6 Reasons Why You Should Stop Using Desktop Email Clients In Favour Of Web-Based Options

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desktop email vs webmailI 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 to mitigate most of the problems caused by using desktop email exclusively.

However, I bet most of you still deal with relatives and co-workers who just don’t get it. They use Outlook, their work email address and some email address tied to their home Internet connection. You know who I’m talking about. This article is for THEM, to save you the trouble of explaining it again.

Syncing Between Multiple Computers Can Be A Headache With Desktop Email Clients

Some email providers let you use IMAP, which is perfect for syncing between computers, while others force you to use POP access. POP-only providers will leave you pulling your hair out to come up with a good syncing solution (e.g. a Dropbox sync or portable Thunderbird). That, and the average non-geek is already confused about the difference between IMAP and POP and won’t be able to find or maintain a good email syncing solution by themselves.

If this is you, do yourself a favour and get a free webmail account. You can use them in any web browser, which will save you a lot of frustration. You can also easily sync them to your smartphone so you can check email anywhere.

desktop email vs webmail

Email Threading Rocks

Some desktop clients can collect email conversation threads (e.g. Zimbra, Outlook, Postbox and Thunderbird with the ThreadVis add-on), but they don’t necessarily do it well. Separate titles indented forever make the idea of threading look like a nightmare. Conversely, there are webmail clients which don’t do threading. To see threading done well, sign into Gmail and have a short email conversation with someone. The difference is a real deal-breaker.

Oh, and those of you using desktop clients and responding to any old email because it’s easier for you are ruining coherent conversation threads for the rest of us. Stop it!

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Using Webmail Means You Don’t Need To Change Email Addresses

In the world of convenient, free webmail there’s no reason for anyone to be stuck using awful_username329@my_isp.com and worrying about what might happen if the ISP ever closed or made them change usernames when they moved house (oh yes, I know a particular Aussie monopoly who does this still).

There’s another worrying group of people who use their work email address for everything. If this is you, please stop to think about how you’ll access that email when you leave that job. No answer? Right, well stop using it for personal things.

web based email vs desktop email

Online Backup & Search

With webmail, all of your email is backed up off-site, meaning you’ll still have access after your house burns down or you quit your job. Yes, you could backup your email to the cloud yourself using Dropbox or some other solution. But face it, most people won’t.

Something many people forget is that if your email is backed up in one place online it means you can find any email you’ve ever sent or been sent simply by searching for it. If you can see the whole conversation thread in the results it will make more sense too. With Gmail’s advanced search function and ample free storage (well, ample for most people) it’s hard to see why anyone would ever delete an email, let alone be unable to find it when they want to refer to it later.

Spam Filtering

Gmail’s spam filtering is the best available at the moment, so if you want to give yourself the pleasure of email with the least amount of garbage try filtering it through Gmail first. Gmail can also help you out with determining your priority email and filtering out your bulk email.

One-Click Translation

There is no desktop email client which can translate your incoming email for you in one click like Gmail can. This is an incredibly useful feature for people who work with an international client base or travel frequently.

desktop email vs webmail

If You Insist On Using A Desktop Email Client

If you’re never going to be swayed from a desktop client for whatever reason (offline access, maybe) you should at least consider using webmail such as Gmail to consolidate your accounts and sync to your desktop client. You can even configure Gmail to behave more like your desktop client if you like, making it easier for you on the occasions you use it in the browser.

So, are you convinced? Or will you stick with a desktop email client? If so, why?

Image Credit: Shutterstock, Shutterstock

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Comments (131)
  • Mike Kelley

    Yeah, folks need to be aware this is an OLD article, written (in terms of internet and computer terms) back in the dark ages. There are so many things wrong about it it’s not really worth pointing them out, except to note that almost no tech person I know worth their salt would ever trust Gmail (or even Google, anymore).

    Thunderbird can be configured quite nicely to sync with as many computers and devices as you want.

  • MessiahMews

    Gmail is not the best spam filtering. Within a couple of days of getting the gmail account, I was slammed with spam and hadn’t even given the email out, let alone have it published anywhere for spambots to find.

    So that tells me that Google/gmail is giving out or selling the email addresses. Google can’t be trusted.

  • pete

    I use a web based email account [gmx] and haven’t been able to log in to it for 2 hrs. Any other brilliant advice?

  • very very secret

    ONE big reason to NOT use webmail… security. Gmail is not secure and cooperates with warrentless searches based on BS. The argument that “if you are not doign anything wrong you have nothing to worry” about is worn so thin it insults the intelligence of anyone reading the revelations of Edward Snowden.

  • Csaba

    What a stupid article. If you use Thunderbird, you can never go back to a webmail. Webmail is just a weak workaround when your real client is not available.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.