Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Email Software

The Bat! | Thunderbird | Outlook | Obsolete | Webmail

Current email clients include The Bat!, Thunderbird, and Microsoft Outlook

Email Programs

Email has changed since [the 1970s], but not much. Most of what's changed in the last 45 years is email clients — the software we use to access email. They've clumsily bolted on new functionality onto the old email, without fixing any of the underlying protocols to support that functionality.
The Atlantic

Recommended Programs

Choose your email program carefully. I recommend:

  1. The Bat! for high volume users wishing more control over their email.
  2. Thunderbird for home users looking for a free alternative to webmail.

Client and Servers

Email programs are either servers (the bigger computer that continually receives and stores emails) or clients (programs on computers or other devices that send and retrieve emails from the server).

Most people only know enough about servers to configure their email client to retrieve messages.

Email clients are stand-alone applications that download and store messages on your own computer then delete those messages from the email server.

Independent Email Clients

Independent email clients (often called apps on mobile devices) tend to focus on specific operating systems. There is usually some ability to export your mail and settings or import them into a new email client.

Support (or the lack) for specific devices or operating systems often depends upon popularity or developer passions, but vendors tend to be consistent with the operating systems they support.

Wikipedia's comparison of email clients gives a good overview of the broad range of email clients including their release history, supported operating systems, protocols and authentication methods. Most refer to Wikipedia pages with additional information about specific programs.

OS-based Email Clients

Operating system-based email apps (e.g., Windows 10 Mail, Apple Mail) differ from dedicated third-party apps because simply upgrading the operating system may remove support (i.e., Microsoft provided an email for Vista but not Windows 7 then provided it again with Windows 10).

Email Protocols

POP/SMTP

Traditionally email clients used the old POP/SMTP protocols which retrieved emails then deleted them on the server.

This worked fine on a single computer, but when people went mobile with a laptop or smartphone it didn't work as well.

To have emails available on all devices, the deletion of emails had to be restricted to one device (usually a computer) with mail retrieval settings configured to leave the mail on the server long enough to enable the other devices to retrieve it. Sent mail remains only on the device that sent it.

IMAP

Most ISPs have moved to IMAP which allowed for mail to be accessed on multiple devices at once, including sent mail for all devices. Few still provide instructions for enabling POP/SMTP access.

IMAP has its own issues, including the inability to effectively store large volumes of archived mail except on the server. Your account is subject to storage limits and vulnerable to being hacked because all your mail is accessible worldwide 24/7.

The Rise of Webmail

Many people only use webmail, an online service that doesn't require a dedicated email client. Access is provided via your web browser (although many webmail services provide an app for mobile devices).

However, in the intervening years many if not most businesses and consumers have switched to webmail of some variety. Many also now use instant messaging and collaboration platforms instead of email.
ZDNet

Webmail (cloud-based email) is even more suited to mobile environments than IMAP.

After the emergence and increased popularity of free webmail, most desktop email clients have stopped development. The pickings are getting pretty slim.

You Need Archive Capabilities

I strongly recommend a stand-alone email client for your primary form of email communication, particularly you need to keep copies of important messages over the long term.

That way you can archive your mail on your computer without having to pay for increased storage or suddenly finding out that you've lost all access to your mail if your ISP goes out of business or changes their email hosting service.

Many of us remember “@Home” email addresses that were used all across North America but later failed. The pending sale of Shaw might see that happen again for customers using @shaw.ca mailboxes.

The Bat! — High Volume Users

Download The Bat!

The Bat! Professional (US$59.99) and Home (US$49.95) is recommended for high-volume users. It has been continuously improved since 1998.

Downloads & Learning More

Download | Features | Interface | Home or Pro?
Tips and tricks | Help

The Bat! v10.3.3 Christmas Edition fails to start as of January 16, 2023 due to an issue with the splash-screen. An error message is displayed.

Download and install The Bat! v10.3.3.3 (16 January 2023) to fix the problem.

Designed with security and privacy in mind, it is a flexible, secure email program with an internal Chromium-based HTML viewer, advanced message handling, OpenPGP encryption and more.

The Bat! protects your information through multiple encryption streams, with the option to keep all information encrypted on you disk, and to protect emails during communication using end-to-end encryption (E2EE).

