Thunderbird vs OE Classic: Which email client is best for Windows 10?

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
Milan has been enthusiastic about PCs ever since his childhood days, and this led him to take interest in all PC-related technologies. Before joining WindowsReport, he worked as a front-end web developer.
Affiliate Disclosure
  • Outlook Express has been one of the most beloved email clients on the Windows platform.
  • OE Classic and Thunderbird are the most popular alternatives to this beloved email client.
  • Over the years Thunderbird has passed development on the community, and this has brought some pros and cons.
  • OE Classic uses the same simple visual style that many Windows users are familiar with, but comes with a different set of features.
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Outlook Express was without a doubt one of the most popular email clients on Windows platform. Unfortunately, Outlook Express was scrapped by Microsoft despite being one of the the best email clients on Windows.

Over the years many Outlook Express alternatives appeared with OE Classic and Thunderbird being the most popular ones.

Since both Thunderbird and OE Classic are such popular emails clients, we decided to make a comparison between the two.

Thunderbird or OE Classic

Thunderbird was originally created by Mozilla in 2004, and ever since its release, Thunderbird has been rather popular among the users. However, Mozilla decided to stop the development of Thunderbird in order to focus on more important tasks, and the development of Thunderbird was given to the community.

On the other hand, OE Classic takes after Outlook Express and it does its best to use the same simple visual style that many Windows users are familiar with. If you’re looking for an email client that is a proper Outlook Express replacement, OE Classic might be just what you need. Unlike OE Classic, Thunderbird‘s user interface relies heavily on tabs, and many Outlook Express users might not like the tabbed interface. Another advantage of OE Classic are its big and colorful icons that allow you to easily check for mail or create a new email message.


The first thing you’ll notice when you open Thunderbird is its offer to create a new email account by using one of their partners. If you already have an email address, you can choose the option to use an already existing email account.

We have to give credit to Thunderbird for making the account setup process fast and straightforward. You just have to enter your username and password and Thunderbird will automatically configure your account. Of course, you can manually change all the necessary data if necessary.


OE Classic on the other hand doesn’t offer you to create a new email address as soon as you open it, instead it requires you to to select that option manually. The process of account creation is simple and straightforward just like in Thunderbird.


Even though Thunderbird uses modern-looking user interface, we can’t shake the feeling that its interface is a bit packed with features. Unlike OE Classic, Thunderbird comes with Event Scheduler and Calendar, and even though Event Scheduler is a welcome feature, you won’t use it if you already use any other to-do list app. Same goes for Calendar, it works great with Event Scheduler by showing all scheduled events in the calendar, however such feature isn’t necessary for an email client.


OE Classic doesn’t have Calendar or Event Scheduler, and instead of adding somewhat unnecessary features creators of OE Classic focused on developing an email client that resembles Outlook Express as much as possible. This means that there are no tabs, or any unnecessary features that you probably won’t ever use in an email client.

Thunderbird also comes with a chat option that allows you chat over Google Talk, IRC, Twitter, XMPP, and Yahoo. We were surprised to see chat a option available in an email client, but we assume that this option might be useful for some users.

Although OE Classic offers more simplistic and easier to use interface, we have to admit that we miss the Thunderbird’s Quick Filter option that allows us to quickly search for email messages. OE Classic has the option to search emails, but in order to use it, you need to click the find button and search for emails in a new window. In our opinion, Thunderbird’s Quick Filter option feels more natural because it allows you to easily search for emails right from your inbox, without opening any additional windows.


In terms of developer support, Thunderbird is being developed by community and not by Mozilla, therefore updates might not be as frequent as they used to be. As for OE Classic, the developers of OE Classic are constantly working on it, and in fact, they are closely listening to user feedback and suggestions regarding new features. If you have a feature you’ll like to see in OE Classic, feel free to share your ideas with the developer and they will certainly consider it.

Thunderbird offers a modern tabbed user interface that looks great, but the interface might feel a bit crammed with features. Features such as Chat and Calendar are useful, but we can’t shake the feeling these features aren’t really necessary for an email client.

OE Classic doesn’t have modern user interface, but it does its job perfectly. As we mentioned, OE Classic is inspired by Outlook Express, one of the most used email clients on Windows, therefore it resembles Outlook Express in terms of simplicity and user interface. If you want a simple client to send and receive emails, without any unnecessary features, we suggest that you try OE Classic.

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I have an old PC (Pentium IV) running Windows XP (it’s my only computer, by the way, as I can’t afford to buy a new one at this time), but it has 4GB of RAM and so I could upgrade it to Windows 7. But the ONLY reason I didn’t install Windows 7 yet is because it doesn’t have Outlook Express. And the ONLY reason I insist in using Outlook Express is because of its folder saving system to disk (meaning: 1 folder = 1 (dbx) file). As I participate in many Yahoo discussion groups and some other forums, I have many folders, one for each group/forum. I have a lot of important information in those folders/emails and don’t want to loose them. Backing up the folders have always been easy with Outlook Express; if I leave a group, I’ll save the corresponding dbx file to an external hard disk (I usually compact them with Rar or Zip, in order to make them much smaller files). When I want to read again some emails from that particular group, I just have to create the folder in Outlook Express (with the original name) and then unzip the original dbx file and replace the empty dbx file created by Outlook Express by that one.

When I found OE Classic, I thought it might be the perfect alternative. But it was a complete disappointment. The SQLite/MBX format of the folders in OE Classic makes it totally different (for worse) from Outlook Express. We can’t “mess around” with the files in the store folder the way we could in Outlook Express. For example, after I copy a dbx file to an external hard disk, I can delete the original file in Outlook Express’ store folder in my PC. Then, I can click on the corresponding folder in Outlook Express and it creates automatically a new dbx file with the same name of the folder (with a size of about 75KB). When I want I can replace this small file with the dbx file I’ve copied to the disk and all the emails stored in that folder become available again. In OE Classic, if I remove a single file from the store folder, the program will get corrupted and may even become impossible to access it! If I wanted a program that forces me to back up the entire structure of folders and subfolders instead of one folder at a time, independently, I would use Microsoft Outlook, which creates a single pst file which includes the entire folder structure.

The cherry on top of the cake was when I sent an e-mail to OE Classic site explaining my problem and got this (almost immediate) answer:

“Sorry, but we don’t accept suggestions from non-buyers or free version users.

If you purchase, we’ll be considering your suggestion.

best regards,
Zvonko Tesic”

Of course, if I bought the program they would change it just for me! Well, after this answer, the probability of me buying this email client has dropped below zero!