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

stop using desktop email 300x300   6 Reasons Why You Should Stop Using Desktop Email Clients In Favour Of Web Based OptionsI 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.

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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!

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.

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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.

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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?

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115 Comments -

Rock That

The biggest reason I use an email desktop client is the same reason I like email on my phone too – I have TONS of email addresses to check and a desktop client (and my phone) allow me to see all that email in one place quickly without signing in and out of accounts. 

Hunter Watts

Gmail does this. Has done since the beginning.

Dana Rock

The problem is that I have tons of gmail addresses – i can import other emails but not multiple gmail accounts

Mark O’Neill

You can have all the Gmail addresses forward the emails to one central Gmail address. That is what I have done since Gmail first started in 2004.

Angela Alcorn

This. You can only import one Gmail account, but you can forward multiple accounts. It just involves setting things up individually in each account to begin with.

PC Hiccups

Don’t let this article fool you. Gmail’s spam filter don’t really help that much. 

You still get a lot of junk mail.

Angela Alcorn

Really? I get LOTS of email, but I only ever get spam in my inbox once every month.

PC Hiccups

I agree. It is much better. What client do you use?

Angela Alcorn

This is what I use Gmail for. :)

Infmom

I can check the mail in six accounts simultaneously and have all the mail in one inbox, and replying to a message puts the proper email address on it automatically. I can filter things in more ways than any of the web based emails allow. Best of all, I set up Gmail so that mail downloaded by POP is deleted from the inbox and archived automatically, so I have an empty inbox after my email client makes a run, but the messages that were there aren’t trashed, they’re archived, so on the extremely rare occasions when I need to get one of those messages back, they’re still available.

Using anything BUT an email client is inefficient, time-wasting and way too conducive to email hoarding. 

Wickedcupofjoe

Hey! Nice to see a familiar face. :) I agree with everything you said. I’m an avid Outlook user. It makes so much more sense and saves time. I work from home so I don’t want to have to be signing in and out of email accounts all day long. Plus, as you said, the filtering is much better than anything I’ve seen on the web.

PC Hiccups

Yay, someone I can agree with. 

Angela Alcorn

Okay, I do have to agree with the filtering. Gmail’s filtering will only let you add one label per filter, so I’ve got a lot of very similar filters set up to do the things I need. One thing I do recall from my Outlook days was some kick-arse filters I used to use.

Angela Alcorn

You can do all of that from within Gmail, too! :)

Risto

I’m using multiple servers with multiple email addresses on multiple platforms that are in sync. E-mail is stored locally and online, so I don’t have to worry about losing it or loading it up, which might take up forever at 2G areas. It’s much faster and more comfortable.

The only thing i’m missing is a quick translation tool, which I really don’t need.

Angela Alcorn

You’re one of the few with decent backups. :)

Ed

I’m still using a desktop client (Thunderbird) the same reason as the others: I have multiple emails. I leave it open all the time so I don’t need to log-in/out to check my mails. One more reason, as you pointed out is because I want to have an access to my email offline especially if I need a file that I know someone sent me as an attachment.

Angela Alcorn

It’s easy to co-ordinate multiple email addresses from the one Gmail account. I don’t know why so many people think it’s not possible!

Yeah, offline access is a big reason for desktop clients. And searching for attachments with spotlight (for Mac) is pretty handy!

Craig

I use Gmail, GMX and Yahoo. I bring them all down to Apple Mail and they all end up in a single Inbox.

Likewise with my iPhone – all mails in one inbox.I don’t know why I would want to have to check 3 different webmail inboxes?Am I failing to understand what this article is trying to say??:)

Angela Alcorn

I think I failed to realise how many people don’t know that you can get all of your email into one Gmail inbox quite easily!

Who would want to check multiple webmail accounts? Ugh! :)

sinoun

I totally agree! I read every single comment on here and I feel all the people that use desktop clients on here say the exact same thing that people say to me in person. LOL. All the “problems” they have with Gmail isn’t really even a damn problem because Gmail can do EVERYTHING plus more.

I’ve been using Gmail since 2004 and I have tens of thousands of emails. It helps me keep my life so organized! I don’t get a lot of spam and I have about 6 emails going into that account. And I can respond accordingly with the appropriate email address! What more can desktop client users ask for? I hate to say this, but most desktop client users aren’t typically tech savvy and they’re just comfortable with their old ways…

sinoun

oh, there were more comments than i thought… i only read the comments in this last page. :)

Dan

Pfft, we’re not less tech savvy than you think (though some may be set in their “old” ways). We’re just not convinced that we should let Big G have even more access to our non-G accounts. Which is a good decision now that G has streamlined their privacy policies and will consolidate everyone’s mined personal data. Fun times for the silly GMail advocates like you and Angela. 

With a desktop client, I can download my GMail messages offline and automatically delete it from their servers so that they can’t use it to build a profile of my online life. I’d like to see you or Angela give a pro-GMail alternative to that. 

Angela Alcorn

There are some people who are just not tech savvy enough to see the benefits, it’s true. These are the same people who, when using a desktop client, usually have no backup plan.

But there are many others who are simply anti-Google, which is an increasingly pertinent stance for the exact reasons you say.

Obviously you are using some of those Gmail benefits (like the spam filtering) yourself even if you delete your data from their servers.

In the end, it comes down to knowing the variety of tools available in webmail/desktop clients and backup plans, finding the best solution for you and making sure it works.

For people who are not tech-savvy (or are lazy), Gmail is a good solution.

Scutterman

I was getting bored of this thread, but I don’t think anyone’s said this yet.

I don’t want to use gmail. I know it can do anything / everything, I know all of the advantages and features. But I prefer to use a desktop client. It matches my needs. And on top of this, I’m certain I’m not the only person in this thread who thinks so. Being a geek is about choice, after all.

