More 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.
Update: I wrote this article in 2011, and had been using Zoho for two years. At some point in 2016, I could no longer use “list emails from this sender” and various other search filters to find messages. I wasn’t the only one. They fixed it over and over, but it kept coming back for me and for a lot of other users in the forums. Also, their spam control has gotten much worse over the years. I finally realized that email privacy isn’t possible unless you only email to other people using a service with good privacy. Send an email to someone on Gmail, and Google’s going to read your email. So I gave up on thinking of email as a thing that can ever truly be private, and I switched back to Gmail.
I still recommend Zoho. Not every account has the search filter glitch, and there are other ways to filter the spam. I’m just being up front about the fact that I reluctantly stopped using it.
The 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.
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.
You 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.
- 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).
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.