Why I'm Still Using A Software Email Client

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 4, 2008
Updated • Mar 23, 2014
Email, Thunderbird

The question why I'm still using an email client came up recently in an article about adding Gmail properly to a software email client. That's actually a pretty good question; Online email services have evolved in the last years. They provide so much storage space that most users would never be able to fill that space in their entire life. They have introduced features and filters to make the email client more secure but still lack a few that are essential for some users.

When we look at the requirements we see the following. An online email service requires an online connection which might not always be a given, either because of the location of the user or a problem with it. It might also be that the email service itself is down and not offering services. All those cases would mean that it would be impossible to read or send emails.

A local client does not have these restrictions as it stores all emails locally which ensures access even without Internet connection. It requires on the other hand that one (or the few) computer(s) to work with.

I think it's pretty much a matter of personal taste. I prefer to have personal data close to me, as silly as it may sound. If something unforeseen happens I can still access my data provided I took care of creating backups and stuff like that.

If the online provider decides to shut down, gets hacked, or god beware, ban you, you may lose access to all of your emails and contacts if you have not created regular backups.

You may also be able to use additional tools and programs in combination with your email client which you may not be able to use when you are using web mail.

Security is another aspect that may be worth investigating. Many email service providers like Yahoo or Google use the email account as verification for various services on other parts of their sites.

Google users can use Google Analytics, Adsense, Adwords, Google Talk and several other services all with that one account. This increases the chance of losing the account due to an attack. Could be phishing, could be an exploit that makes use of the fact that you can be still logged into your Google account even if you closed the mail application.

Just look at the top right of a Google search form. Do you see your email address listed there? If yes you are still logged in. Attackers have way more possibilities to attack the online accounts than local ones.

It's on the other hand very convenient to use online accounts. Being able to log in from anywhere is a huge selling point. The question is if this feature is needed by many users. I for one use only my main computer and my laptop to check emails. If the need would arise for an online account I would still want to have all my mail on my own computer even if I would use an online service from time to time.

Which leads to the question: What about you? Are you using email clients or online email services? Let me know.


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  1. Asaad Saad said on November 5, 2008 at 6:20 am

    I love my portable Thunderbird..

  2. Yggdrazil said on November 4, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Hey folks, ever heard about zenbe?
    http://www.zenbe.com this awesome mailclient solve all issues!
    I have like 5 mailaccounts checked in one inbox, i can answer from a dedicated mailadress or the one i received the mail in. Tagg mails, to different folders automaticly and a lot of other nice features. check it out, it solves ALL the issues mentioned here.


    PS (i am still using my exchange server, but it will be closed down pretty soon)

  3. garbanzo said on November 4, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    i have several gmail accounts. i considered moving focus to thunderbird about a month ago, but the idea of downloading and saving tens of thousands of messages onto my hard drive was not appealing. also, i access the same accounts from several locations, so downoading them to my computer isn’t practical. also, i’d rather my emails be backed up on several google servers than just on my little hard drive – they’re less likely to go away :)

    i’ve never had any trouble with gmail. it’s never been down for me. and there are so many open networks around me that i have never lacked internet access. for me, it’s webmail all the way…

  4. LethAL said on November 4, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Right now, I’m all web-based. If any clients start doing a *good* implementation of conversation view, I’ll definitely switch.

    With tracemonkey/jit, gmail is nearly as fast as a desktop client anyway.

  5. Andreas said on November 4, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Since I’ve got a corp Exchange server, I feel like it’s the best thing to use Outlook 2k7. But if anyone has hints on how to get my mail to my gmail as well… that would be awesome!

  6. Nagungo said on November 4, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    ‘Both’ here for me as well. I use gmail on my desktop which is always connected to the internet and Apple Mail on my laptop since I occasionally find myself without an internet connection.

  7. Moose said on November 4, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    As above, I’m another ‘Both’ – but not via the “Leave messages on server” POP3 option… Too messy for me keeping things in sync.