“most desktop client users aren’t typically tech savvy”
This is disrespectful. Count the comments here that say they prefer desktop clients. MUO readers are the very definition of tech savvy.

“they’re just comfortable with their old ways”
This is completely unfounded, and just as disrespectful.

Oh, and I’d like to finish by making a request that @smange:disqus renames this article to tag “[opinion]” on the end, since that’s what this article is – an opinion piece.

Angela Alcorn

It originally had the [Opinion] tag on it, but I think the editor that day considered the title made that obvious enough and it was already quite long.

I certainly didn’t mean to be disrepectful at all. Many technically-minded people made educated choices and come to the decision that desktop clients are the way for them. And for the absolute geekiest, this is a great solution.

I merely wanted to say that the bulk of desktop users haven’t thought about it. By this I mean the multitudes of people who have just done whatever their IT department or geeky friend has told them to do. These are the same people who haven’t thought about backup solutions and would probably benefit from using webmail like Gmail.

Don’t get offended. It just means this whole article is not for you at all. :)

Scutterman

 @smange:disqus  actually the part of the comment talking about “disrespectful” was aimed at sinoun, who I was replying to and quoting,

Angela Alcorn

 Ok thanks. :)

sinoun

I just now saw the response, I don’t get notifications when when someone comments. Oops!

@scutterman – wow, I’m sorry you thought I was being disrespectful. I did not mean it in that way! Keep in mind I am just speaking from experience. I have worked with a lot of people in the past who helped me come to this conclusion… But I’m very aware my opinions could be wrong in certain cases. Again, I’m sorry you thought the opinion stemmed from my experience is disrespectful!

Bailey Anderson

I only use a desktop client because my school’s web censor blocks the email host. They also block based off of IP, not web url, so I can’t get around it without a proxy, but the tech department heads have blocks set up against proxies, too. I use Thunderbird merely for access to my main email, but sadly, it only has POP access. Therefore I have 3 separate emails for that account: web-based, my iPhone, and Thunderbird.

Quite annoying.

Angela Alcorn

That’s really annoying – and a very good reason for the desktop client. Although, if you’re going to have access using a desktop client anyway, you have to wonder why the sysadmins bother to block webmail. *sigh*

skeptic

Let me give you the most important reason of all to not use them..

THEY CAN CANCEL YOUR ACCOUNT AT ANY TIME AND YOU WILL LOOSE YEARS OF EMAIL HISTORY.

 YAHOO did this to me, apparently because someone hacked me. I lost about 7 years of email and they would not reestablish my account so that I could even save the history emails somewhere..

Angela Alcorn

That’s a good reason for backing up email and contacts from anywhere.

Jamie

Realistically, how do you backup your mail continuously to the current state of your folders, except by using a desktop client, and then backing up your computer regularly?

It’s nice to believe online services will keep just working, but I have a friend who lost years of mails twice due to different providers screwing up in their own special way. One of them when the provider stopped offering the service (actually they suddenly decided to charge a high fee without warning, locking out free users immediately). The other when the provider deleted most of the mails, which even made the desktop client delete them when it synchronised, thinking it was deliberate.

Gmail is the giant in this area. They’re probably more reliable than your own computer too. But it seems very trusting to leave so much in someone else’s hands, and relying on them providing a free service forever.

Angela Alcorn

Good question. I guess you could set up the same filters on the desktop client and the webmail.

And yes, it’s scary to leave things in the hands of the Gmail giant.

alan trinder

the problem with all of the web based solutions is they are vastly, vastly inferior to Microsoft spelling and grammar solutions, even the mighty Google requires repetitive correction of a word and its grammar is just none existent.

Angela Alcorn

I’ve never relied on those things, but I guess if you do then you have a point!

Anonymous

Like many others, I have multiple accounts. Gmail? I download multiple instances to Outlook. I like filters, I like multiple signatures, I like complex formatting, I like the visual presentation on a wide screen and I definitely like everything integrated into a single package. Outlook simply is more powerful and more customizable than the online offerings. There is, however, one area where gmail and yahoo excel- it’s easier to set up a “gone on vacation” autoresponder. But I’ll manage that and gee whizzers … I’m not doing foreign languages in my emails.

Angela Alcorn

Everthing you mentioned can be done from within one Gmail login: multiple accounts, multiple signatures, filters (less snazzy, but great things can still be accomplished) and complex formatting. :)

Gary Speer

I’ve been using Gmail almost exclusively, and doing it without a desktop client, for about two years. I actually have four Gmail addresses that I use for various purposes — and I can funnel all of them into my main email address, reply from that one or whichever of the four I need. And the Gmail “labels” let me set up the virtual equivalent of separate mailboxes. Plus, Gmail’s spam control is worlds better than any spam filters I’ve ever found on a desktop client.

Alex

As we can see, maybe a better article about this matter should have a title like: “26 Reasons Why You Should KEEP ON USING Desktop Email Clients INSTEAD OF Web-Based Options

Mark O’Neill

Maybe I should get someone on the staff to write a pro-desktop client article, in order to bring balance to the Force :-)

Angela Alcorn

From reading the comments, I’ve seen a few good reasons to stick with a desktop client. But more often than not, people seem to think they need to use a desktop client in order to manage multiple email addresses at once, which simply isn’t true.

Also, only one of these desktop client lovers mentioned their awesome backup solution. I hope the others have one that they’re just not mentioning!

Chris Hoffman

Wow, the desktop email lovers are out in full force. I’m surprised.

Craig

Just by-the-by, GMX mail has an awesome Collector which can collect email from any email provider be it gmail, yahoo,aol etc etc. Once again, these collected emails can either be placed in a single GMX inbox or split into individual inboxes. All the Inboxes can be accessed via POP or IMAP.
Just Saying :)

Jo

I have to disagree as well, I wouldn’t stop using Outlook for a web based client, that’s just plain madness when I have so many email accounts to check.

