How do you read your email?

Daniel Pataki
Mar 31, 2009
Updated • May 25, 2017

We have learned a lot about you guys in the past couple of weeks, and I think the following question will become my favorite so far.

Productive emailing can be a very rewarding experience that saves you  a lot of time, and maybe some of you have some secret email management skills that can benefit us all.

Basically what I am asking this time is the following: do you use POP3, IMAP, or webmail, or maybe even something else? POP is the "oldschool" way of doing things.

You download the messages from the server, but you are essentially making a copy of your real inbox on the server, the message structure, messages, etc are not changed on the server, no matter what you do in your email client (Outlook, Thunderbird, etc).

IMAP is the method of directly accessing your server real-time from different applications. If you delete an email from your client (Outlook, mobile email apps, Thunderbird supports IMAP as well) you delete it from your server too, and vice-versa. Webmail of course means accessing a web interface  like the ones offered by services such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail and all the others.

There are many ways to manage email using any of these methods, but which do you think is best?

POP is great for managing emails as tasks, and to keep backups, in fact, I think it is the most productive, but since it doesn't modify your server too, it means your server will be a mess. IMAP is great for not doing double work, but is at times a bit inflexible and harder to use if you also want advanced features like labels, tags, folders, etc.

Webmail is probably a mixture of the two if you have a good interface like Gmail. So which do you prefer, how do you manage your email, and what are the tools that you use for that?

How do you read your email?
Article Name
How do you read your email?
Which method of accessing your email accounts do you prefer and why? Do you prefer Pop3, IMAP, or accessing web email services such as Gmail?
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  1. g said on April 27, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    For personal use, I have gmail.

    For my users, I’ve setup RPCoHTTPS access to Exchange for Outlook.

  2. Tobey said on April 2, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Pop3, leaving messages on server as a “backup”.

  3. cristiano007 said on April 1, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    I read everything in my main Gmail account, all POP3. I have 2 Gmail (one private, one public), my home ISP account, Yahoo, Hotmail and my job’s account. I filter each account to a different label (yahoo, hotmail, etc). Only thing missing is no option to change the check frequency, sometimes I have to check manually…

  4. Psjentje said on April 1, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Gmail since they started and can’t live without it anymore

  5. Hartza said on April 1, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I have used eudora since 1997 with POP3. At early days I run it from floppy drive , now days from usb drive. Every year I make message folder to archive old messages at edora.
    Home PC will backup it automatically when connected..

  6. Dani said on April 1, 2009 at 9:49 am

    I use Gmail on the web interface from home, work, and mobile. I’ve used POP3 before Gmail and before broadband, so lack of knowledge is not the case. I also tried IMAP on Gmail as soon as it became available but for several reasons I went back to the web interface.

  7. AlbinoAsian said on April 1, 2009 at 4:59 am

    IMAP for me in thunderbird,
    accessing GMAIL and personal accounts.

    I have thunderbird set to keep local copies, so that way I can still access the old emails without a connection. That was one thing that stopped me using IMAP before, but then I realized alot can be tweaked / changed.

    now just waiting for Microsoft to add IMAP support to hotmail ;)

  8. Zim said on April 1, 2009 at 2:20 am

    I used POP3 till I switched to GMail. Now I use the web interface and it’s far enough for me: filters, search, rich formatting, attachments, drafts. Even offline access.

  9. Max said on April 1, 2009 at 1:58 am

    When I’m on the go I use IMAP as much as possible (Gmail on my iPhone) and at home I just open a tab with and check that way.

  10. Diablo1123 said on April 1, 2009 at 1:17 am

    POP3, Thunderbird

    Seems to be more straightforward

  11. Joe Anderson said on April 1, 2009 at 12:21 am


    Thunderbird for my laptop
    Evolution for my desktop
    Apple Mail for my iPhone
    Gmail when on the move without a phone signal!

    1. g955 said on October 1, 2010 at 10:54 pm

      “Gmail when on the move without a phone signal!”

      You mentioned this and with IMAP and would like to find out more. What email client are you using and how do you enforce emails to stay on the phone for reading w/o a connection? I’ve been searching the answer for this for some time.

      I was using pop and switch over to IMAP for gmail. Its fast, but the lack of having emails saved for reading w/o connectivity is thinking i need to go back to pop unless i can figure out what is happening.

  12. stamba said on March 31, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    I’m using POP3 and Webmail, but mostly POP3. I use Webmail only when my laptop isn’t with me.
    I download e-mails, because I find it troublesome to be constantly loged-in webmail and clicking refresh every now and then.
    With POP3, I keep Thunderbird open, and I get notified when e-mails are received.

  13. Votre said on March 31, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    I mostly use POP3, but will always to use IMAP provided it is supported by the mail host. Not enough hosts do.

    I use webmail only out of necessity, either when I’m on the road; or to check various GMail “junk boxes” I’ve created.

  14. noneck said on March 31, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    I push/forward everything(Work Email, Personal Sites, ETC) to matching Gmail IMAP accounts. From there I can get pretty much everything with my G1/Laptops/PCs. The reason I do this is to use Google’s SPAM Protection and Labels.

  15. Guido said on March 31, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Since one month ago i have completely turn to Gmail. I cant deny that the appearance influenced me a little (especially after the addition of themes) but what really made me became a Gmail user for all my mailing needs was the addition of some the new experimental features you can found in the Labs section, especially the Off line Gmail (that allows me to use Gmail as any other mail managing application, but with the good looks of Gmail) and Multiple In boxes (since it allows me to read my Gmail and Hotmail accounts at the same time). I found especially useful the Flaky Connection mode.

