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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?