Ankur

I am in favor of web based mail. you can check them anywhere without bothering about sync etc options.
Apps are available which inform you abt new mails and you dont have to waste your storage space too.

Kara Ben Nemsi

I’m amazed that nobody here talks about data privacy.

The older you get, the more you forget. So I keep virtually every email, because maybe one day I’ll need it. I think many of you do so. So in your e-mail you document virtually your whole life with many private details, maybe love letters to your secret mistress, letters to your doctor or lawyer or bank, letters with account details and passwords, letters containing embarrassing things, your religous or political or sexual orientation that you want to keep secret, maybe even content that can make you open to blackmail.

Do you really want to store all that somewhere in the cloud where your provider and maybe hackers can read it? Do you really have no private life? Do you trust Google so much? They already read and analyze your emails electronically in order to send you custom advertising. Now they start to analyze your mail contacts because they want to be a social networking company too. Who can guarantee that nobody else sees or archives your mail, and then one day maybe you become famous and then “The Sun” publishes about your private life from the past because someone got access to your mail.

You can’t even control whether your account is deleted when you want that (maybe it’s only deactivated, but your data is kept somewhere) or whether it’s deleted when you don’t want that (like it happened with Yahoo). I just feel much better when I know my private data is not hanging out somewhere in the Internet, but stays in my private home where it belongs.

Or, if you’re running or working in a company, similar reasons hold true for your company email holding all your know-how and company secrets.

Why does nobody see this as one of the major reasons to use a desktop email client?

Angela Alcorn

Good reasoning. But I would have similar worries about ISP-based email, any cloud or hosted backup solution, someone stealing my laptop and so on.

Unless you’re running your own mail server, personal offsite backups and encrypting everything there’s a good risk of this being a problem anywhere.

In the end it’s easier to swap a little paranoia for some ease of use. That, and it’s worth not having dark secrets like secret mistresses!

And there’s a larger problem with companies sending passwords in plain text. What if it’s intercepted? I can’t believe it’s still done, either.

PC Hiccups

As an IT System Support Engineer, and still using my Outlook to keep multiple accounts together. It saves me the time of opening up a browser ans signing in on every account. 

And if you have an multiple account on the same hosting provider, then you can only sign in on one account. 

Also some web-mails don’t automatically refresh. With an e-mail client you can get notified of new mail any minute you choose. 

Yes, by syncing on two computers are difficult, but you don’t keep your inbox from running out of space. Some hosting providers don’t give you a lot of MB online. 

Werbmail isn’t that cool, you can’t do that much, because they limited it. 

Scutterman

I have several webmail accounts, as well as some attached to various domains. I manage them all through Thunderbird because it lets me keep all of the accounts separate but in one place.

With webmail, if I wanted to check all of my accounts I’d have to sign in / out 9 times, and if I wanted to be notified of new emails I’d need 9 tabs open in whatever window I was using most.

Scutterman

With a desktop client all of my accounts are in one place, but still separate. It helps me keep organised, and see easier what needs my attention. Oh, and gmail isn’t my main account, it only ever receives mail from google services.

Kjetil Hvalstrand

I use Linux, Windows and
AmigaOS4, I only have two e-mail, so its perfect for me to use gmail,
when I go to my friends I can check my mail easily, I also forward my
ISP mail to gmail, so I don’t need to check 2 e-mail accounts.

Flyer

I have control of my email when on my desktop, instead of someone else having control of it…

To access when you are away, don’t have your desktop program running..  You can check online and download it for real when you get home.

I don’t want spam filtering…  They reject too many GOOD emails simply based on where they are sent from. I even have my gmail come in to Thunderbird… 

Angela Alcorn

My email would be horrifying without spam filtering!

Randy Blake

Gmail user since 3-4 mos. of it’s inception(invite only) and have never had any major problems with it. In my case it was always a problem of HDD space locally, ergo online storage. Makes sense to me, never liked onboard email programs anyway

Opurta

I don’t get it. I’m supposed to justify using a desktop email client because the author is upset that someone in her life is “ruining coherent conversation threads for the rest of us?”

Angela Alcorn

Hah, that was a flippant comment on behalf of the Gmail users who get annoyed by this. The other reasons given were the main point. :)

Dan

I have 2 gmail addresses, seven google apps email addresses, 2 hotmail/live addresses, an AOL address, an ISP address, and a squirrelmail-powered address. I access all of these with my portable email client (DreamMail) via POP or IMAP. The cloud is great, but I prefer to do email using a dedicated client.

Angela Alcorn

I have similar, but I prefer to monitor it all from one Gmail account instead. :)

Don Ebberts

I know it’s not cool but I have been using Hotmail since 1998 and still like it the best. I have a Gmail account that I use occasionally but I really do like Hotmail better. I have been using their desktop client for a while now, (I had to look because I don’t know what they call it, it’s Windows Live Mail) on three different computers and never have any problem with syncing. They are always lined up. 
The only thing I don’t like is that the rules for sorting your mail are hard, if not impossible to set up, so I have to go the online Hotmail account to set that up. That is the only reason, other than I am on a different computer, that I use the online version. Tell me where I’m wrong but I plan to continue using this. 

Angela Alcorn

Well, you’re getting the best of both worlds really, even if some people disagree with your choice of provider. Don’t worry about it!

Jack Cola

I’m a email desktop client fan as well. The reason being is for easy email management.

I use Thunderbird, and have 5 emails address I currently check, each for a total different reason.

