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A lot has been written about why widespread adoption of webmail services meant you should abandon desktop-based email clients 6 Reasons Why You Should Stop Using Desktop Email Clients in Favour of Web-Based Options 6 Reasons Why You Should Stop Using Desktop Email Clients in Favour of Web-Based Options I know that suggesting desktop clients have had their day around the MakeUseOf crowd is like preaching to the choir. Most of us use Gmail, our own mail servers or some form of cloud backup... Read More . I wholeheartedly disagree.

A few years ago, providers such as Gmail attracted masses of users with a simpler design, powerful key features, and the promise of having access to your email anywhere. Desktop clients were left behind, but now they are catching up – fast. In fact, for certain groups of people, the advantages of using a desktop client far outweigh those of using a web-based client.

Let’s take a closer look at when you should consider using desktop clients.

If You Have Multiple Email Accounts

Lots of people have multiple email addresses; at the very least the majority of people will have a work address and a personal address.

The people with most addresses, however, are usually freelancers. If you’re a freelancer, you’ll know what I mean. If you’re working with several companies on long-term projects at the same time, it’s perfectly possible that you’ll have an email address with each of them. Add those to your own Gmail address and (probably) an address on your own domain, and you’ve got yourself a bottleneck.

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Although the Gmail smartphone app now does a decent job of allowing you to add multiple addresses, the web-based app feels like it’s in desperate need of a graphical and usability overhaul – managing multiple accounts on Gmail How To Manage Multiple Google Or Gmail Accounts On Android How To Manage Multiple Google Or Gmail Accounts On Android Lots of people have multiple Google accounts, possibly one for work and one for personal use. Here's how to get those set up and exactly how they affect your apps. Read More is cumbersome. For example, it’s too easy to forget changing the “from” address and even if you don’t, the email header What Can You Learn From An Email Header (Metadata)? What Can You Learn From An Email Header (Metadata)? Did you ever get an e-mail and really wondered where it came from? Who sent it? How could they have known who you are? Surprisingly a lot of that information can be from from the... Read More  reveals the original account behind your alias.

Using one of the best free desktop email clients (or even splashing out for a premium account) will make managing all your accounts and keeping them separate considerably more organized, making it less likely that a vital email will slip through unnoticed.

If You Need to Back Up Your Emails Regularly

I can think of lots of reasons why you might want to make backups of your emails MailStore Home - One Of the Easiest Free Email Backup Tools Available [Windows] MailStore Home - One Of the Easiest Free Email Backup Tools Available [Windows] Far sighted email management calls for two things – a systematic backup plan and an efficient search system to find the email that’s lost like the needle in the archived haystack. Take a look at... Read More on a regular basis.

Probably the most important reason is security. Statistics show that one-in-five email accounts get hacked 5 Ways Your Email Address Can Be Exploited By Scammers 5 Ways Your Email Address Can Be Exploited By Scammers Read More – adding up to 540 million accounts each year. If you have vital client data, project info, or even important personal emails, you don’t want to risk losing access to them.

From a business perspective, it leads to recovery costs, lost opportunities, and potential regulatory breaches. From a personal perspective it can result in identity theft, permanently blocked accounts, or lost contact data. Even a short outage of a free service (such as that which happened to Yahoo in 2013) can wreak havoc – especially if it happens at an inopportune moment.

yahoo-mail-outage

Gmail finally started offering a way to download all your emails in late 2013, but it’s not automatic and it can’t be done via the Gmail interface. Instead, you have to log into your Google Account and follow Personal info & privacy > Control your content > Download your data.

Remembering to do this regularly is difficult, and the process of doing it for multiple accounts is time consuming.

Using a desktop client removes the worries and the hassles. Most services offer a way for backups to be automatically scheduled, and you can back up all your accounts at the same time into the same place. Importantly, you are also not limited by file size. If your webmail provider only offers cloud-based backups Kloudless: Automatically Create Email Backups To Cloud Services [Chrome] Kloudless: Automatically Create Email Backups To Cloud Services [Chrome] Read More , those who don’t operate a zero-inbox policy 5 Action Steps For Curing Your Inbox Zero Email Frenzy 5 Action Steps For Curing Your Inbox Zero Email Frenzy Inbox Zero is one of the most popular buzz words. To truly solve your email issues you need to go beyond Inbox Zero and address the underlying problems. Read More could quickly find themselves running out of space.