    Gmail has full IMAP support – a much better choice than using it with POP3/SMTP if you’re going to want to access it from multiple locations IMHO. Worth looking into if you’re using it with Thunderbird (or any other mail client with decent IMAP support).

  8. Martin said on November 4, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    I never said that I’m not using web mail at all. I see the advantages like being able to access it from anywhere but I also see the advantages of email clients.

  9. Rick said on November 4, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    I’m using webbased Gmail to be able to easily access and manage my mail everywhere (even on my cellphone). I think this is a major advantage, because before using gmail I was using the pop3 address from my ISP. Even when using ‘leave mail on server’ some sent mail was only located on the pc where I sent it. Sometimes I needed to review these sent mails and they were ‘lost’. Very annoying. So since 2 years I’m only using webbased gmail.

    Once every 1 or 2 weeks I download all messages using pop3 with Thunderbird for backup purposes. So I think my mail archive is quite safe. Only risk is when someone ‘hacks’ my account/password or when forgetting to logout on a public pc that person has access to all my mails… stays a bit a concern.

  10. Thinker said on November 4, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    I don’t use email client for years. You say, that you can access your emails even when offline. I can access my emails with mobile phone anywhere, despite that fact, I read them on my PC. You talk about security – but your windows can be infected with malware scanning your email client :) Your email client can have a security issue also. So I think, that’s really a matter of time, when most people will switch to online email services. And many newbie users just can’t figure out, how to setup email client ;)

  11. Jojo said on November 4, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    I use both. I have Outlook 2007, 2 Gmails, 1 inbox.com, 1 mail.com and 1 safe-mail.net. If you count the disposable addresses I have through spamex.com, then I have another 200 or so.

    Most of my email is on the disposable addresses which forward into the safe-mail.net account. I’ve toyed with the idea of routing them into Outlook instead but don’t see any real need to do so.

  12. Bodi said on November 4, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Just for the record, I use both. I currently use 3 email accounts, that is, one for university, one for job, and one for personal issues.

    The two first ones are configured on my MS Outlook, but the personal one is from Gmail and I prefer to check it online, specially for the conversations feature that Gmail has and Outlook doesn’t. That’s a fantastic way to order your email and only Gmail provides that, so I that’s the main reason for me not to use Outlook on Gmail.

  13. Johan Bakken said on November 4, 2008 at 11:48 am

    My favorite Gmail feature: The spam filter.

    I never get any spam in my inbox, and no good emails end up in my inbox.

  14. WCS.Tony said on November 4, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Hi Martin

    Why not use BOTH?

    I have many, many email accounts and have used Outlook (or Outlook Express which I tend to use the most) to collate, manage and store them all.

    This gives you the best of all worlds:
    • My emails are available off line and I can back them up to DVD.
    • The same emails are still available online in Yahoo or GMAIL, from any PC on the web.
    • A central, global, username list.
    • One place to search for any old emails.
    • One place to check for any new emails received.
    • I can reply to any email in Outlook Express and select which email I am sending from.

    All you have to do is add each email account details to your email client.
    Details of the mail servers and other settings are widely available online for all mail services.
    The trick is to make sure that you do not remove the messages from the server.

    Most email clients remove the message from the email server, by default, once you have downloaded it.
    This is because in the old days you had a slow phone link and your email service provider only gave you a few megabytes. After that storage was full all your new emails bounced!
    But nowadays free services like Yahoo or GMAIL give you loads and loads of Gigabytes or in some cases unlimited storage. USE IT!


  15. Noel said on November 4, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Article very much makes sense. Taking into account recent outages with Gmail, I have also considering this option but I have multiple accounts and I wish to respond to emails of certain account from the same ‘sender’ mail-id. I am not too sure if Outlook can do it. Planning to give a try when I get some spare time.
    In nutshell, agree with your opinions, currently using online email, soon will switch over to a client, mostly Outlook (as I have paid for it;)

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