 

The Bat! can work without global email providers that keep your messages in the cloud, where they can be stolen. The Bat! keeps your emails on your computer to make them private.

 

The Bat! blocks malicious code and tracking pixels that spread via email. This is a way to protect from email hacking.

The Bat! Pro is designed for handling a large number of emails and unlimited email accounts of all types. It adds message base encryption, biometric authentication as well as hardware authentication with mail servers.

  • The licence agreement allows a individual user to install multiple copies provided only one is active at a time (e.g., on your desktop and laptop).
  • The Bat! Voyager provides secure portable email via a USB drive.
  • The Bat supports the Exchange Web Services (EWS) protocol.
The Bat! email program is able to process and store an unlimited number of messages and has no restriction on the number of email accounts accessible via IMAP, POP, MAPI protocols.

 

The Bat! is a perfect multiple email account manager — allows you to quickly access all your email accounts in one place.

 

The Bat! is a safe, robust and reliable mail application. It handles very large message bases quickly and with small memory footprint.

The Bat! runs efficiently on virtually any Windows system.

The Bat! is compatible with Microsoft Windows Vista and later versions of Windows operating systems. There are no minimum requirements for memory size or CPU speed. It runs on any Windows PC platform with at least 1024x768 screen resolution. It runs on any Windows PC desktop and tablet platform.

Version 10

Version 10's new features include a long-awaited calendar, a redesigned address book and automatic installation of future upgrades. It also features a choco dark theme.

  • Existing users can purchasing an upgrade at a discounted rate.
  • v9 licenses purchased June 1, 2021–April 28, 2022 upgrade for free.

Note: Version 10 installs separately from any existing prior installation. Backup the older version prior to uninstalling it.

Important Notice About Gmail Accounts

Starting with October 3, 2022 Google will block all third-party applications which are using the OAuth out-of-band (OOB) flow, including The Bat!

Prior versions of The Bat! will no longer work with Gmail.

Gmail Works with Version 10.2

The new The Bat! v10.2 performs this authentication via the localhost Redirect URI as it is now required by Google.

After updating to The Bat! version 10.2 it will be possible to authenticate in Gmail accounts and get the needed permissions.

Version 10.2 is a free upgrade for anyone with a version 10 license.

Automated Message Handling

The level of automated message handling is exceptional.

  • The Sorting Office filters all mail or only specific accounts.
  • Folders can be configured to auto-delete messages by age or number.
  • You can limit the size of downloaded messages for systems with limited storage.
  • External images are blocked by default (configurable by address or folder).
  • Customize each account's templates for New Message, Reply and Forward.
  • The mailbox analyzer will look for consistencies in email and automatically create new folders and filters for larger volume senders.

While it may take some time to learn to use and configure features, when enacted they provide powerful tools for organizing and handling your mail.

Spam Control

One weakness in The Bat! is spam control. There are various third-party addins, but you'll need to experiment to see what works for you.

I purchased AntispamSniper for The Bat! (US$19.95) — recommended.

Learn how to use AntispamSniper to block PDF spam, phishing scams and designing effective filtering rules.

Gmail

Gmail is now configured to use labels rather than physical mailboxes to sort your email. These should be configurable when using IMAP (Gmail is designed for IMAP).

Be sure to configure your Gmail IMAP settings in The Bat! to match the labels you've used in Gmail. You'll need to log into your Gmail account in a browser during the process of matching labels to The Bat! IMAP mailboxes.

All mail includes the inbox label by default. Be careful when removing or renaming labels. Non-existent labels may cause retrieval issues.

The Bat! supports OAuth 2.0 authentication for Gmail accounts but you need to turn it on in your Gmail account settings (both the incoming and outgoing server). But you also need to provide authorization for The Bat! to access your Gmail account.

See Gmail Issues on the Mail Issues page for details.

Editing Subject Line Cumbersome

There is no easy way to manually edit the subject line but you can use this work around posted in The Bat! Forums:

  • Drag and drop the message into the outbox.
  • Open the message, you can edit it now.
  • Save the message (don't send)
  • Drag it to the appropriate folder
  • Roelof Otten

Thunderbird — Home Users

Download Thunderbird

Thunderbird is a free, powerful, easy to use, stand-alone email program that works great for those with simpler demands.

Thunderbird is not recommended for those with high email volumes, including business users.

