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.

Email software and tips for dealing with email problems.

Stand-alone Email Clients

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

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

Unfortunately, many desktop email clients are slowing or stopping development. The pickings are getting pretty slim.

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

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:

  1. The Bat for high volume users and those wishing more control over their email.
  2. Thunderbird for home users looking for a free alternative to webmail.
  3. Postbox for those looking for a simpler email program but with more features than Thunderbird.

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.

The Bat! is certified for Windows 10 but can also be installed on previous versions, starting from Windows XP. There are no minimum requirements for memory size or CPU speed. It runs on any Windows PC desktop and tablet platform.

Support for Microsoft Exchange Web Services

Beginning with version 7, The Bat supports the Exchange Web Services (EWS) protocol. This makes The Bat! a secure, customizable and cost effective email client alternative to MS Outlook.

Version 8 users can download the EWS DLLs here: 32-bit zip and 64-bit zip.

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).

AntispamSniper's Articles can help with blocking PDF spam, phishing scams and effective filtering rules.

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.”

Older Computer?

Beginning with version 8.08, the 32-bit version of The Bat! now works even under very old computers with CPUs that don't support MMX instruction set. In this case, FPU is used to copy data.

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.

Mozilla stopped developing Thunderbird in July 2012 but a reversal in this policy was announced in December 2017.

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

  • Postbox is closer to Thunderbird because it is based upon it.
  • The Bat! is extremely flexible and powerful. It supports the Exchange Web Services (EWS) protocol and doesn't have the vulnerabilities that Outlook suffers from.

EFAIL Encryption Issue

Content related to the EFAIL encryption vulnerability has been moved to the Email Issues page as it affects more than Thunderbird.

Postbox — Professional Users

Download Postbox

Postbox 5 (US$40 for a lifetime licence) is a powerful email program for Mac and Windows which provides faster response times and has great features including integration with Dropbox, social media, Gmail and Google Calendar.

Though still accessible for regular folks, Postbox 5 ($40) is angling more toward professionals and power users, with a few potent new abilities — and a higher price. A robust alternative to Apple Mail and Microsoft Outlook. — Macworld

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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.

  • 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.
  • Becky! Internet Mail (US$40.00) 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).

Older Email Programs Unsuitable

If a program is not currently maintained it runs the risk of not protecting you against new exploits. As well, it is unlikely to support the newer and more secure email retrieval protocols now used by ISPs.

Pocomail and Barca were my earlier choices for a robust email program for people and businesses with heavier demands. These programs may still work, even on Windows 10, but development has ceased (the last update was released in 2009) and there are configuration issues, particularly in 64-bit Windows.

I strongly recommend that you stop using these obsolete email programs.

The Bat is my recommended replacement. Help transferring messages.

Not Recommended

Neither Microsoft Outlook nor DreamMail are recommended.

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.

Until more recently, Outlook was not as widely used by consumers because it is both complex and wasn't aimed at consumer requirements. However, Microsoft has included it with many Office products and more recently has promoted it for online sharing using free iOS and Android applications.

I Don't Support Outlook

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.
  • Microsoft's tight integration between their products generates security vulnerabilities that can transfer between Microsoft products and into Windows itself (and vice versa).
  • In corporate environments, server backups of key files, sophisticated firewall systems and other measures can minimize these risks, but this is more difficult for home users to emulate.
  • Recovery from a computer crash can be a nightmare without a current backup of the Outlook.pst file.
  • Safe PST Backup Free Edition will automatically back these files up.
  • See Microsoft's How to automatically back up your personal folders file in Outlook.

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.

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. Support by this community is no longer available.
  • DreamMail appears to be very powerful and may provide options that are harder to implement in Thunderbird for demanding users.
  • There are concerns about the privacy and safety of user data. In 2013 Exploit Database reported a persistent cross-site scripting vulnerability.

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Obsolete Email Programs

Don't Use Unsupported Software

Programs where development and maintenance updates have ended are not recommended. Such programs put your computer and data at risk and are no longer safe to use. They should be uninstalled.

  • Windows Mail (part of Windows Vista) died with Vista on April 11, 2017. It is no longer supported.
  • Windows Live Mail (part of Windows Essentials) is no longer supported.
  • Pocomail and Barca are no longer supported and have not been updated since 2009.
  • Outlook Express is automatically installed with the obsolete Windows XP. See Importing/Exporting From Outlook Express.
  • Eudora classic, though once popular, is now unsupported and obsolete.

Better alternatives include Thunderbird (free) or Postbox (US$9.95). Whatever email client you choose, be sure to learn about security issues.

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Web-based Email


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 and tablets has prompted the need for access to email while on the go.


Web-based email is a cloud-based service where email stored on an external server (a remote computer).

Unlike traditional 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. There are other weaknesses.

More Vulnerable

Be sure to use strong passwords to protect your account. Unlike the contents on your computer, anyone with your password can access your web-mail account from anywhere in the world.

Free Webmail Programs

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

YOU are the Product

These products have several weaknesses, the most critical being your loss of privacy.

Paid Webmail Programs

You pay a fee to use these services, so you can expect better privacy. Still, be sure to check the privacy policy frequently.

  • StartMail ($59.95 per year) believes that privacy is a fundamental human right. Using StartMail, you can protect yourself against unwarranted intrusion and mass surveillance, and take back your right to communications privacy. Privacy policy.
  • FastMail ($10 per year) with a very strong privacy policy.

ISP Webmail

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

Webmail Weaknesses

Webmail services have issues beyond what you experience with traditional stand-alone email clients.

You Give Up Your Privacy

You trade the convenience of any-where, any-time access for lack of 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?

Security is More Difficult

Because your mail is “in the cloud” your mail is accessible to anyone anywhere in the world with a password.

Password recovery uses information you or others have probably posted on social media networks like Facebook.

[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

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 the servers hosting their own data.

Because your mail is stored in various locations around the world, it may be subject to laws other than your own country's.

The following ruling allows the FBI to hack computers world-wide, not just in the U.S.:

[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. — Electronic Frontier Foundation

They Own Your Information

Ownership of your information reverts to the host company (your information IS their business).

Metadata Tells a Lot About You

Many corporations indicate that they are “only collecting metadata” when recording your personal information. 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

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Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

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Updated: July 4, 2018