Weekend Open Forum: What type of email client do you prefer?

By on June 8, 2012, 6:33 PM

Although desktop clients used to be the sensible choice for heavy email users, robust services such as Google's have made Web solutions completely viable. Nonetheless, after relying on Gmail for about eight years, I recently switched to a local application (Postbox). The decision came partly because I just wanted a change, but I had legitimate issues with Google's mail offering, including its sluggish POP3 fetch times, lackluster offline support, random latency fits and the occasional -- albeit forgivable -- downtime.

I always avoided local clients because Outlook made a lousy impression. It wouldn't play nice with Gmail over IMAP and it had too many useless features (useless to me, anyway). Part of the benefit of a desktop client is having more options, but that just made Outlook feel cluttered. Postbox's interface is less busy, yet there are tons more features than your typical one-size-fits-all cloud service. Having my mail locally feels faster, I don't have to worry about my password cookies expiring and offline access is as good as it gets.

Postbox isn't perfect though. While it offers superior filtering options, Gmail is smarter about handling spam without your help. Even with various filters, I still get tons of spam through my TechSpot address. It was also easier to configure mail across multiple devices when I had everything feeding into one Gmail account. I only needed one set of credentials versus four. Fortunately, this isn't an issue as I tend to use the same couple machines every day, but it might be enough to drive me back to Gmail if I switched regularly.

It's ultimately a compromise between customizability and convenience. I think I've settled on the former for now, but I wouldn't hesitate to make Gmail my primary mail hub again if my situation changed. How about you? Do you use a desktop client or Web service (or both) to access your email and why?

Thumbnail via Lichtmeister/ShutterStock

User Comments: 57

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Ranger12 Ranger12 said:

I haven't found email clients to be very useful, at least for me. Currently I don't use one on my desktop. I used outlook while in college but really using it only added one more step where something could go wrong an so I had more issues than it was worth.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I've been using Thunderbird for years... Meets all of my basic needs, had newsgroup access (which has all but died these days), and is generally very stable. I've switched to a gmail account for general purpose stuff, which I can check online, mobile, etc. I have Thunderbird grab the gmail messages, but leaves them on the server so I still have access to them through other sources, until I physically delete them through gmail's clients. Works pretty well for me being on the road constantly.

But I still also have the same ISP-based email address I've had for almost 20 years too (and it's pretty much 90% spam these days). Mostly legacy communications there, and family stuff, which is why I haven't had the heart to pull the plug on it.

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I just use a simple Firefox add-on to collect all my mail. It's good enough for me and I've never really needed anything more.

mevans336 mevans336 said:

I hated Outlook until version 2010. Outlook 2010 serves my business needs very well, but still has lousy IMAP support. I use the GMail web interface for my personal email ... but also loathe the random latency fits.

mario mario, Ex-TS Developer, said:

A few years ago I used the Gmail web app, but loading it every time I received an email or wanted to write one drove me to use Sparrow, which is a light email client originally developed for Gmail accounts but it now supports POP as of version 1.6, previously it only supported IMAP.

Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

I use a combination of web and desktop client. Everything goes through Gmail because it automates most of the spam problem, serves as cloud backup, has good search and gives me a simple way to unify three email accounts. On the other hand, for the day to day stuff, I still keep Outlook for fetching and writing email on my desktop, it feels faster, easier to multitask and I guess I'm simply used to it.

JMMD JMMD, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I use Thunderbird for my ISP account and Yahoo mail for web email.

Guest said:

Mozilla Thunderbird all day!

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

I prefer a fat client... and being that I live in an exchange environment I use Outlook. I get frustrated with Outlook, but it works for the most part. I use Evolution for my ISP related email though.

Technochicken Technochicken, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I just use Gmail. My school email is set to instantly forward to my gmail, so I don't have to worry about slow POP3 access, and my gmail is set up so it can send emails through the school's servers. I have a few other gmail accounts attached my my primary account as well, but I don't often need them. Also, I don't ever delete emails, and I don't want to store over 1gb of emails locally.

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

Windows Live Mail for the last couple of years, it manages all my accounts quite nicely.

DSP8000 DSP8000 said:

On my iMac I use Sparrow and I love it. Simply the best Gmail client. On my Linux box Thunderbird and on Win 7 Outlook 2010. Out of the 3 email clients, Sparrow is the fastest, cleanest UI and it does everything that email client should do. Outlook is quick as well as long as you don't have any AV plugins enabled and if configured as POP. IMAP still sucks. As for Thunderbird, as much as I love Open Source and freeware, simplicity and UI overhaul would do wonders for it. Mozilla definitely need to focus on usability. They are doing a great job with Firefox, but the influential design from other browsers is clearly visible.


Ivan K.

Guest said:

Outlook (best used with exchange server not imap or pop3). You can't begin to appreciate what it does until you've worked in a corporate environment, along with hundreds of other users, with hundreds of emails a day (I work in IT). It's more than an email client, it's a complete personal information manager. I've got customized rulesets to filter email to specific folders and projects, custom archiving rulesets, and a few outlook third party addons to Saleforce/Webex, customized calendaring rulesets, customized offline automated responses, customized multiple signature and email templates.