Thunderbird Features

Check out the features in Thunderbird, including:

  • easy to use smart account setup and import wizards;
  • tabs and fast search to help your productivity;
  • a customizable email experience; and
  • improved technologies to secure and protect your email and privacy.

Be sure to read the release notes before installing.

Install and migration | Help | Tips and tricks.

Thunderbird now supports the Microsoft Exchange protocol as of version 60.5.0 via a third-party add-on (Owl) which supports that protocol (automatically detected during account creation).

MozillaZine has archived articles related to Thunderbird:

Gmail

Gmail is now configured to use labels rather than physical mailboxes to sort your email. These should be configurable when using IMAP (Gmail is designed for IMAP).

Thunderbird supports OAuth 2.0 authentication for Gmail accounts but you need to turn it on in your Gmail account settings (both the incoming and outgoing server). But you also need to provide authorization for Thunderbird to access your Gmail account.

See Gmail Issues on the Mail Issues page for details.

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Microsoft Outlook

Download Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Outlook is routinely used by business and governments where capabilities for inter-office communication and project coordination are necessary.

While Office 365 is fast becoming the de facto standard for cloud-based application services, securing its email capabilities requires additional services.

 

While Office 365 email security and Microsoft's add-on subscription services may be “good enough,” is “good enough” security really good enough?
Menlo Security Labs

Microsoft now includes it with Microsoft 365. Outlook for iOS and Android are free.

Use only a currently-supported version of Outlook (automatic in Microsoft 365).

Outlook's Security Issues

Microsoft's tight inter-product integration generates security vulnerabilities that can transfer between Microsoft products and Windows.

Outlook is particularly vulnerable because of how tightly it is integrated into both other Microsoft Office products as well as Windows itself.

Researchers at Menlo Security dug further into the connection between Microsoft Office documents and cybercrime.

 

They found attackers are increasingly using malicious Office docs for endpoint exploitation but instead of attaching files packed with malicious macros, they use Office docs to call remotely hosted malicious components, launching exploits in the browser.
Dark Reading

Outlook also suffers from a DDE vulnerability where attacks can take place via email and corrupt Word, Excel, Publisher and Outlook documents.

Non-corporate Users

While server backups of key files, sophisticated firewall systems and other measures can minimize these risks in a corporate environment, that isn't true for anyone not tied into a work-based email service.

Your best defense is to use decent security software (including a firewall) and to ensure that you regularly back up all your critical documents and emails.

I Don't Support Outlook

If you decide to move to Outlook, I neither use nor recommend Outlook so I cannot provide a decent level of support.

I strongly recommend The Bat! Professional as a more secure alternative that supports many Outlook features including Microsoft Exchange Web Services.

If an organization or office requires you to use Outlook, be sure they can provide support from someone that is familiar with Outlook issues and fixes and that you'll have help when problems arise.

I've listed some resources for help with Outlook including how to back it up, moving to or from Outlook and other helpful information.

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Obsolete Email Programs

If a program is not currently maintained it runs the risk of not protecting you against new exploits. You need to uninstall obsolete software.

Older programs are unlikely to support the newer and more secure email retrieval protocols now used by ISPs.

Don't Use Unsupported Software

If development and security updates have ended the software is not safe to use and should be uninstalled.

These email programs should be replaced:

  • Windows Mail (the version included with Windows Vista, not Windows 10).
  • Windows Live Mail (Windows Essentials) support ended January 10, 2017.
  • Eudora OSE was deprecated in 2013.
  • Pocomail and Barca (last updated 2009).
  • Outlook Express (part of Windows XP).

Issues with Old Versions

Older versions of currently-supported software such as Thunderbird and Outlook should also be either upgraded or uninstalled.

These older programs do not support the newer, safer protocols employed in newer email software programs.

Older versions of Outlook may be unable to connect to Microsoft servers (and potentially other servers).

Recommended Alternatives

Better alternatives include my recommended email programs: The Bat or Thunderbird. Whichever email client you choose, be sure to review email weaknesses.

Import/Export Utilities

The following resources have information about importing mail from obsolete email programs:

  • Switching to Thunderbird has instructions on importing from Windows Mail (Vista), Windows Live Mail, Outlook Express and Eudora.
  • Aid4Mail MBOX Converter is a free solution that supports Thunderbird, Outlook Express, Eudora, Apple Mail and more.

