Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Email Software

Recommended | Alternatives | Outlook | Obsolete | Web-based
See also: Web Browsers & Plugins

See Computer Basics & Terminology for help with technical terms.

Stand-alone Email Clients

A stand-alone email client is a program on your computer that stores downloaded messages on your own computer.

Unfortunately, many desktop email clients are slowing or stopping development. The pickings are getting pretty slim. Web-based (cloud-based) email is more suited to mobile environments and is “free” (you pay by letting them cull your personal information).

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.

I recommend the following stand-alone products.

Thunderbird — Low Volume Users

Download Thunderbird

Thunderbird (free) is a powerful, yet easy to use, stand-alone email program that works great in conjunction with the Firefox browser.

Thunderbird works great for many home users those with simpler demands. It automatically sets up for Gmail and other such cloud-based email so you don't have to log onto via your browser to view and send your mail and will allow you to archive messages in separate folders for long-term storage independent of the server.

Thunderbird is not recommended for those with high email volumes such as business users.

The Bat! — High Volume Users

The best secure email client software. Continuously improving since 1998.

Download The Bat!

The Bat! Professional (US$59.99) and Home (US$26.95) are both flexible, secure email programs and highly recommended for advanced users requiring more customization and handling of their email. It has an internal HTML viewer (for security), advanced message handling, OpenPGP encryption and more.

Automated Message Handling

I am particularly impressed with the level of automated message handling. In fact there are so many features that it has taken me some time to learn to use them (and how to configure them) but when enacted they provide powerful tools for organizing and handling your mail. For example:

  • The Sorting Office provides for filters and can be set up as general or separately for individual accounts.
  • Folders can be configured to auto-delete messages based upon the age (e.g. a price list that updates weekly) or by number of messages (to avoid overloading your computer's system).
  • You can limit the size of the messages that are downloaded (retrieving only the headings for larger messages) such as on your laptop where you don't need the full message and want to save space on your hard drive.
  • The Bat! blocks external images by default, but controls image display on a per-sender basis, listing the image sources and allowing you to accept images from all the related sources or simply allow them for the sender's domain or on a one-time basis.
  • The Bat! provides for better HTML-based templates for New Message, Reply and Forward for each account and can be configured for Confirmation messages to put in Outbox, Send immediately, Edit or Ignore (I use Ignore to disallow a reading confirmation receipt).
  • The Bat! has a mailbox analyzer that will look for consistencies in email and automatically create new folders and filters for larger volume senders.

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! ($19.95) following the trial period.

Some of the others added “*SPAM*” to the subject line which is annoying for false positives as it wasn't easy to remove (AntispamSniper removed these tags).

Editing Subject Line Cumbersome

I've not determined an easy way to manually remove this added “*SPAM*” text (or edit a non-descriptive or unhelpful subject line). One work-around: drag the message to the Outbox, edit it, then drag it back.

Use Internal HTML Viewer

I strongly recommend that you configure The Bat! to use its own HTML viewer rather than the newer option to use the system's viewer (Internet Explorer) for security reasons.

Look in Options ⇒ Preferences ⇒ Viewer/Editor ⇒ HTML Viewer and select “Use The Bat!'s HTML viewer” and change the External images download control to “According to The Bat! rules.”


Download Postbox

Postbox (US$9.95) may provide a Thunderbird alternative to those looking for something similar but with more features. It is a powerful email program which provides faster response times and has great features including integration with Dropbox, social media, Gmail and Google Calendar. Your email, any way you like it.

Pocomail and Barca were my earlier choices for a robust email program for people and businesses with heavier demands. These programs still work, even on Windows 10, but development has ceased and there are issues with displaying current HTML-based messages properly and with some secure mail retrieval protocols. Help transferring messages to The Bat!.

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Alternative Email Clients

Wikipedia's Comparison of Email Clients gives a good overview of the broad range of email clients including their release history plus what operating systems, protocols and authentication methods they support. Most refer to Wikipedia pages with additional information about that specific program.

  • Becky! Internet Mail (US$40.00) supports and has numerous features.
    • Current Windows versions are supported.
    • You can create not only multiple mailboxes but also create multiple profiles for each mailbox — very flexible mailbox management for people with multiple email accounts.
    • The Beckymail! Yahoo! support group proved to be very responsive and helpful.
    • My main concern is that it uses Internet Explorer to display HTML messages — something that even Outlook no longer does because of the security vulnerabilities (see my assessment of IE).
  • DreamMail (free) is a powerful stand-alone email program designed to handle multi-user and multiple email accounts.
    • Originating in China, the English version is available through the DreamMail European Community for Windows XP/Vista/7.
    • It appears to be very powerful and may provide options that are harder to implement in Thunderbird for demanding users. However, I'm concerned about the privacy and safety of user data.
    • The DreamMail Community Forum is the best place to look for help.
  • Opera Mail (free) is a lightweight, customizable mail client.
    • Current Windows versions are supported.
    • Opera Mail used to be included as part of the Opera browser, but is now a separate install.
    • The Opera Mail Tutorial provides help in mastering this program's features.
  • Windows Mail was included free with Vista, but Microsoft didn't provide any email program with Windows 7.
    • Microsoft took what they learned developing Windows Mail and updated their webmail services instead.
    • While it is possible to enable Windows Mail on Windows 7 (most of the files are still there) these changes will create problems with Microsoft Update.
  • Windows Live Mail (free) is part of online-based Windows Essentials.

