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 now being actively developed and is available directly from Thunderbird.net.

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 (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 is angling more toward professionals and power users. 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.

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, Thunderbird or Postbox are my recommended replacements.

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.

Outlook is Vulnerable

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.

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

I Don't Support Outlook

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

Finding Alternative Outlook 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 Outlook.com and Office 365 to compete with Google Docs and Gmail.
  • InfoWorld described Outlook 2013 license terms as draconian, obtuse — and documented incorrectly on Microsoft's own website.
  • While Office 365 offers use on multiple computers (including on Macs) 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

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

DreamMail

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.

Recommended Alternatives

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

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Web-based Email

Convenient

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.

Cloud-based

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

Webmail removes your control over your own stored mail. It could disappear without warning unless you've downloaded all your email onto a stand-alone email client.

Webmail Weaknesses

There are other weaknesses.

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. — StartMail

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 the servers hosting their own data.

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 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. — EFF

They Own Your Information

Terms of service make it difficult to move your data elsewhere. Your data IS their business.

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

Free Webmail Programs

YOU are the Product

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

Be sure to check the privacy policy frequently.

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 common local providers:

ISP storage may be insufficient if you retain all your mail online using IMAP. Shaw/Telus have only limited options.

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Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

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www.RussHarvey.bc.ca/resources/mail.html
Updated: September 5, 2018