More about importing and exporting email.

 

Webmail Services

Webmail is a cloud-based service where emails are composed and stored on an external server (a remote computer).

Web-based email programs have become much more commonly used as people moved away from desktop computers and stand-alone email clients.

This coincided with the increasing popularity of webmail rather than traditional POP/SMTP services with their local ISP based upon better technology and centralization of email accounts.

“Free” Webmail Programs

“Free” programs are seldom free. You are providing something of value in exchange — your profile marketed to advertisers.

“Free” email services aren't free — you pay for them by sharing the most intimate details of your life with corporations and marketers.
— StartMail

Popular Webmail Programs

Be sure to check the privacy policy frequently.

Moving Away From Webmail

I strongly recommend StartMail if you need the convenience of web-based email.

Be sure to frequently check the privacy policy for any webmail program you use.

ISP Webmail

Most internet service providers (ISPs) provide some sort of access to your email via a web browser. Here's some local providers:

ISP storage may be insufficient if you use IMAP. Shaw limits you to 1 GB.

Webmail Issues

Anywhere, Anytime Access

Rather than downloading the email onto a single computer, folks wanted anytime, anywhere access to email, even while on the go.

Webmail Weaknesses

Webmail adds cloud-based security issues into your primary form of online communication and affects your privacy.

Webmail removes your control over your own mail. Unless you've downloaded all your email onto a stand-alone email client and backed it up, you cannot restore messages if they disappear from the server.

There are other weaknesses.

You Give Up Your Privacy

Webmail users trade privacy for convenience.

Rather than paying a monthly fee for email, a profile of you is created and refined for sale to anyone willing to pay.

The fine print lets them search every message you send and receive for profit-generating keywords. They even keep their own copies of your deleted messages and your attachments.
— Startmail

They Own Your Information

The terms of service make it difficult to move your data elsewhere.

Your data IS their business.

Gmail's Labels Don't Work Offline

One example is Gmail's move to using labels rather than physical mailboxes.

This may be convenient if you remain logged into your Gmail account but is a pain if you use an email client (program) to manage your mail.

I have too much email to let it all land in the Inbox, so I filter most of my mail by moving it into dozens of specialized sub-folders where the “unread” status tells me about new messages or those requiring action.

Gmail's use of multiple labels for each email meant that all mail would come into my Inbox as well as individual messages being sorted into appropriate sub-folders.

Marking it read or deleting it one location didn't affect the other which meant double the effort to maintain my Gmail account on my computer.

This forced me to continually log into my Gmail account online to add/remove labels or deal with filtering issues.

Abandoning Gmail?

I'm seriously considering abandoning Gmail. I've already abandoned Yahoo! mail.

My Microsoft and Telus webmail accounts (Telus moved to Gmail) are only used for my accounts with those companies.

The bulk of my email is handled using my own domain-based email accounts.

The main reason I continue with Gmail is to add emailed calendar events to my phone using vCalendar.ics attachments. While The Bat! now has a calendar, my phone's calendar is much more useful, especially when I'm away from my computer.

Security is More Difficult

Be sure to use strong passwords to protect your account. Anyone with your password can access your web-mail account from anywhere in the world.

Security is Lax

Because the risk of loss is suffered by YOU, webmail providers don't have the incentive to use the same level of protection they apply to their own data.

Password Recovery is Flawed

Password recovery is a more significant weakness than even weak passwords.

These ask for information you have probably already posted on your social media accounts or have shared with friends and family.

Because your mail is stored in various locations around the world, it may not be subject to laws passed in your own country.

[Y]our emails can pass through servers all over the world, where they're vulnerable to hackers and mass-surveillance programs. Protecting yourself with encryption is often difficult and time-consuming.
— StartMail

For example, the following ruling allows the FBI to hack computers world-wide:

[A] federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia held that individuals have no reasonable expectation of privacy in a personal computer located inside their home.
EFF (2016)

Metadata Tells a Lot About You

Many corporations indicate that they are “only collecting metadata.” Metadata tells a great deal about you, your activities and beliefs.

Companies will be less inclined to do creepy things with our data if they have to justify themselves to their customers and users.
And users will be less likely to be seduced by ‘free’ if they know the true costs.
— Bruce Schneier

Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

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Updated: January 16, 2023