Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Email Software

The Bat!, Thunderbird, Outlook & webmail

The Bat! | Thunderbird | Outlook | Obsolete | Webmail

The Bat!, Thunderbird, and Microsoft Outlook logos

About Stand-alone 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

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 barely know enough about servers to configure their email client so they can retrieve messages from the server managing their mail.

Email clients are stand-alone applications designed to connect with an email server to download, store and manage messages on your own computer.

Independent Email Clients

Independent email clients (often called email 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

Email applications that come with a specific operating system (e.g., Windows 10 Mail, Apple Mail) differ from dedicated third-party apps because simply upgrading the operating system may remove support.

For example, Microsoft provided an email program for Vista but not Windows 7 then provided one with Windows 10.

Email Protocols


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

Because messages were routinely removed from the server, there were no issues with limits on mail storage.

This worked fine on a single computer. However, when people added a laptop or smartphone it didn't work so well.

The work-around using POP/SMTP was to have emails available on all devices, but restrict the deletion of emails 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 new messages. Sent mail remains only on the device that sent it.


Most ISPs have moved to IMAP. This allows for mail to be accessed on multiple devices at once, including sent mail for all devices. Few ISPs 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

With the emergence of Gmail, Hotmail and similar, many people began to replace their email clients with webmail, an online service that doesn't require a dedicated email client.

Because access is provided via your web browser, people no longer needed an email client (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.

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.

Dying Email Services

Many of us remember “@Home” email addresses that were used all across North America but later failed. The sale of Shaw might see that happen again for customers using mailboxes even though Rogers has promised clients that won't happen.

Emails archived on an email client would be retained while emails only on a remote server could disappear without warning. You could print important emails, but that removed the flexibility that electronic mail provides.

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The Bat! — High Volume Users

Download The Bat!

The Bat! Professional (US$59.99) is an award-winning email client recommended for high-volume users. It has been continuously improved since 1998.

The Home version (US$49.95) is for non-commercial use only and lacks support for The Bat Voyager, message base encryption, biometic authentication and hardware authentication with mail servers. See Home or Pro? for details.

Downloading The Bat!

Download | Features | Interface | Tips and tricks | Help

I recommend that you download and install the regular download unless you have a specific reason for an installer without auto-update.

Note: New major versions won't autoupdate, including version 11. Backup the older version in preparation for the upgrade or if you plan to uninstall The Bat!, even temporarily.

Designed for Security & Privacy

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! is a secure desktop email client for Windows, built to protect your correspondence against third-parties.


The Bat! protects your information through multiple encryption streams, with the option to keep all information encrypted on your 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.

Designed for Heavy Users of Email

The Bat! Pro is designed for users that manage a huge number of emails on multiple email accounts of all types. It adds message base encryption, biometric authentication as well as hardware authentication with mail servers.

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.

Automated Message Handling

The level of automated message handling is exceptional.

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.

System Requirements

The Bat! is certified for Windows 10. There are no minimum requirements for memory size or CPU speed. It runs on any Windows PC desktop and tablet platform.

About Version 11

Released in December 2023, version 11's new features include a more pleasing interface, a conversation thread view, improved attachment panel and automatic message decryption.

The Chromium-based HTML view and configurable image retrieval handle messages correctly and safely.

Manage your mail quickly and efficiently; customizable filters ensure your mail is automatically organized just how you like it. The powerful Sorting office along with other features makes The Bat! the best email application for Windows.


Tweak the main window to fit your needs. Customize the account and folder tree, the message list, the toolbar and more. Check, consolidate, manage multiple IMAP4, POP3, RSS and MAPI accounts - all your email in one place.


The calendar manager is capable of syncing with Google Calendar. To open the calendar: Shift+Control+F11.

Understanding Conversation Thread View

The newly introduced Conversation Thread View offers a swift summary of messages that share similarities. This feature provides users with a comprehensive and coherent display of email threads, making it easier to follow and manage conversations without switching between folders and accounts. Additionally, you can reply to emails without losing context and quickly navigate to previous messages.