*Personal = Gmail
*Website = Cpanel
*Google Apps = Uni Email
*Google Apps = Uni Project
*ISP = ISP Emails, bills and VOIP voicemails

The usages of each of these accounts are quite different, so keeping them separate is easy for me to manage. Some I need to check more frequently, others I don’t care so much for.

The downside for online is that I have to log into 5 separate webmail accounts, but with a desktop client, I just have to log onto one. I could forward everything and sort them into folders, but it is just a pain to do.

When I am occasionally on the move, I log into each one, and only read the important emails.

As for my mobile, I forward particular emails to other account which I check on my phone, so I am not overloaded with emails.

Been using this system for 5+ years, and it works just fine for me.

In regards to your email:
-Syncing: Is a pain, but still doable. If you use Gmail, archive, or just use IMAP
-Threading: Good, but most clients send a copy of past emails, so in a way, it’s no different.
-Using webmail means you don’t have to change email address: This is false. Using your ISP’s webmail means you have to change email accounts. And I assume you are referring to Telstra/Bigpond here? My dad faced the same issue.
-Online Backup: Gmail Archive and ensure the box is ticked on your email account “don’t click of server”
-Search: Desktop clients do this as well
-Spam: Gmail does it, so it doesn’t filter down to my desktop client.
-Translation:Yes, not done well on desktops

Angela Alcorn

Why not control them all with a master Gmail account and a label for each account for the times you want to separate them?

Jack Cola

1) Security – if one get hacked, they all get hacked
2) Storage – For some people, what Gmail gives you isn’t enough
3) Separation – I don’t want to be checking my work emails when I am holidays checking my personal emails
4) Backup – If SOPA comes into place, shuts down Gmail, I still have a copy of all my emails
5) Desktop Does That – I can check my 5 email accounts at the same time with Thunderbird. Different sent boxes, different deletes. I’m not sure with Gmail, but when you send an item, does it store your sent mail in one folder, or can you seperate them?

Scutterman

I was away from my computer for the week, and when I come back I find almost every other notification for this article was you giving the same reply dozens of times. It annoyed me slightly, to say the least.

Angela Alcorn

Sorry – a lot of people had the wrong idea about what was and wasn’t possible and the only way to address their concerns was by replying to their individual comments.

And not many people subscribe to all of the comments – you must be hardcore! :)

Artyom

Very onesided article. Replying one by one:
1. Syncing Between Multiple Computers Can Be A Headache With Desktop Email Clients – not a problem for me. Using three computers: desktop at home, desktop at work, and notebook on trips. Never had a problem with e-mail sync. Using The Bat! e-mail client and IMAP, and works like a charm. 

2. Email Threading Rocks – it depends on one’s taste. Never liked threading. But if I wish to turn it on, my e-mail client allows it.

3. Using Webmail Means You Don’t Need To Change Email Addresses – that is the weakest point! Any e-mail client will work with most (if not all) web based e-mail providers (hotmail, gmail, etc.). I know that in some cases you need to pay for pop access (such as Yahoo), but I use gmail with my e-mail client, and never have to change my address. 

4. Online Backup & Search. Since I do use my e-mail client with gmail, well, I have two copies of my e-mail database: on my computer(s) and on gmail.

5. Spam Filtering – it still works when I use e-mail client. Gmail filters spam and I download only valid email. 

6. One-Click Translation – never works well. I know three different languages (and wish I knew more), and my work spans across 12 time zones, on three different continents. And you know, I can tell you that most misunderstanding will come out of the online translation. It is the most misleading translation EVER. 

So, these pros, are not truly pros. I do not lose anything by working with an e-mail client, and added benefit of having my e-mail database offline is huge (especially, when I go to Africa or Siberia… well, internet access there is not the best).

Angela Alcorn

The point was to be one-sided! :)

1. You’re more techy than the average Joe. Try convincing your grandma to do this.

2. Yes, it’s taste. But it’s also really useful for keeping track of conversations.

3. This was a webmail account vs ISP email address thing, for people who are entirely against webmail.

4. Best of both worlds.

5. Again webmail vs ISP email.

6. You need to take it as a basic gist, rather than an exact translation. Can be handy, though.

Since you use a webmail email address with a desktop client, this is true. You’re not the primary target of this article as you already have the best of both worlds. :)

Angela Alcorn

It doesn’t work on outgoing mail – and I agree the translations are rough at best. But it’s incredibly useful to get a better idea of what’s being said in incoming mail if your skills in said language are a little underdeveloped.

James Bruce

I run OSX mail, and it does everything except point 6, translation. Everytime someone suggests I take another look at gmail, I do. And everytime, I can’t be bothered to learn a whole system just do what my good email client already does. Why would I tie my life to one gmail account? My email isn’t my identity, no matter google would like to think. 

YeOldePharte

Although I’m constantly going back-and-forth between different email clients (both online and off), right now, as a coincidence, I’m on an offline client kick.  So, I tend to agree mostly with 
Kara Ben Nemsi’s points.  (You may want to ask me again next week !)  ;-)

I only have one computer with which I check my email, so no problem there with multiple login locations.

Conversations *are* helpful for some, but others don’t like them.  It’s a “love ‘em or hate ‘em” kind of response, I guess.  MANY, MANY people were complaining about them, which, of course, is why Google finally added the ability to turn them off !  I’d be curious to see just what percentage of Gmail users did turn them off when that functionality became available, and I’d be curious how many new Gmail users signed up when they found out this option was finally implemented.  :-

Re: #3:  You have to admit, your article’s title did not really reflect your clarification (found in the comments section) that you were comparing Gmail to ISP-email via offline clients.  In my case, I use FastMail, Hotmail and myOpera mail predominantly (sometimes Gmail) and they all work well in both their respective webmail interfaces and offlline clients.  (For the latter, I use Outlook 2007 and Opera browser’s built-in email client.)

