Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Email Software

Recommended | Outlook | Obsolete | Webmail

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

Stand-alone Email Clients

A stand-alone email client is a program on your computer that stores downloaded messages on your own computer. I do not include apps provided with your operating system (Windows 10 Mail, Apple Mail, etc.).

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

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 usually “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 wishing more control over their email.
  2. Thunderbird for home users looking for a free alternative to webmail.
  3. Postbox for high-volume users familiar with Thunderbird.

The Bat! — High Volume Users

Download The Bat!

The Bat! Professional (US$59.99) and Home (US$49.95) are both flexible, secure email programs with an internal HTML viewer (for security), advanced message handling, OpenPGP encryption and more. Continuously improving since 1998.

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! 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.

Upgrades from one major version to the other are discounted (see “Buy The Bat! Upgrade” on the purchase page).

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

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

Automated Message Handling

I am particularly impressed with the level of automated message handling.

  • 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 (e.g. on your laptop).
  • External images are blocked by default (configurable).
  • Customize each account's templates for New Message, Reply and Forward.
  • The Bat! has a mailbox analyzer that will look for consistencies in email and automatically create new folders and filters for larger volume senders.

It has taken me some time to learn to use and configure them features, but 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.

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

Editing Subject Line Cumbersome

There is no easy way to manually edit the subject line. Work-around:

  • 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

Use Internal HTML Viewer

I strongly recommend that you configure The Bat! to use its own HTML viewer rather than the using system's viewer for improved security.

View links and HTML content without launching a web browser. The Bat!'s internal viewer supports HTML 4.0 and CSS v2.0 formatting, but ignores scripts and executable code preventing viruses from launching. The Bat!'s internal HTML viewer blocks viruses that use the known HTML vulnerability of Microsoft Internet Explorer (such as IFRAME and Automatic Execution of Embedded MIME type).

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.”

Thunderbird — Home Users

Download Thunderbird

Thunderbird is a 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:

Postbox — Professional Users

Download Postbox

Postbox (US$29 per year or US$59 lifetime) is a powerful 32-bit email program for Windows 8 and 10, and macOS 10.13 and higher.

It has great features including integration with Dropbox, social media, Gmail and Google Calendar.

Postbox licenses are per user, so one license will cover any/all machine(s) you personally use, Mac or PC. If more than one person will be using Postbox, then additional copies can be purchased at a discount at our Store. — Postbox

Volume discounts start at only 2 licenses.

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Microsoft Outlook

Download 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.

Consumer use has increased significantly since Microsoft included it with Microsoft 365 and released free iOS and Android apps.

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, I neither use nor recommend Outlook. I cannot provide a decent level of support. Outlook has given me more than its share of headaches and has left a bad taste in my mouth.

I've heard from more than one IT person that makes their living supporting Outlook. Enough said.

I strongly recommend The Bat! Professional as a more secure alternative that supports many of the Outlook features including Microsoft Exchange Web Services without many of the built-in vulnerabilities suffered by Outlook (just have a look at some of the examples in Ritlabs' News).

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. Microsoft 365 provides that automatically.

Security Issues

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

  • Server backups of key files, sophisticated firewall systems and other measures can minimize these risks.
  • Unless you're working from home and tied into a work-based email service, home users may have difficulty meeting these requirements.

Prepare for Recovery

Without current backups of Outlook.pst, recovery from a computer crash can be a nightmare.

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

Microsoft moved from traditional office products (including Outlook) to Outlook.com and Microsoft 365 to compete with Google Docs and Gmail.

  • While Microsoft 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 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.

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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.
  • Pocomail and Barca (last updated 2009).
  • Outlook Express (part of Windows XP).
  • Eudora OSE was deprecated in 2013.

Recommended Alternatives

Better alternatives include my recommended email programs: The Bat, Thunderbird or Postbox. 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.
  • Pocomail and Barca can natively export address books in a number of formats but only exports mail to outdated RFC822 formats so you'll need to use one of the third-party programs. See Exporting PocoMail's mail, contacts and settings.

 

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 with it stand-alone email clients.

Anywhere, Anytime Access

Rather than downloading the email onto a single device (the desktop computer), folks wanted their emails on all their devices — anytime, anywhere access to email, even while on the go.

Cloud-based Dangers

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 your privacy for convenience.

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 their own data.

Password recovery asks for information you have probably already posted on social media.

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

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

The 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

Choose Your Email Program Carefully

PocoMail was one of the first email programs to block external images by default. Unfortunately, the viability of the email client market has declined significantly due to the popularity of “free” webmail services.

The Bat is recommended as its replacement because it is the best I could find to replace PocoMail and Barca. Thunderbird is a free alternative, but doesn't have all the security features.

“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 common local providers:

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

Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.


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RussHarvey.bc.ca/resources/mail.html
Updated: April 3, 2021