Improved Attachment Panel

Explore the new attachment panel in The Bat! v11, which makes it easier for you to see and deal with attachments in emails. Now, you can easily save attachments to your computer, open them in another app, or check them out right in the email. The better attachment tabs let you switch between them smoothly, so finding the file you want is fast and simple.

Automatic Message Decryption

The Bat! v11 allows you to automatically decrypt messages encrypted with PGP, making it effortless for you to read and respond to confidential information. Now, you can seamlessly manage encrypted messages without the hassle of manual decryption. Moreover, our built-in S/MIME certificate manager ensures secure sending of encrypted messages, adding an extra layer of protection to your communication.

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 Issues

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.

Learn more about Gmail issues.

Editing Subject Line Cumbersome

There is no easy way to manually edit the subject line for removing a spam label added by your ISP or making the subject line more relevant to the content for future retrieval.

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

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Thunderbird — Home Users

Recommended for those with moderate email volumes

Download Thunderbird

Thunderbird is a free, powerful, easy to use, stand-alone email program that works great for those with simpler demands. Heavy email users should consider The Bat!

Thunderbird Features

Thunderbird features include:

Thunderbird 115 Made Significant Changes

Version 115 Supernova is significantly different than the previous versions including how it is laid out. In modernizing the interface, many of the familiar buttons are gone, replaced with a simplified sidebar and controls that only appear when you click on a message.

You can customize the interface to restore much of this functionality. I didn't find that process to be intuitive.

Be sure to read the release notes and system requirements before installing. The release note location changes with each release following this initial version and can be found at the bottom of the download page.

Gmail in Thunderbird

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.

Learn more about Gmail issues.

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Microsoft Outlook

I neither run or recommend Outlook so I cannot provide support.

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 enterprise users have automatic server backups of key files, sophisticated firewall systems and other measures which can minimize these risks, 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 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 including IMAP and Google's new API.

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:

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 other email programs:

More about importing and exporting email.

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Webmail Services

Webmail is a cloud-based service where emails are composed and stored on a remote computer.

People and businesses have moved away from email clients and local POP/SMTP services.

While local ISPs may provide webmail access, people have embraced larger international webmail-only services based upon better technology.

“Free” Webmail Programs

“Free” programs are seldom free. You are providing something of value in exchange:

There are plenty of so-called “free” email services, but they aren't really free. You pay with your privacy.


The fine print lets providers read everything, analyzing every email to create a profile of your personal life and selling it to advertisers.


They save your private messages and information, even after you delete it.


This opens you up to intrusive ads, spam, and phishing attacks.

Popular Webmail Programs

Be sure to frequently check the terms of service and privacy policy for any webmail program you use.

Moving Away From Webmail

If you need the convenience of webmail with privacy.

StartMail (US$59.95 per year) believes that privacy is a fundamental human right. Take back your right to communications privacy.

Features | Why StartMail? | Pricing | Privacy policy | Support

We believe that privacy is a fundamental human right. That's why we created StartMail — to protect your email from advertisers, government surveillance, and spam and put you back in control of your data.

Fastmail (US$30/$50/$90 per year). Fast, private email that's just for you.

Features | Why Fastmail? | Pricing | Privacy policy | Support

You are our customer, not our product — Fastmail works to serve you, not advertisers or anyone else. Your money gets you a solid product and all our focus and attention.

ISP Webmail

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

*Telus replaced their own webmail service with a corporate Gmail account in 2020.

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

You trade privacy for convenience when choosing free webmail services.

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 to manage your mail.

Filtering More Difficult

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. The “unread” status notifies me about new messages or those requiring action.

Multiple Labels

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 are only used to manage my accounts with those companies.

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

Moving from Gmail has proven difficult as senders often still send mail to Gmail even if they manage to start using my requested email account.

Security is More Difficult

Be sure to use strong passwords to protect your account.

By its very nature, webmail is continually online. Anyone with your password can access your webmail 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

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Updated: December 23, 2023