In any event, my main concern recently is hacking.  I’d rather trust my email to an offline client at this point.  Now, I know things can go wrong with one’s offline email software as well, not to metion one’s computer as a whole.  So, if one doesn’t have a back-up of some sort for offline mail, there goes the mail store !  But in the past week or so I’ve read lots of horror stories about hacked webmail accounts, and, like Kara Ben Nemsi above, I really don’t want anyone breaking in and viewing personal (albeit relatively harmless) email information.  Or deleting all my mail just for fun !

And I *certainly* don’t want them getting a hold of my friends’ and other contacts’ addresses !  The damage that can be done in that case just isn’t worth it (spam, viruses, porn, etc.).  And the veritable nightmare that users of hacked account (from the big providers: Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo) have to go through to (try to) get them back just to regain access to their mail, etc. scares me more than me having an issue with my computer.  (Besides, I do have my mail backed up on external media, just in case.)

So, for now, I’ve gotten rid of my online message store and downloaded it all to offline clients (Outlook and Opera) and created back-ups.  Then I deleted all mail and contact info from the webmail locations.  So, if someone hacks in, all they’ll find is my personal information (limited at best) and my alt. email (of no use to them).  

Lastly, you make good points for using webmail.  And Gmail certainly can do a lot of things to make one feel less dependent on offline clients.  But for some (like me) at this time I’d rather trust ME and my computer with the information and give  potential hackers less to work with and give me something less to worry about !

Angela Alcorn

All good points. Hacking is one of the biggest worries for webmail users.

brian burke

I need some opinions here. Am I the only one who finds the gmail web interface incredibly confusing? That’s the only reason I still use this lame Windows Live Mail. Whenever I pull up a gmail message with several replies, I never can find the latest. It seems that sometimes it’s at the top (shouldn’t it ALWAYS be there?) but at other times it’s in what appears to be random places like in the middle of the thread. I just don’t get it. Maybe I’m just dumb.

Angela Alcorn

Normally in Gmail conversation view the oldest message is at the top while the new ones are at the bottom (so you can read it back like a story). If you’re using the new Gmail it’s even easier to read.

You’re not dumb – conversation threading can take a bit to get used to. :)

stubbyd

I use gMail and I use a desktop too.

gMail allows me access to my emails when on the road and provides a means to backup. One day I’ll organise myself such that my eMail will go to gMail first and I collect it from there for my desktop.

Trouble is I will never fully switch until the day:

a. I can totally trust that gmail won’t up and walkaway!
b. they start to provide me with the functionality of my desktop – where’s ‘read or delivery requests – where’s the ability to mark a message as important or to expire or to set easy reminders or …
c. they stop messing with the interface

I have no problems with either – why is that a problem?

Angela Alcorn

For many people, collecting in Gmail and then syncing with IMAP to the desktop is actually the best plan. If you’re using all those desktop extras, that might be your best bet.

Anonymous

I’d be interested to know if any people who have offered comments here have ever had their Gmail account compromised, not only the cases where the “intruder” only used your account to send spam to your contacts (without locking you out of your account), but also — perhaps especially — where he/she actually DID lock you out of your account, thereby forcing you to go through the automated account recovery process. 

And if any of you have experienced this (esp. being locked out), how would you evaluate the recovery process ?  Simple and efficient ?  A long, tedious process that finally succeeded in restoring your account to you ?  A long, infuriating nightmare after which you still didn’t have your account ? 

I only ask because, going with some of the smaller providers with more responsive, human support (Hushmail, FastMail), even though they don’t have all the bells and whistles, is more attractive to me (with my admittedly simple email needs) than entrusting my email & contacts to a huge company (Google) that, while it has excellent products and resources, also has a reputation for having many accounts that have been hacked, which in turn has lead to many users experiencing the worst kind of nightmare in trying to reclaim them.  At this point in my own internet life, entrusting my mail to Gmail would feel like living in a city with a million people and no police…. I have to hope and pray that the odds are in my favor that my house wouldn’t get broken into, because if it does, there’s no (human) person to help, and I’m up the creek ! 

Anyway, does anyone want to offer an evaluation of your account reclamation experience ?

Angela Alcorn

Interesting question. It’s never happened to me, though I dread it.

Ageless Male

I’ve been using Gmail almost exclusively, and doing it without a desktop client, for about two years. I actually have three Gmail addresses that I use for various purposes

Daniel Tlach

#1 – Syncing Between Multiple Computers Can Be A Headache With Desktop Email Clients
Why so? That might have been issue few years ago but not today. I can’t think of anyone around me who’s still using POP3 instead of IMAP, so syncing only means setting up the account in the desktop client and you’re good to go.

#2 – Email Threading Rocks
And most of the good desktop clients do it well. I’m using Postbox and never had any issues with threading.

#3 – Using Webmail Means You Don’t Need To Change Email Addresses
This actually doesn’t have anything to do with webmail or desktop client. If you choose wrong provider, there’s nothing webmail can do about it. You’re mixing webmail apps with webmail providers here.

#4 – Online Backup & Search
The same as #1. IMAP solves this. Everything is stored on the server and desktop client only store a copy for faster work.

#5 – Spam Filtering
Again, mixing webmail app and provider together. Webmail app mostly don’t have any spam protection. It’s up to each provider how good (if any) protection they have.

#6 – One-Click Translation
What is that actually good for? People who work with international partners mostly use English or know the language they’re using for communication. Google Translator is not really good and might even do some damage if you rely on it (means if you don’t know the source language).

To be honest, I had the feeling that you actually don’t have a clear idea of what you actually want to talk about. In fact, desktop clients beats the s**t out of any webmail around. There’s no real reason to use webmails unless you really have to. I’m using email by Google (both GMail and Google Apps on my own domains) and after dealing with their webmail, I’m really happy that I have Postbox. Still have to say that Google webmail is probably the best application around, as it’s nice, clean and fast. Most of the other webmails are just horrible.

