microsoft's pricey Office suite in favor of cheap -- or, better, free -- alternatives. My top pick at the moment remains.
Of course, when you switch to Kingsoft, OpenOffice, or another suite, you're giving up one of Microsoft Office's most valuable assets: Outlook. Without it, how are you supposed to manage your contacts, calendars, and, most importantly, e-mail? (Snark answer: In the cloud, of course.)
Alas, freebie mail clients are few and far between. Perennials Thunderbird and Windows Live Mail have their merits, but I can't say I'm a huge fan of either one.
Rather, I think if you're looking for what is arguably the single best Outlook alternative, check out the brand new eM Client 6. (Actually, the program has been around awhile; it's version 6 that's new.) Great interface, great features, and full Outlook compatibility -- of a sort.
With eM Client, you can import PST files from Outlook, thus easing the transition from that program. eM also supports data files from all the other major programs, including the two I mentioned above, and it works with popular mail services like Gmail, Exchange, iCloud, and Outlook.com.
The free version is virtually identical to the Pro version except that the former limits you to two e-mail accounts. If you decide to spend $49.95 for eM Client Pro, you'll get unlimited accounts and "VIP" support. (Pro also allows for commercial use, whereas Free is for personal use only.)
eM Client lacks some of Outlook's more sophisticated features (which I suspect few users need or want), but for an individual or small-business user, it has everything one might need. You've got nothing to lose by trying it and everything to gain by, well, trying it. It definitely ranks among my favorite freebies.
Needless to say, if there's another mail client you like better, talk it up in the comments.
Quick housekeeping note, the sequel
Yesterday I mentioned that deal-a-day site 1Sale would be companio non grata until they got their shipping and customer-service acts together. A few readers noted that they've enjoyed very quick shipping from the company, and others asked if 1Sale could be relegated to "bonus deal" status instead of being excised altogether.
Without exception, anytime I share a 1Sale deal -- even with a disclaimer about lengthy shipping times -- a significant number of readers leave comments about why the company is bad news. And three to four weeks later, I hear from at least a few who haven't received their orders and can't get a response from 1Sale. They feel bad, I feel bad, and ultimately I advise them to seek help from their credit-card provider.
Not to belabor all of this, but it's only because the 1Sale complaint level is an order of magnitude higher than those of other companies that, for now, I'm banishing them from this blog. You are, of course, free to continue shopping there if you wish.
Bonus deal: For anyone who's still buying DVDs and wants to copy those movies to their mobile devices, SharewareOnSale will set you up with Digiarty's WinX DVD Ripper Platinum for free. A frequent freebie around these parts, the program rips even copy-protected discs and converts the video to a wide range of mobile formats. Just bear in mind you get no free updates and no tech support. Also, be sure to follow all the download, installation, and registration instructions to the letter. If you wind up with only the trial version, you missed a step.
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