An email program (also known as an email client) is what you should use if you are serious about online communication. Such an application can download, store and manage messages on your local computer which would then be available even without a live Internet connection. Furthermore, the program will enable you to take backup of the email, safeguarding you against a hard disk crash or account loss.
Most probably your computer already has an email client pre-installed. It would be Mail on Apple machines and Windows Live Mail on Windows 7 operating system. Other well-known, though outdated, programs are Outlook Express that came free with Windows 98 and XP and Windows Mail which was pre-installed on Vista computers.
For the more serious user, Microsoft Outlook costing about $140 is a good option. But most free email clients will work well too. For example, Thunderbird from Mozilla is a neat program that works on various operating systems and has the support of a very large development community.
Popular email clients let you configure multiple accounts. This means all your accounts – ISP, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo!Mail etc. – can be set up and accessed from one place. As you can understand, this saves tons of time.
Note: If your chosen email client does not segregate the individual accounts and their messages, you may like to set up ‘filters’ and direct email to separate folders.
It’s advisable to employ only one email client as the default on a computer. Using two (or more) programs on the same system will surely lead to confusion. When the computer is being used by more than one person for email, create separate ‘User accounts’. This avoids confusion and segregates the email accounts and messages properly.
Email programs access accounts via two popular email protocols – POP3 and IMAP. However, not all services have them enabled for free. For instance, POP3 is available on Yahoo!Mail for about $20 per year. The three other popular email services – Hotmail, Gmail and AOL – all provide POP3 access without charge; in fact, the latter two also support IMAP.
Before you configure an email account in the client, an important decision to make is whether to use POP3 or IMAP. However, you may not have much choice if the service provider supports only one of these. FYI, most email accounts come with POP3 support – free or paid.
Anyway, you should know that there is a big difference between IMAP and POP3 which plays a significant role in how you plan to work with the email account. IMAP keeps the account synchronized across various devices (computers, mobile phones, tablets) while POP3 cannot do this.
This point applies only when you are using the POP3 email protocol since IMAP keeps everything on the server anyway. Typically, the default setting on email clients for POP3 configuration is to delete the message from the server once it’s downloaded to the local computer. You can change this by opting to leave a copy of the email on the server. This would enable you to get the messages on a second computer (more on this below).
If the email account needs to be accessed from two or more computers on a regular basis, it’s strongly recommended that IMAP is used. Why? Because this keeps the account synchronized across the different machines.
In case this email protocol is not supported, consider diverting the messages to a free Gmail account and then using its IMAP services; read how to get IMAP access on your email. Not happy with this workaround? Better stick to webmail because ‘true’ synchronization can never be achieved with POP3. For instance, messages sent out from one machine would not be available on the other.
It’s imperative that one takes regular (maybe weekly) backup of email to avoid loss of important and sensitive information. And this is imperative when using a free email service such as Gmail or Hotmail. You first need to setup the account in the email client, download all messages to the local machine and then use the export function to save a copy of the messages in a separate folder or an external hard disk.
Whether the contacts information is stored in the email client or as a separate application, you should get in the habit of taking frequent backup of the data. I suggest exporting the information as a .CSV (Comma Separated Values) file that can easily be imported to another program on a different system.
Sometimes, a message will arrive at the inbox for which a read receipt is requested. I strongly suggest that you choose the option (via the settings) of having a notification displayed before actually sending the receipt. This way a read receipt will only be dispatched to known senders protecting your email address from spammers.
Most clients not only help you work with email but will also function as newsgroups and RSS readers. For instance, I have been using Windows Live Mail for RSS feeds for years without any problem. This avoids running a second program and collates my work at one place. Also, a Calendar application is usually built in the email program.
By default, email clients connect to the account(s) every 15 or 30 minutes to check for new messages. You can easily change this time interval to one that suits your needs. The option would be available under the program settings.
Depending on the email client, you can get both audio and pop-up visual notifications when new messages arrive. You can also change the sound to something you like.
Email clients are a big help when it comes to organizing messages. The tedious way to do this is to move the messages manually (drag-n-drop). However, with the aid of ‘filters’ (also known as message rules), you can have incoming email diverted to a particular folder. Filters can also be applied to messages that have already been downloaded.
Modern email programs like Windows Live Mail let you to change the interface and colors in just a few mouse-clicks. You can, thus, shift the columns or modify the layout as per your requirements. This simple feature can really help raise productivity levels!
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