Angela Alcorn

I actually was talking about webmail providers (Google/Hotmail) rather than just webmail per se, which could be offered by the ISPs. And really, this whole argument was written with novice users in mind, not geeks. Most geeks have good systems in place and don’t need the backup protection given by using a webmail provider.

And yes, I do completely agree that Gmail is the best of all the webmail providers.

Jamie

This is a reply to both Daniel and Angela.

My friend, who is not a geek, use a desktop client because she’s had her mails SUDDENLY REMOVED by webmail providers – not once but twice.

The first was some free service, whose webmail interface she really liked. But one day, it decided to lock everyone out who used the free service, and charge a hefty fee to access their mails. The company had been sold, and the new one didn’t want to run a free service. After weighing it up, she decided not to pay the fee (it wasn’t small), and just lose the few years of mails.

Losing all the mail scared her, so she switched to a desktop client to make sure “it never happens again”, and a new provider (who do webmail and desktop), and she thought, at least she won’t lose anything now if the provider pulls the plug. I thought so to.

That new provider was vfemail.net, who had an outage this week. This is a paid service (well my friend paid anyway, for the higher grade). They were temporarily down, and when they came back up — get this — MOST OF THE MAILS WERE GONE.

Now this addresses Daniel’s #1 and #4. #1: My friend uses IMAP because it’s better. All that lovely synchronisation. #4: And she uses a desktop client because, from bitter experience, it’s the only way to have a backup, right?

Except, because the provider deleted most of the mails but brought it’s service up, my friend got to watch in horror as her mails were deleted from the desktop client when it synchronised over IMAP…

Very bad. It seems the only safe way to protect mails from random deletion by a provider is to use POP, which seems very old fashioned!!

But what else is there? Simply copying all received mails to a backup folder, or using one of those mail backup programs, is both tedious and not very helpful as it doesn’t remember what you had current, it’s got all the things you did want to delete as well, unless you like doing twice the work.

Angela Alcorn

That’s so rude, not to let your customers have warning to backup. And the IMAP delete sync must have been a nightmare too. Your friend has been unlucky enough to deal with people who were either incompetent or didn’t care about their users – or both.

A lot of people will backup their desktop email data to something like Dropbox for an added sense of security.

As for the mails that were previously deleted, wouldn’t you prefer to have the ones you wanted? :) Personally, I just don’t delete mail at all, I just filter out the less important stuff to folders I read when I’m a bit less busy.

David

Stupid question for the group. If I use an email client and leave it up and running all day usually the client will check and download new emails at regular intervals. Next if I check my email on my phone will the emails appear as “new”? Or will they appear as read because my client downloaded it?

Angela Alcorn

This will depend on what you’re using. If you’re using Gmail and Android, for instance, it will sync perfectly (after a few minutes). If you’ve read it on one device it will show as read on another.

If you have another setup it will depend on whether you’re using IMAP or POP, that is whether your client syncs back to the server.

David

Thanks Angela. One of my email accounts is a yahoo account. I think Yahoo only uses POP. If that is the case then things will get out of sync, won’t they?

Angela Alcorn

If you’re using POP then yes. But check it further and see if you can use IMAP. IMAP should sync nicely.

Gio Ferrigno

gmail only allows 5 email accounts to be pop’d through gmail. and you’re popping it just the same as pop access through a client. thus, an email client that allows more than 5 would win in that simple apples to apples comparison. I think this article is for the non-power user.

gmails search is amazingly fast but not much faster than xobni plugin in outlook. xobni now plugs into gmail so that is nice. but not many web clients have robust sorting. and, yes, threading sucks because people don’t always change the subject, they just reply. and, until gmail adds a “reply with new subject” button next to the reply button, it will always be like that. or, at least, gmail should not have closed the subject line on replies. they make the sender click the “edit subject” which no one (except me) does (you’re welcome).

Angela Alcorn

You can pop 5 accounts to Gmail, but you can also forward other accounts to your Gmail. And yes, the article was intended for average email users, not hardcore geeks. :)

I haven’t tried Xobni, but thanks for sharing. It might come in handy for someone reading the comments here.

V3

Some of the points raised in this discussion are senseless. Synchronizing using pop is as simple as telling your pop client to leave messages on your mail server. IF this causes you to pull your hair out, I’d hate to offer you a sticky ketchup bottle.

IMAP was originally intended for the dial up days where it would take eons to download a 3 mb attachment. POP was an improvement over IMAP because it allowed for better management for the mail boxes, over leaving everything online.

“Most of us use Gmail, our own mail servers”

This infers that the users have their own mail servers. Why would anyone use gmail if they had their own mail servers? If you did have your own mail servers, the overhead generated by IMAP would make you appreciate POP a whole lot more.

Has anyone here heard of the adage “If you got something for free, you paid too much”? This mean that when someone doesn’t want money from you, they want something of far more value.

Having 19,000 emails left on gmail might seem like a great idea, until your account gets hacked. Then every aspect of your life within those 19,000 emails becomes public property. Yes, that picture of you heaving at the xmas party, or that “special” one only meant for him/her becomes the next meme on the internet.

Personally, if I hadn’t added all of Google mail servers to exemption lists, we would never receive any mail from them because they are constantly in SORBS, Spamcop and other blacklists. Free email services should be use for just that.. free email. Business email should be handled by business class email servers that aren’t ready to sell your information for the next 5$

Angela Alcorn

I’ve said this a few times in the comments and the article, but this whole article was intended for a non-geek audience. If you’re a geek reading it, the point is to pass it on to your friends in order to avoid having to be their email tech support.

