Apple ships Mac OS X with a wide range of comprehensive software, that can be used to perform most basic computing tasks. Mail, the straight-forwardly named e-mail program for Mac OS X is, like much Apple software, a great e-mail client.

It displays e-mails, allows multiple accounts, and is a breeze to set up. It interacts particularly well with iCloud, Apple's own cloud service with e-mail included. Apple Mail is a dependable workhorse, and many people see few reasons to move to another Mail service.

But there are other options out there, and most of them offer interesting features that you won't get in Mail. Here are some of our favourite Mail alternatives for Mac:

Sparrow 1.3.1 for Mac

Light, fleet, and beautiful to behold, the email app dubbed Sparrow (Mac App Store link) lives up to its name. Free from extraneous features, Sparrow does nothing but IMAP-based email in an efficient and elegant fashion.

Google liked it as well, so it bought the company and halted all work on the Mac version. It's still available on the Mac store, but you won't get any further upgrades and support.

Read more: Sparrow 1.3.1 review

Sparrow

Mozilla Thunderbird

In some ways, Thunderbird 16’s open-source origins are a blessing. This free email client from the makers of Firefox—aided by a legion of dedicated volunteer programmers—offers more add-ons and customizable features than Apple’s Mail 6 or Microsoft’s Outlook 2011. But freedom and flexibility have their drawbacks, too: Thunderbird looks and works like a tool built by committee.

Read more: Thunderbird review

Thunderbird

Outlook

Outlook for Mac 2011 is a new email client and personal information manager from Microsoft, not just an upgrade to its predecessor, Entourage 2008 . Outlook 2011 has some features that Entourage had, but if you approach Outlook 2011 expecting it to be an upgraded Entourge, you’re going to be frustrated. Outlook is a great professional e-mail client if you're using a dedicated POP or iMAP service (such as a corporate network) but it's not so hot with iCloud or Gmail.

Read more: Outlook review

Outlook

Postbox 3

Postbox is built using Mozilla's Gecko browser engine and based on Thunderbird, Mozilla's own email software, said Scott MacGregor, one of Postbox Inc.'s co-founders. Although Postbox's search function resembles Desktop Search, the Microsoft-made desktop search tool built into Windows Vista and available as an optional download for XP , MacGregor noted that his application shows results "inline with the data that you're using. You see the results directly within the email client."

Read more: Postbox

Postbox

Email Pro for Gmail

The only clunky thing about Email Pro for Gmail 2.1 (Mac App Store only) is its name. This slender app provides a convenient way to get to your Gmail messages directly from your desktop. Essentially a site-specific-browser, Email Pro leans on the mobile version of Gmail’s website for its main interface, though you have the option to use Gmail’s desktop layout instead. Though this Web-view approach can occasionally make retrieving mail slow, it also has several distinct advantages.Using those icons, you can navigate to the different Gmail-standard views of your mail, including drafts, important mail, and sent mail. Other buttons open the simple, well-crafted Preference window, with its iOS-style toggle switches, or spawn a new window, should you require multiple views of your mailboxes. An option in Email Pro’s preferences lets you auto-hide the left-hand sidebar when it’s not in use.

Read more: Email pro review

Email Pro for Gmail

Which Mac OS X e-mail client should I use?

There's a lot to be said for the various different e-mail programs outside of Mail, but for simplicity and easy-of-use (plus good integration with various different services) you can't go wrong sticking with Apple's default program. Outlook has the edge of professional features though, and if you're using a corporate or Exchange network then Microsoft's professionalism gives it the edge here. Since Google picked up Sparrow there's been a real lack of innovative light-weight software on the Mac, and even though Sparrow is still available we'd be wary of depending on a program without any future for our communication.