  16. Heidi Cool said on March 31, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Right now I’m just using Gmail. At my last job I was using pop and leaving copies on the server so that I could access those through the Web if I was at home. Many people I know swear by IMAP for syncing. I tried that at work as well, but it didn’t sync deletions properly. I figured it was just a configuration issue, but at the time I was uber busy so I just switched back to POP rather than tinkering with it.

    If I need to do something like send an HTML email I’ll use Thunderbird which I can connect to my Gmail account easily enough, but I rarely need it.

    I think I like the ease of Gmail because I can get to it anywhere from any computer. Reminds me of the old days when I’d telnet to a shell account to read my mail in PINE. I just don’t have to worry about which messages I downloaded to which computer, where I replied from etc.

  17. Dante said on March 31, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Strictly webmails. I’m too lazy to download the mail to my PC’s. And anything sensitive is encrypted or re-encrypted by me. I use a group of webmails to receive email – unique email address to each vendor so I know who’s spamming. Than foward the ones I want to a central webmail, encrypted. My PC’s are test beds and goes down frequently. Pain in the rear to constantly restore email et al.

  18. Str187 said on March 31, 2009 at 6:21 pm


    via my G1 powered by Android =)

  19. TJ Draper said on March 31, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Yeah, I don’t know what people have against IMAP. My phone only connects via AT&T’s Edge network (no 3G) and IMAP works great! If IMAP can be used well on the doggy slow Edge network I would think IMAP can be used anywhere!

  20. Rarst said on March 31, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Ehm, what’s all that IMAP bashing?

    I had recently made effort to consolidate my email account under single address on gmail and switched from POP3 to IMAP.

    IMAP is extremely fast, bandwidth friendly (I can connect from N810 while away from computers) and “filter > tag > IMAP folder” chain simplifies a lot of things.

  21. Emil said on March 31, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    For those that use Thunderbird and need Yahoo POP access, there is a plugin called “Webmail” that lets you access Yahoo through POP3.


    P.S. Perhaps Ghacks should write about this one :D

  22. shane said on March 31, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    I am constantly logged into my gmail account and use POP3 to access my work email and a second gmail account.

    I also use the gmail Labs’ tasks feature a lot.

    What I find most useful about gmail is labels and forwarding features. I have certain emails forwarded to my mobile phone and others emails labeled according to importance, etc.

    I archive everything because I never know when I may need to reference them again.

  23. Sasa Stefanovic said on March 31, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    I’m preferring web mail for personal e-mail, and IMAP for businesses. And ofcourse all webmail is in my gmail account. Long live google ! :)

  24. Daniel Pataki said on March 31, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    It’s interesting what you all say about POP, most of you prefer it. I actually prefer it as well, the reason I don’t use it, is that webmail can be accessed from anywhere, and I don’t like backing up my mail every time I do a system reinstall.

    I find IMAP almost useful, but it’s very slow, clunky and badly implemented in all the software I’ve seen.

    I’ll try and go back to POP based on your comments, let’s see how it goes :)

    @ Roman ShaRP
    We read minds :)

  25. Haribo said on March 31, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Gmail account in Thunderbird using POP3, mainly to keep history.
    Also Gmail online when I’m out …

  26. Danny said on March 31, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I prefer POP3 too and I use Thunderbird Portable as my client so I can access my inbox in any Windows PC, especially those with limited or no internet connection. I’m so glad that Hotmail has followed GMail and enabled POP3 access, and I hope Yahoo would re-enable it for free users (a big sore point since I used to use Yahoo Mail exclusively).

  27. Emil said on March 31, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    I use POP3, since I want all my emails to be downloaded on my PC, and I also check the option to delete the messages from the server, meaning the only copy of the email is on my computer.

    This is for security reasons, since I don’t want the risk of someone to get all my emails if my password is phished or if the web server itself has some vulnerebilities.

    So, IMAP in this case is the most insecure thing to use.

  28. Jf said on March 31, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I use gmail primarily because of the integrated chat and colaborative documents features. Gmail also allows for remote access from POP3, however, so I have a solitary, old computer that runs only anti-virus and Thunderbird just logging my email incase the server tanks or I get restricted from webmail access in the future. This is also in conjunction with the offline option Gmail provides through LABs.

  29. TJ Draper said on March 31, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    IMAP is the ONLY way to go… well for me anyway. I use one computer when I’m at work, my laptop when I’m at home or anywhere else, and my phone when I’m on the go. IMAP keeps everything in sync. I can sort, organize, flag, delete etc. from any of the places where I might want to manage my email.

  30. Pietzki said on March 31, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    I use pop3 as well.. I don’t care that my actual hotmail, gmail and internet provider inboxes get messy, because I never use them. I just use windows live mail on my laptop, and also read my mails on my iPhone..

  31. Roman ShaRP said on March 31, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    I prefer POP3.

    Webmail when
    – checking work mail from home (Roundcube – nice webmail solution)
    – deleting from my personal accounts huge attachments sent by some reckless users.

    I didn’t develop any special skills, I think it’s quite a hard task to develop good structure for mails or files – for example, folder structure to handy manage different projects files. I suppose you will not want to have SVN local copy of ~6400 files and 67Mbs in the same folder with all other project documents you want to back up or sync daily.

    Р.S. How did you guess that today I’m sorting and deleting my old emails? :)

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