Sorry, you’ve mis-read the sentence. It was a list of options: “Most of us use Gmail, our own mail servers or some form of cloud backup…”. It makes more sense if you read the whole thing.

Yeah, there’s a danger in having all of your email in the cloud. But there’s also a sense of security. It’s a balancing act, deciding whether to store or delete.

Lucy

Maybe the best solution is a cross between the two? I have Gmail and I have all of my email accounts redirecting to it, everything is there and backed up and I can easily access all of my emails from anywhere. BUT I also have a desktop email client, which I can’t live without.

I sincerely hate sending emails from Gmail, don’t ask me why, but it’s just not my style. So I do all my email writing activities from the desktop client. I also prefer to manage contacts with it, and back them up to csv files easily. My desktop client also offers templates, which is essential for me. I don’t think Gmail offers that.

I agree people should be able to view all their email accounts from anywhere and have them backed up online with Gmail or other web based options, but they should also be able to choose if they want to manage their emails online or with a desktop client. I choose both.

Angela Alcorn

That’s the best option for a lot of people, for sure. Especially if you’re offline a lot!

Monica Surrena

Nope – not swayed – though I do use web mail, but at home I use outlook with multiple gmail accounts. It just keeps things organized.

Angela Alcorn

Fair enough!

da bishop

It’s simple. If I am relying on having an Internet connection in order to access my data, then I’m in a very bad place.

I have had a few situations where there’s been no internet access, and I’ve had to fish stuff out of an email. Phone numbers, addresses, etc. Even chunks of map that I’ve emailed to myself as screenshots. Usually it happens when I get off a plane in a foreign country, that sort of thing.

I’m suspicious of IMAP’s sync. It means that emails can go missing. TBH I’d rather run my own servers & everything.

Angela Alcorn

Yeah offline use is a good reason for a desktop client. :)

William

I also have to disagree that clients are outdated. There are numerous reasons to have them, particularly for business people. Federal and State laws require some professions to keep and store email for several years. Nearly all of the free webmail hosts have limits as to the amount of email that can be stored. Additionally, most of them also limit the size of an email. In my profession, large numbers of photos are often sent via email in the form of a very large zip file, sometimes exceeding 40 MB in size. In fact, paying for hosting was the only way I could accomplish this task, as at the time when I began to do so, gmail, yahoo, and the others limited attachment sizes to 2 MB.

Here are some very compelling reasons for using an email client, other than what’s already been mentioned.

– Size limits. All the free providers limit the amount of email you can store. My email file is over 6 gb. My superior’s exceeds 20 gb. Nuff said.

– For those of us who do most of our business by email, we often get a massive number of emails per day. It is not uncommon for me to receive more than 200 per day, and quick scanning and deleting are essential. Every webmail front-end I’ve ever used limits the number of subject headers you can see on the screen at once. Furthermore, selecting and deleting is often cumbersome.

– Message preview pane. It’s very nice to click the header and have the message show up in a preview pane. I rarely, if ever, actually open the email. To date, every webmail product I’ve used requires opening the mail, and either clicking the back button or the Inbox link again in order to return to the headers.

– Drag and drop into a task or onto the calendar. Attaching emails to calendar items and tasks is an extraordinarily fantastic feature of Outlook, and I’m not certain why many people don’t do it. The ability to read the details of an email just before you walk into that scheduled appointment is very nifty.

– Sensitive data. Many professions send sensitive customer data via email. Albeit, email transmission is not secure, but the less time an email floats around the cloud, the less likely the information risks theft. Leave it out on a server with that “easy to remember” password you use, and it’s like leaving 10 one hundred dollar bills on the dash of your car. Your car may be locked, but the thief knows the money is there and he will break in.

– Integration with a smart phone. Until Google released Android, this was nearly impossible without Outlook. And I’m not about email. I’m talking syncing the calendar, notes, tasks, and other things with a smart phone.

– Speed. Clicking a header in a client is much speedier than waiting on a browser load/refresh. I can scan through 250 emails in less than 15 minutes by using the preview pane I mentioned above. I’ve been unable to accomplish that with webmail.

There are many more great reasons to use mail clients. And most people don’t use them because they are “geeks” or “old-fashioned”. Most of the other business owners I know use clients, and several of them have in-house Exchange Servers. I suppose if I only used my email to forward funny emails my friends send me, or read the latest newsletter, or communicate with my social network, then webmail would be acceptable. But, for a business that relies on email, a client is, by far, still the best option.

Angela Alcorn

Sensitive data and file sizes are very good reasons to use your own private service, for sure. Thanks for leaving such a detailed comment with such reasoned arguments!

me

I am not a geek. I am not a novice. I lie somewhere inbetween. I know enough to have some call me tech savvy and enough to have others see how little I know. My oldest son is most definitely a geek and so is my brother. I know enough to hold my own with them and know when I have crossed my knowledge base.

What I am seeing, and I stopped reading comments about 3/4 the way down, is that every one commenting is either like me or a geek. My mother would be considered a novice. She learned some programming stuff in college but graduated in 89 and hasn’t kept up since the internet boom. On today’s computers she seems clueless.

She is like many “novice” email users. She has two email accounts tops. She opened her gmail account to use for business and then got locked out of her yahoo account when they changed the password requirements and made her add the number that slows the hackers only a slight fraction.

She doesn’t use a desktop but her thinking patterns cause me to understand a lot about who you say you address the article to. Most novice email users only have 1 maybe 2 accounts. My mom would be happier with a desktop client. She gets so lost when they change things. We all know that they change things often and I’ve heard her complain every time. The more consistent interface would be helpful to a novice.