It's other strength is also in viewing/setting up meetings with other outlook users. I never really appreciated Outlook until I tried all the other thin and fat clients and tried to use them as I used outlook. I ended up getting outlook in the end because my time is money.

When you have hundreds of emails per week, and hundreds of critical business decisions to make and coordinate with other departments, Outlook is the best.

penn919 said:

I use Thunderbird for my ISP account and Yahoo mail for web email.

Same here.

Punkid said:

I've been using websites for emails since forever, always found the email clients to be extremely pathetic and useless....but lately, I found outlook to be pretty decent, it gives me problems often but still its fine. then came the android ICS email client, love it :p it works awesome and is fully functional

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Windows Live Mail for the last couple of years, it manages all my accounts quite nicely.

Same here.

Guest said:

"I found outlook to be pretty decent, it gives me problems often "

Out of curiosity, can you tell us what kind of "problems" you have often with Outlook? If it's IMAP I can understand, their implementation is not the best.

Leeky Leeky said:

I pretty much just stick to three Gmail accounts when on a computer as have all my separate email accounts added inside these accounts. I use them through my Chrome web browser rather than using an email client on my computers.

That said I'm growing increasingly concerned about not having local copies of my emails though, especially since earlier in the year Gmail customers lost their accounts and emails. So I'm going to look into running Postbox or Thunderbird at some point to make backups of all my emails on my Gmail accounts with the local files stored on my RAID.

Away from the computer, my Nokia Lumia 710 handles all of them as separate tiles on my phone's home screen. Whilst I don't have the full functionality that a proper Gmail account would give me, I find the built in email system to work very well with Windows Phone OS.

Or at least my Lumia did handle them until I killed it last night. Not sure what I'm going to replace it with yet, might go for another Lumia 710, or maybe a Lumia 900. We'll see.

Guest said:

what type of email client do I prefer to what?

Doctor John Doctor John said:

I have two Gmail accounts (one business, one personal) which have served me well for a couple of years.

Ashdude Ashdude said:

I use Outlook 2007 with Yahoo IMAP. I love all of Outlook's bells & whistles, I use them all the time. I've tried almost all of the other clients, including Postbox, and I always revert back to Outlook.

foreverzero89 said:

I have never seen the need for thunderbird or outlook. I just use the free ones, yahoo, gmail, and aol.

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

I have 2 email accounts.

My exchange account at work, and I use Hotmail as well because its Microsoft's baby and I know they will keep it running/supported.

Guest said:

opera has a very nice email client built in.

madboyv1, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I support multiple identities online so I have waaay too many emails. For myself, I have a personal domain name email, a yahoo email which I still pay for from the old days before gmail ever existed (I should stop this) and Hotmail, which was my first e-mail. I have all three of those being pulled into thunderbird. Having all my emails local and in one place without literally being in one place is very useful for me. Once every couple months I'll go to the web clients of each and clear out the emails since I don't delete them from the servers either.

Guest said:

I've been using Thunderbird for a number of years with my Gmail account. You can set up as many filters as you want, it's reliable, customizable, fast, and free! By adding the Lightning calendar extension, I've got appointments and calendaring that are at least as good as I had when I still worked in an Outlook dominated office.

Guest said:

I have many email addresses. most of the business accounts I try to use Outlook 2010 with IMAP.

None of the our domains has exchange server so outlook gives problem a lot. I have yahoo and gmail also Hotmail too. most of them for spam purposes I used them for online purchases etc. I dont like to use free web mail account for personal because Google and others Data mining Policies.

I have fan of open source software and Thunderbird. But last year I got some problems with Thunderbird imap and small bugs.

Guest said:

Thunderbird, with MinimizeToTray.

They have served me extremely well, for years, with no noticeable problem at all.

And I find its Blogs & News Feeds quite useful, too.

Guest said:

Have used Hotmail since day one and still find it simply superior to all others, including Gmail. Gmail, like Google, will always have the Big Brother element lurking in the background, while Hotmail delivers the goods with no questions asked, no expectations and the only charge a sidebar ad to view.

psycros psycros said:

I really like EM Client. It works with everything..including free Yahoo accounts! It syncs contacts in real time with Gmail and other services. The interface only has two limitations I don't much like: panels can't be moved between the left and right sidebars, and you can't control the sizes of panels (if you have 3 panels on the right bar, for example, the bar is split equally between them...there's no movable dividers and you have scrollbars in the panels that aren't fully visible). Other than that its fantastic. It looks great, supports themes (well, skins really), the toolbar is intuitive and the client is highly flexible. Unfortunately the free version is limited to two accounts and the pro version is (gulp) $50.

Ashdude Ashdude said:

I love the Mac's apps. I'm being forced to use Windows to support my gaming habit. But I'm going to be getting an iPad soon enough. Tablets are the future.


