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Best Self-hosted Email Clients

Self-hosted email clients are those that we can host on our own server or on our local network. The advantage of using a self-hosted email client is that it makes your email accounts accessible to any devices on a network. We can use these clients to not only integrate third-party email accounts, but also to construct our own email server, which allows us to communicate in perfect privacy over the internet.

If you’re asking why someone would need a self-hosted email client, the answer is simple: accessibility and privacy. If you value privacy, you can set up your own email server. It will give you complete control over your data, and no third-party services will be able to share it with advertising businesses. Second, you may integrate third-party email services with these email clients, allowing them to be accessed via the local network or the Internet.

Best Self-hosted Email Clients

In terms of UX or simplicity of use, the self-hosted email applications I’m going to list in this article are no different from others. Most of them offer an easy-to-use setup so that individuals with little knowledge of email servers can utilise them. However, I recommend broadening your expertise, especially if you intend to host your own email server.

It is not possible to host an email server and then leave it to run on its own; instead, it necessitates ongoing maintenance and security checks. Some of the crucial administrative duties to keep an email server healthy are to update your system, install and configure a firewall, and monitor network traffic.

If you host your email client on your local network, be sure it is secure from intruders. Despite the fact that all email clients are actively being developed, have options to encrypt data, and anyone with access to the login panel will not be able to reach any inbox without proper authentication. Still, I recommend not sharing your wifi password with strangers and keeping your password strong; all of this will help to increase the security of your network.

With that being said, let’s start with the first on the list.

1. Mailpile

Mailpile is an excellent example of an open-source project. Bjarni, Brennan Novak, and Smári McCarthy founded Mailpile in the Netherlands in 2013. All three of these people are experts in their respective fields. Bjarni is a FOSS developer, Brennan Novak is a specialist in user interface design, and Smári McCarthy is an expert in privacy and security. They not only create a privacy-oriented email client, but also one that is secure and has a great user interface that competes with existing proprietary email clients.

Secure & private

Mailpile can easily interface with third-party email services such as Gmail and Outlook, and all emails may be downloaded locally. After downloading, the customer can delete all of their emails from their servers. It enhances privacy and security. If your Gmail account is compromised, the hacker will not be able to access your important emails because they have been erased from the Gmail servers. However, if you reply to those emails from Mailpile, the process of sending a reply will go through Gmail, which means your emails would need to be erased again from their servers after downloading locally.

Not a mail servers

Mailpile is an email client, not a webmail service. Although it is compatible with any email server that supports IMAP/SMTP. So, if you intend to host a mail server, I recommend reading this post, which explains how to use Virtualmin or Webmin to host your own email server. After that, you can use IMAP/SMTP to configure your newly formed mailserver with Mailpile.

How to install Mailpile

Mailpile is available for Linux distributions based on Debian. Install Mailpile by downloading packages or by adding the Mailpile repository. It is suggested to use a repository because it will automatically install available updates.

Install using Mailpile repository

Install required packages –

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install curl apt-transport-https gnupg
curl -s https://packages.mailpile.is/deb/key.asc |sudo apt-key add -'
echo "deb https://packages.mailpile.is/deb release main" |sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/000-mailpile.list

Install Mailpile without Apache integration –

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install mailpile

With Apache integration –

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install mailpile-apache2

You can go with the second method, i.e. add apache integration so that you can easily open Mailpile on http://localhost/mailpile or http://server-ip/mailpile or http://domain-name.com/mailpile.

You can use any of the three URLs listed above depending on where you install Mailpile and where you wish to access it.

For instance, I’ve installed Mailpile on my Raspberry Pi, which is connected to the local network. To access Mailpile on any of my home devices, I must first connect my device to the local network and then use the Raspberry Pi device IP address to reach the Mailpile. To ensure that this IP address never changes, I configured my Raspberry Pi’s network settings to use a static IP address.

2. Rainloop

Written in PHP, Rainloop is a web-based email client with modern interface. Rainloop includes practically all of the features found in a modern email client, such as an easy-to-use admin panel, IMAP and SMTP protocol support with SSL and STARTTLS, Sieve scripts, multiple account support, and interaction with prominent social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Rainloop also provides customization options to further personalise the user experience. The inbox’s default layout divides it vertically into an email list and a reading section. Users can choose between a horizontal layout and a no split view.