If You Want a Wider Choice of Add-ons & Plugins

On first glance, this is a bit of a grey area. Although it’s true that Chrome offers a huge amount of plugins What Are The Best Gmail Plugins For Chrome? What Are The Best Gmail Plugins For Chrome? Tweak Gmail to work exactly the way you want it to. Whether you want to integrate social media icons in your signature, see more information about your contacts, or deal with an email later instead... Read More and browser extensions that’ll sync perfectly with Gmail, the most recent data suggests that 60 percent of webmail users are not using Gmail. That’s a lot of people with limited productivity.

Gmail’s biggest rivals, Yahoo and Outlook, offer some plugins. Other providers barely offer any at all. This is mostly because of commercial/competitive reasons.

chrome-web-store

A good-quality desktop client can overcome this limitation. For example, Mailbird – one of the most popular desktop clients 5 Of The Best Desktop Email Clients That Don't Cost a Dime [Windows] 5 Of The Best Desktop Email Clients That Don't Cost a Dime [Windows] Specialization is the key to efficiency, especially in the realm of software. Programs that try to "do it all" end up becoming bloated, messy, and subpar in most of what they do. On the other... Read More – offer users an open source app store. This means that there are plugins available for popular productivity tools like iCal and Dropbox, social media providers like Facebook, and an assortment task managers, toolbars, and to-do lists.

Because their store is open source, there is lots of new content being added all the time. Best of all, if you’re a skilled programmer and the tool you need isn’t available, you can just create it yourself!

If You Want Seriously Good Organizational Tools

Webmail clients are not well-endowed when it comes to organizational tools. Gmail fanatics might point to labels, categories, and stars, while Outlook web users might feel compelled to mention flags – but in truth, they both pale into insignificance when compared to the tools that desktop clients offer.

For example, popular desktop clients providers such as Outlook, Thunderbird, and Postbox offer group filters, flags, categories, priorities, color-coding, follow-up sorting, and lots more.

These capabilities can be extended by using plugins: QuickFolders for Thunderbird will organize your favorite and most-used folders into tabs, while Send Later (also available as browser addon for Gmail) adds the ability to schedule emails to send at a future date.

If You Need Offline Access

Again, Gmail is ahead of some of the other web-based services in this regard, as they offer Gmail Offline Take Gmail Offline With The Offline Google Mail App [Chrome] Take Gmail Offline With The Offline Google Mail App [Chrome] Offline Google Mail for Chrome allows you to use Gmail without an Internet connection. Read, search, and send emails – all offline. When you do connect to the Internet, Offline Google Mail synchronizes with your... Read More through the Chrome Web Store. Users of other services aren’t so lucky, and it’s probable that a high number of Gmail users haven’t implemented the feature anyway.

You may often need access to your email when you’re away from an Internet connection; when you’re travelling, when your Internet service at home is out of action, or when you’re doing a presentation on-the-fly, to name three.

Luckily, all desktop providers will let you access any emails (and corresponding attachments) without an Internet connection, and with the vast majority of services, it requires absolutely no setting up on your part.

It’s Not Right for Everyone

I am a big believer in using desktop clients, but I’m not naïve enough to pretend it’s a one-size-fits-all solution.

mailbird-apps

There is a valid argument to keeping all your emails off your physical computer and in an online space (theft), you might lean heavily on a particular app or integration that’s not available on desktop clients, or you might love the multi-device nature of webmail 5 Excellent Email Apps For Android, Compared 5 Excellent Email Apps For Android, Compared I recently wrote an article about smartphone addiction and how it can be detrimental if it’s interfering with your everyday life. One of the biggest contributing factors to smartphone addiction is the ability to receive... Read More .

Nonetheless, if you’ve not tried using a desktop client recently, you should give it a try, then decide which solution best fits your needs.

Which Providers Do You Use?

If you’re already a desktop client user, we’d love to hear what feedback you could offer to non-users; which is the best provider? What are the advantages and disadvantages? What do you miss about webmail?

If you’re not a desktop client user, why not? What would they need to do differently for you to make the jump?

Leave us your thoughts, ideas, and opinions in the comments section below.

Image Credits:man embracing by Iryna Rasko via Shutterstock

  1. niepelnosprawny.org
    March 3, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    is there solutiona like roundcube for several emails?

    by niepelnosprawny.org

  2. Squalle
    November 27, 2015 at 3:58 am

    For years (and years and years) I used Outlook Express. It was fast(ish) and lite(ish) and worked for what I needed with multiple email addresses.

    Then I decided to just go to webmail only. And that worked fine for awhile. It's nice to always have everything synced at all times, no matter the device, place, etc.