I have a lot of gmail accounts. With the newer changes I’ve logged into them more than once. I use a desktop client. I use zimbra because I’m broke and I use the email on my kindle fire. I have to log in every once in a while to check my spam boxes because I lose a lot of “not spam” in there. I also have access when I’m away from my computer/fire.

I didn’t mind not having a desktop when I only had 2 accounts. I’d log in to each one and I managed all the filters. By the way the true novice has no clue how to figure out the filters. I won’t integrate my gmail accounts. I don’t care if I can have one gmail account that supposedly can work like my desktop. I got more than one account so I can KEEP them separate.

I also agree with the ones that mentioned access when offline. This has been especially useful since I have started my own business. I don’t have to go through the effort of logging on when I just want to re-read an email I already have downloaded.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I use my desktop client for offline access and to keep my accounts separate. My novice mom would benefit from a desktop client because of the consistency. Other novices probably just log into their one account or have it to their desktop clients for the same reasons. They are familiar.

Angela Alcorn

You’re right about change management being impossible to control in web clients, for sure. Familiarity is a very hard-to-beat trump card. :)

Harish

The main reason why desktop email clients exist is their ease of use. Just click an app and you have all your emails on your window in a few seconds.
1. You don’t have to login to multiple accounts.
2. People can keep their accounts separate and not forward. (Remember there’s a reason for creating a second account. That way they don’t mess up stuff.)
3. We can get desktop alerts whenever we receive a new email. They are handy when you are in a hurry viz., registering at a website to download stuff/post something, nervously waiting for that admit offer from a school that’s supposed to come today.
4. They add an additional layer of security. the plugins like spamAssasin and the desktop antivirus blocks the spams/viruses out. You can configure to have either of them off.
5. By email threading, i guess you mean “conversational view”. It’s present in most email clients. At least, it’s in Mozilla Thunderbird, that I’m using now.
6 Unlike in email clients, you can not write an embedded email in a webmail. I mean, you can not embed pictures/media-clips/documents between your sentences. This feature is important when you are sending multiple docs with explanations.
7. IMAP has eased things a lot for people using multiple devices like computers, tablets and phones and IMHO, it’s the best feature Gmail has. Loading new mails is not time-taking since the new emails are synced fast.
8. Its great that emails have online storage and backup. We are making-use-of it with IMAP.
I hate contradicting you, but I wanted to put a different perspective as to why people are still using email clients. Good day.

Angela Alcorn

Very true about keeping accounts separate in order to not mess up. It’s so easy to do!! :)

And desktop alerts are great if you don’t get a lot of email.

Threading is conversation view, yes. But Gmail presents it better than most clients, I find.

Contradictions are fine. Don’t worry! :)

Harish

this piece written by You (on this very website) left me confused:
tag/postbox-express-email-client-challenge-thunderbird/
What made you change?

If novices can setup email forwarding then I guess they can set up a desktop client (using the wizard) as well.

Angela Alcorn

I actually quite like many desktop clients. Postbox and Thunderbird are two clients I can happily get behind. I heartily approve of a webmail & desktop client synced email solution for a lot of people, too.

However, I don’t think a desktop client and ISP email combination is the right thing for most of the novice users I know, because I’ve seen the sorts of disasters they have been through by not backing up or changing ISPs. This article was written with that sort of user in mind. However, almost all the commenters have been a little more technical-minded than that. :)

nellewrites

I’ve used both, and prefer to use an email client. Why? For one thing, as one example, Google loves to fish in email, and I don’t particularly like people fishing out details to aggregate about me. While I’ve a gmail account, I refuse to use it for anything but a login on Google.

Everything we put online needs to be weighed, convenience vs revelation.

For this same reason, as a I writer I could put docs on Google docs or on Skydrive, but… this is proprietary stuff.

Angela Alcorn

Good points. If your keeping proprietary information private that’s important.

TJude

Outlook is simply far far easier to use than GMail, as much as I’d prefer to use a web based system, for all the reasons you describe. Here’s some reasons.

I find recently sent mail by date. I don’t always know a keyword. I can sort mail by date. GMail simply stinks at this.

Tags are better than nothing, but they don’t compare to actually foldering your e-mails where they belong.

Having a real composer, signatures by e-mail address, a robust contact capability and much much better multitasking capability (for when you’re working fast and don’t need mistakes) is irreplaceable.

I can see a casual e-mailer getting by better with GMail, but a business user – fuggetaboutit. Try as I might, I can’t get a fraction of the productivity out of GMail as I can Outlook.

Angela Alcorn

Gmail is naturally sorted by date – and tags are just extra-useful folders, since things can be given multiple tags instead of having to choose just one folder. Also, you can have different signatures for different addresses – from within the one Gmail account.

You might be right on the multitasking though. :D

James

Web based email such as Gmail is fine for personal use who do not mind Google collecting information about them. But for any serious individual or business, this is not a good solution.

There is nothing special about web based email, it has existed for years yet the younger generation haven’t a clue. Domain names and hosting is cheap now. You will have IMAP email, and even web based email applications if you prefer not to use a desktop client. And you can keep your email address for life as long as renew your domain name. Who knows what will happen to Gmail in the future, nothing lasts forever.

As a side note, accessing IMAP with Outlook sucks, and by sucks I mean it constantly hangs and freezes while you are pulling your hair out. Outlook is only good for Exchange email accounts, not IMAP, and POP is dead/dying anyway so that is irrelevant. Thunderbird with IMAP works flawlessly.

For those who are Gmail addicts and can’t let go of it like the junkie and his heroine, I suggest using a IMAP client and only using the web interface when you don’t have access to your regular PC/Laptop/Mobile device, since that way, at least Google will not track your browsing habits at all times.

Angela Alcorn

Good points – especially about the browsing habits being tracked by Google. Sadly this is so normalised now that it’s really easy to forget that the big sites are tracking us all the time while we’re logged in.