I use the email server, I check email from the server level, So I do not load anything on the compter, the safest way..

tonylukac said:

I lose email at all clients. I used to like Gmail, but its gotten so slow. I like Outlook 2007 best, which I got free at a Microsoft Technet at McCormick Place.

soldier1969 soldier1969 said:

Thunderbird for years now. Its funny how many people dont use one or know how to set one up but have been using pcs for a long time. They still go to the website(yahoo) etc then sign in to check mail, its 2012 folks move up in the world there are easier ways.

veLa veLa said:

I just use a Yahoo and a Gmail address

TS-56336 TS-56336 said:

I have Incredimail. Been using it since 2003.

Guest said:

I use Thunderbird, but only when I want to insert images into the body of an email rather than attach them. I guess I don't get why people get excited about email clients. I worked at a state government operation that used Outlook and I suppose it was OK for intra-office use but I don't need anything like it at home. The only advantage I can see is the ability to work offline. I accomplish that po' boy fashion by saving an email I want to reply to offline to my HD.

Mantrhax Mantrhax said:

Eudora, for ages

Ashdude Ashdude said:

No one else knows about Outlook's picture handling? I email photos all the time and I love to insert them into my mail. I can select multiple pictures from the insert menu and I can apply all sorts of effects to them. Usually I just resize them, but I can rotate, apply drop shadows, frames, and all sorts of color re-calibrations. It's like having Photoshop built in and since it's all inside Outlook, everything is very fast. No other email client has those features.

I've tried the jpg resize and compression plugins that come for Thunderbird and they stink.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Plain old g-mail for personal use. And Outlook at work.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I use web mail, but this did remind me of my very first e-mail account. It was through school, in 1994, so it was all text based, probably unix or something. It was all well and good, except in order to basically advance to the next page, you needed to hit CTRL-F12....which was all well and good...except for the fact that a lot of keyboards back then did not extend to F12, but stopped at F10. Including the keyboard I had at home. So if anyone sent me an e-mail back then that went over 1 page, I had to wait until I got to school to read all of it. Eventually I bought a new keyboard.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

MS Outlook has been my primary email client for as long as I can remember.

TJGeezer said:

I've been using Eudora since it's very earliest days, and I still like it's approach to the task and the way it saved messages using flexible filtering to store messages anywhere you wanted in a directory tree-style mailbox structure. Web mail labels and such aren't the same and the clients that mimic web mail, which is how Thunderbird feels to me, simply don't o the same job. Plus, I'm lazy and don't want to change how I think about email.

So I'm still using Eudora, the OSE version now. However, it hasn't been updated since the end of 2010 and I have a feeling it may not be again - a dodo that forgot to fall over. OSE is only Thunderbird anyway, just Thunderbird macro'd to the gills to look and act like Eudora... if Eudora got drunk last night and so can't help being all sluggish and out of sorts today. Macros are great for some things but, as the main user interface, they can't help being what they are: a cumulative kluge to make one thing seem like another without any sort of actual core transformation. At this point I'm only using it out of habit.

Now I have to try to say "cumulative kluge" ten time fast.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Outlook 2003 was flakey, Outlook 2007 (After SP2) was fairly good but Outlook 2010 has been the best so far for me, I like the changes they've made and it can actually handle a high volume of emails / PST files etc...

Since I work in all exchange enviroments it does pretty well if I'm honest.

Guest said:

Ever since I switched to gmail, I've been using webmail. It suits my needs the most, since due to my work I'm not home much and always have to check my mail either on the road or on some location other than home. It's easy to have all your mail online all the time.

Haven't used a mail client in the last 6 to 7 years.

Guest said:

I also use Outlook 2010 it's an expensive but fantastic piece of software. I foolishly believed the internet comments about Thunderbird so thought I'd give it a go - it's a toy and a very flaky one compared to Outlook. Don't believe the ridiculous MS haters who proliferate the web these days there's no comparison.

Guest said:

I also use Thunderbird it's a cheap but fantastic piece of software. I foolishly believed the internet comments about Outlook so thought I'd give it a go - it's an expensive toy and a very flaky one compared to Thunderbird. Don't believe the ridiculous MS brown-nosers who proliferate the web these days there's no comparison.

Guest said:

Thunderbird vs Outlook.

Thunderbird is email client only base, Outlook is a complete business class PIM.

Both are good, but saying Thunderbird has better business class "features" compared to Outlook is disingenuous. I've used both, in fact tried to use thunderbird for a year. But I found thunderbird lacking and deficient in areas of customized archiving and delivery/automated response rulesets, and third party extensions and integration.

Plus outlook is more than an email client, it's a business class development platform in and of itself. There are a ton of third party freeware and commercial software for outlook. There are only a handful of thunderbird add-ons:

If you're needs are simple, thunderbird is fine. If you work in a business environment or handle hundreds of emails, outlook is your best friend. And I know, I used to hate outlook, but realized how much more extensible this thing does compared to thunderbird.



Guest said:

What's the word? Thunderbird

I've been using Thunderbird for quite a while now and I really like it. It's very solid and has the features I need/use.

Doctor John Doctor John said:

I like Thunderbird 2 the best, because of the pods.

Never tried Outlook!

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