    Now I use Thunderbird. It reminds me quite a bit of Outlook Express. I use a wide variety of tag/filter combinations to help keep things from getting too overwhelming. Works great!

  3. Steve Osterday
    October 10, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    When I was working I used Outlook and I had MS Office at home so it worked out nicely. When I didn't want to pay for MS Office anymore I finally ended up trying Thunderbird. I love Thunderbird. One of the neat features is I can use it with Windows and Linux.

  4. Dianne Arnold
    September 21, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    I used Outlook desktop for years until switching to Gmail a few years ago. the primary reason was/is that I can access the messages from anywhere - other desktops (mine & others), my laptop, my iPad, my iPhone, etc.
    Outlook just doesn't synchronize worth beans.
    So, if there is a desktop client that does that - keeps the database of emails current and accessible from any of my devices -- I'd like to know about it.

    • John McCabe
      March 2, 2016 at 9:58 pm

      Most webmail based services are also configured to be accessible from a desktop or mobile client using POP3/IMAP and SMTP. That means you can get the best of both worlds; IMAP can keep message states (read, deleted etc) synchronised so that all the devices you use show the same stuff. In my case I use Thunderbird on my desktop, Aqua Mail on Android, and occasionally webmail when I have to. However my desktop and Android clients let me check and view, currently, around 9 different email addresses across 5 providers without me having to manually log in to any of them. It's worth knowing though that, if you want to use Gmail through IMAP, you need to sign in to your Google account and configure your settings to allow external apps to access your mail that way. How to do this is easy to find online.

  5. Brayne Pharte
    September 21, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Despite my main email provider (FastMail) having a blazingly fast webmail interface -- at least as fast as any desktop client -- I find myself using the Outlook 2007 client that was installed on my computer, so I can handle my other accounts in one, easy place. Works for me. :-)

  6. likefun butnot
    September 21, 2015 at 2:08 am

    I need access to multiple IMAP accounts and I maintain a local SMTP server of my own. Nothing web-based is going to deal with that.

    Add to that the general terribleness of webmail presentation - Threaded messaging is an abomination and correct message formatting is quotations in-line with replies - and I really don't see that webmail is viable at all for my needs.

    I use Thunderbird, as all right-thinking persons should.

  7. A41202813GMAIL ..
    September 20, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    GMAIL And OUTLOOK 2003 With POP3.

    I Do Not Want Automatic Deletions, Period.

    XPOCALYPSE FOREVER !

  8. Kenneth Mitchell
    September 20, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Thanks much!

  9. Audrey Kalman
    September 20, 2015 at 5:14 am

    I was also a longtime Eudora user who switched to Thunderbird a few years ago when I upgraded to a new computer. I love it for all the reasons you mention--the ability to check and manage multiple e-mail accounts, offline access, organization. I occasionally access gmail on my smartphone but much prefer to do all my e-mail management on my desktop client. My family thinks I'm stuck in the past, but I don't really care!

    • likefun butnot
      September 21, 2015 at 2:10 am

      @Audrey Kalman,

      I find the experience of using K9 for Android to be closer to that of Thunderbird. You might try it out if you're not really a fan of the mobile Gmail experience.

    • Sarah
      September 5, 2016 at 5:57 am

      Not everything that's new is better than everything old! Desktop email programs have a number of advantages, many addressed in this post. All of my email accounts come into a desktop client. I can check them on mobile devices as well if need be, but I prefer to put aside time to deal with email once or twice a day, not constantly like some of my friends!

  10. Carol Elkins
    September 19, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    I've used Eudora since long before 1995. Even though it is no longer being sold, there is a huge and active user base all over the world. You can download Eudora for free at http://www.eudorafaqs.com/eudora-files.shtml You can subscribe to a very helpful user group by sending an email to:

    and put "Gazelle" in the Subject line (without the quotes).

    I have lots of email addresses and I forward them all to Eudora. Eudora's search and retrieval functions are unsurpassed. I probably have more than 10,000 stored emails. I can find anything I've ever sent anyone or received from anyone by a quick search.

    • Kenneth Mitchell
      September 20, 2015 at 5:39 pm

      Hmmm. The address for the Eudora user group didn't make it; can you post that again, please? Thanks.

  11. Alan Wade
    September 19, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    I use Outlook 2016, I cannot justify wasting time on switching from website to website to check my mail. I want and have a one click displays all system.

  12. Nikolaj Knudsen
    September 18, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    I use Outlook 2010. Best desktop client mail program ever - in my opinion. My ISP delivers a webmail too, so it's all fine. I do have a Gmail too, but that is mostly because of my Android phone.

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