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Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Outlook is routinely used by business and governments, particularly in large corporate environments where capabilities for inter-office communication and project coordination are necessary.

Outlook is not as widely used by consumers because it is both complex and isn't aimed at consumer requirements.

Outlook Not Supported

If you decide to move to Outlook, be aware that I cannot provide the level of support I can with my recommended programs. I neither use nor recommend Outlook. It has given me more than its share of headaches and has left a bad taste in my mouth.

Finding Alternative Support

If you're tied into an organization or office that uses Outlook and you're familiar with that program, be sure to verify that you'll have help when problems arise.

  • Be sure to use a currently-supported version of Outlook (one that continues to see updates from Microsoft).
  • Home users seldom need or can use the elements demanded of Office in these environments unless they are tied into them.
  • Recovery from a computer crash can be a nightmare without a current backup of the Outlook.pst file.
  • Microsoft's tight integration between their products generates security vulnerabilities that can transfer between Microsoft products and into Windows itself.
  • In corporate environments, server backups of key files, sophisticated firewall systems and other measures can minimize these risks, but this is difficult for non-technical folks to emulate.

Winmail.dat Issues? Don't Blame the Recipient

Invisible (to Outlook users), winmail.dat attachments are generated by Outlook and other Microsoft products but affect only third-party email programs.

Licensing Issues

There may be issues with licensing and user rights:

  • Microsoft is moving towards and Office 365 to compete with Google Docs and Gmail.
  • InfoWorld reports that Outlook 2013 license terms are “draconian, obtuse — and documented incorrectly on Microsoft's own website.”
  • While Office 365 offers use on multiple computers (including Apple) it requires an annual fee and the default storage is in the cloud, NOT on your computer.
  • A monthly or annual fee (like Adobe's Creative Cloud) is attractive to the bean counters. Microsoft, like Adobe, could stop offering a stand-alone product at any time.

Other Outlook Resources

Outlook Resources contains resources for help with Outlook including backing it up, moving to or from Outlook and other helpful information.

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Obsolete Email Programs

Outlook Express & Eudora Not Recommended

Programs where development has stopped and maintenance updates are not provided are not recommended. Such programs put your computer and data at risk.

Whatever email client you choose, be sure to learn about security issues.

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All trademarks, company names or logos used on this page are the property of their respective owners.
Updated: December 24, 2015

Email software and tips for dealing with email problems.

Web-based Email

Web-based email is a cloud-based service where email stored on an external server (a remote computer “in the cloud”). Unlike email clients you no longer have control over your stored mail and unless you've downloaded it onto an email client it could disappear without warning. Be sure to use strong passwords to protect your account.

Web-based email programs have become much more commonly used as people moved away from desktop computers. The emergence of reasonably-priced laptops then "smart phones" has prompted the need for access to email while on the go.

Windows 7 didn't include a built-in email client. Microsoft offers Windows Live Mail, but other web-based email solutions are available including:

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

A Note About Webmail Weaknesses

Webmail services like Gmail, Windows Live (Hotmail) and Yahoo! have issues beyond what you experience with traditional stand-alone email clients.

‘Free’ email services like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Hotmail come at a high price: your privacy. 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. — What's wrong with free email services?

Because your mail is “in the cloud” you trade the convenience of any-where, any-time access for lack of privacy and security:

  • Your mail is “read” (including private or confidential messages and attachments) to build a profile of you for advertising and other purposes;
  • even deleted messages are retained forever;
  • the major carries caved years ago and provided back doors for the NSA;
  • all your mail is constantly available to hackers looking for accounts with weak passwords (and account recovery tests that are often based upon information you or others have posted on social media networks like Facebook); and
  • ownership of your information in the cloud is often reverted to the host company.

Something to Think About

Many corporations indicate that they are “only collecting metadata” when recording your personal information. These same companies would NEVER allow anyone to do the same with their metadata — at any price.

Gmail Changes Affect Subscription Lists

Gmail has created three new categories to sort your mail:

  • Primary;
  • Social; and
  • Promotions.

This change helps to separate the more important mail from the Social (Facebook notifications, etc.) and Promotions (bulk mail such as ads but also subscriptions, updates and more).

It is this last category that you might find problematic as it can include email subscriptions which you want, not just “junk” ads.

How to Fix It

  1. Click on the Promotions tab and select messages you wish to go into your primary mailbox.
  2. Drag the selected message onto the Primary tab.
  3. A pop-up message will ask if you wish to do this for all future messages from the addressee of the dragged message. Say “Yes.”
  4. Continue to monitor the Promotions inbox to ensure that other messages aren't getting left behind.

Alternatively, you can turn off the new tabs completely by going to the settings, click on the Inbox tab and deselect the tabs you don't want to use (e.g. Promotions) then save the changes.

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Relocated Resources

Dealing with Email Issues

The section dealing with email issues including winmail.dat, importing/exporting and email security has moved to the new Email Troubleshooting page.

Email Newsletters

The section on email newsletters has moved to the new and expanded eNews: Effective Electronic News page.

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Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

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