Zoho Mail: a serious free email contender

Screencap of Zoho front pageMore than two years ago, I chose Zoho Mail as my free email provider, and I’ve been very happy with them ever since. In light of the recent PRISM scandal, a few people using free email from providers named in that debacle have asked me how I liked Zoho.

Zoho Mail

Zoho began years ago as an alternative to the now defunct Google Notebooks. Their mail service is fast, reliable and easy to work with. It’s also free (unless you want to use it on your own servers), has no ads, is secure, and has a privacy policy that suits me. First, let me give you a very shrunken view of the whole interface, and then I’ll show you in more detail what you’re working with:

Screen cap of Zoho Mail page

Image of sidebar linking to other Zoho appsThe blurred-out bits are my user name, the names of people I have mail from, and the subjects of the mails. But here’s what you’re looking at. First, on the far left, a cool sidebar showing all Zoho’s other services so you can access them easily. This is awesome if you use Zoho’s other services. Right at your fingertips, you have the Calendar, Tasks, Notes and Links, plus the Notebook, Docs and Spreadsheet apps, and more.

Spam protection

This feature totally blew me away. I subscribe to a newsletter from this dude, and he also sends me offers for free downloads and stuff that I always delete without reading. Well, suddenly the offers started going straight to my spam folder, and only his newsletter appears in my inbox anymore. How sweet is that? Zoho can distinguish between good stuff and spam coming from the same sender. Now, that’s amazing.

Screencap of Zoho Spam buttonYou can also manually block certain senders and report spam by just clicking this button here, the one with the arrow pointing to it. Zoho catches most spam with very few false positives – and the few false positives I’ve had were nothing important, just things like newsletters I had actually signed up for.

Alternate reply addresses

You can set up your domain email addresses at Zoho and have everything come to your account there. Then you can reply, and the recipient will only see your domain address. So you can use Zoho for all your business without anyone knowing you’re doing that.

Other features

  • Archiving. Zoho gives you unlimited space for archiving.
  • Chat. Zoho has a chat feature.
  • Folders and labels. You get them both, and you can set up filters to automate how they’re applied to incoming emails.
  • Email forwarding and IMAP/Pop3 access. You can forward your Zoho emails to another address or access emails from another address via IMAP or POP3. This is separate from just setting up aliases as discussed above.
  • Keyboard shortcuts. Zoho has an extensive number of keyboard shortcuts built in – you just need to enable them under settings (this is to keep them from being irritating if you use those keys as shortcuts for something else).

Mobile support

Zoho also has a mobile site (rather than an app) that works like a charm. It’s fast, it’s intuitive, it’s pretty and it works. For me, at least, it has all the features I need to comfortably process emails while waiting for an appointment or sitting at a lunch counter. You can also access other Zoho services on the mobile site.


  1. sawa says

    Hey, I just wanted to sign up there because it looked nice and I’m also growing tired of my gmail.

    But I am already stuck at the beginning – zoho asks me to enter a domain name. I chose the free version of course and I’m fine with @zoho, why does it keep bugging me with the domain-thing?

  2. Susanna says

    I just signed up for a zoho account today. I got a paid account because I have several email accounts/domains.

    I feel really good about this. I felt the need to diversify my product usage online and I’m so glad I found an alternative to gmail, gdocs. I hated always having to be logged into google. I think they wanted to make it easier, but it actually irritated the heck out of me. Maybe because I have several accounts and I found myself logging in and out constantly.

    I’m really excited about trying out their screen sharing option.

    AND, Ya know what. I don’t begrudge paying AT ALL. Funny. 2 years ago I balked at that notion. BUT, there’s tech support at Zoho. Like seriously – wow!!!!

    I just wish they had funner themes. I love the themes at AOL actually but they were more expensive and didn’t have nearly the same tools. I couldn’t justify paying $6 a month for their themes. LOL.

    Great post btw!

  3. Rodrigo says

    Hi I’m trying to figure out where to enable the “click as spam” in zoho mail, to click and mark one mail or sender as spam. For me it should be right in front of the size of each mail.
    Am I missing something?

    • Chris says

      No, you’re not – they got rid of it for some reason. You have to click the checkbox at the left of the mail, and then use the “Mark as” drop down menu on top, and select “Spam.” A lot of us complained about this, but they refused to put the spam button back (it used to be right where you say it should). Still, that’s the only complaint I have with Zoho, and it’s pretty minor IMO. Their spam filtering is good enough that I don’t get a lot of it anyway.

  4. says

    As a user for over 5 years, I like Zoho more all the time. It is far superior to the dozens of mail, database and productivity tools I’ve tested and used over the last 15 years. (including Google, Webex/Cisco, LongJump, IBM/Lotus, Microsoft, Salesforce, and many more)

    They offer many useful free and low priced apps to add on to their Mail Suite in an easy-to-access side bar. Their CRM is fantastic. Loving their Recruit application. Invoicing is simple and intuitive. They have a cloud office suite that integrates with MS Office beautifully. Most of the apps integrate with each other and our websites. So many useful tools, I’m sure I’m not even using them to their fullest yet. Bonus: Their customer service and tech support is reachable, responsive and reliable.

  5. Peter says

    One more bonus of zoho is that accounts are never automatically deleted in Zoho (example 90 days or 9 month ) free or payd accounts. You must explicitly close account.


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