Rainloop reads emails directly from the mailing server, whereas Mailpile allows users to keep server emails locally to improve privacy.

How to Install Rainloop

Rainloop can be easily installed and configured on any Linux distribution. One can install Apache server and install rainloop just by uploading the files in the apache directory. Or, Rainloop team also provides an installer script written in PHP. Just download the script to the apache directory and run it from the web browser.

Install Pre-requisites –

sudo apt install php wget unzip

Install Apache web server –

sudo apt install apache2

For Fedora -

sudo dnf install httpd

Download & install Rainloop –

For community version -

wget https://www.rainloop.net/repository/webmail/rainloop-community-latest.zip
wget https://www.rainloop.net/repository/webmail/rainloop-latest.zip
unzip rainloop-*.zip

Move unzipped files in /var/www/html.

mv rainloop-*/* /var/www/html

Installer script –

wget -qO- https://repository.rainloop.net/installer.php | php

Set the correct permissions –

cd /var/www/html
find . -type d -exec chmod 755 {} \;
find . -type f -exec chmod 644 {} \;

cd /var/www/html
chown -R www-data:www-data .

Open Rainloop in the web browser –

http://server-ip.com/ or http://localhost

Or, run installer script from the web browser –

http://server-ip.com/installer.php or http://localhost/installer.php

3. Roundcube

Roundcube is an email client used by several well-known web hosting companies. The email client supports practically all of the features found in popular email clients such as Gmail and Outlook. With features like brute-force attack prevention, XSS attack prevention, PGP encryption support, and OAuth/XOauth login, it stands out from the crowd of proprietary email clients.

Roundcube is simple to install and configure on most web hosting control panels. It is also quite simple to host it on a personal server. Simply download the package and extract it to the root directory of your web server. Next, use your web browser to connect to your server, which will allow you to easily configure Roundcube.

To download it from the command line, make sure to install pre-requisites.

Install pre-requisites –

sudo apt install php wget unzip

Download Roundcube –

wget https://github.com/roundcube/roundcubemail/releases/download/1.4.12/roundcubemail-1.4.12-complete.tar.gz

The above URL will download the stable version of Roundcube. To install any other version, please visit the download page and choose the package.

Once you’ve downloaded Roundcube file, extract it in the web server’s root directory and open it from the web browser.

tar - xvzf roundcubemail-*.tar.gz

Move the extracted files to the web server’s root directory. For example, /var/www/html or /var/www/. Once done, open web browser and visit http://server-ip.com or http://localhost.

You can also install Roundcube docker image. Roundcube docker images are available at the docker hub.

4. Webmail Lite

Last but not least is Afterlogic’s Webmail Lite. Webmail Lite, as the name implies, is a lightweight and simple to use web-based email client. It’s lightweight, but it supports practically all of the features we require while dealing with emails on a daily basis. Like others in the list, Webmail Lite too is open source and free.

It has a built-in Microsoft Office document viewer, OpenPGP encryption, integration with services such as Facebook, Google, and Dropbox to easily login to email accounts, and is available in 30+ languages.

You can pay for the Pro version of Webmail Lite if you wish to help the developers and gain more features. With the pro edition, you have a smartphone-optimized design, a personal calendar, file access from your cloud storage, AES-256 browser-based encryption, and much more.

How to Install Webmail Lite

Installing Webmail Lite is similar to other email clients in this list. Download and unzip Webmail Lite in the web server’s root directory and visit it from the web browser to set it up.

Install pre-requisites –

sudo apt install wget unzip php

Download Webmail Lite –

wget https://afterlogic.org/download/webmail_php.zip

Unzip the archive in the server’s root directory –

unzip webmail_php.zip

For apache users, extract the zip file in /var/www/html directory. You can change this directory from the apache config file if you want.

Set permissions –

chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/html/data


chmod -R 0777 /var/www/html/data

Once done, open web browser and visit http://server-ip.com or http://localhost.

That concludes the list of the best self-hosted email clients for Linux. I am aware that there are various other options available in the market. Please let me know if you use any other self-hosted email client, and I will add it to the list. Soon, I’ll publish a list of tools for effortlessly and securely hosting your own email server.

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