Why I prefer desktop email clients over web-based services

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 7, 2012
Email, Gmail, Thunderbird

With Mozilla's announcement that the company would put Thunderbird development on a backburner to concentrate on Firefox OS and other projects that it has identified as "pursue-worthy", came two user reactions. The first group was disappointed by the move, while the second not so much as they were using web-based clients exclusively already.

While I have to agree that web-based clients like Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo Mail have come a long way in past years, there are still aspects that make me want to continue using a desktop email client.

Lets take a look at the core reasons why I prefer a desktop email client over a web-based one.


I'm using multiple email accounts hosted at various providers. Most web based clients support integrating a number of email addresses using Pop3, and if you reach a limit (Gmail supports five I think) you can still forward the rest to your inbox. What this however means is that your provider has access to all of the emails that you integrate. And if the government, law enforcement or hackers get access to that one account, they get access to all of your emails in there. With desktop email clients, providers do not know about the other services that you use.

While hackers get the same access when they breach your desktop system, you have it in your hands to protect your system from that. With web-based providers, everything depends on the company that is providing you with the service.


Desktop clients give you access to your emails even if you are not online. While Google is offering a similar offline solution for Gmail, it is limited to the company's own browser Chrome at the time of writing.

With desktop email clients, you always have access to your mails provided that you are on a computer where the programs are installed on. Accessibility also comes into play when mail gets corrupted at an email provider, if it gets deleted accidentally, or if the provider stops its service completely.

Another interesting aspect is that it is still possible to use the web client if the need arises. If you are on the road and want to check mail, you can simply log into the web interface to do so.


Having control over the backup process is beneficial for many users. You can select to backup emails locally, in a network, or remotely the way you want. With online email clients, you are a passive bystander who has to cope with the provider's backup solution.

Interestingly enough, desktop users still benefit from those backup solutions in the same way that web-based email users do.

Extensions and Plugins

Developers and companies can create their own personalized solutions for desktop email clients, while they can't do the same for web-based products. And non-developers may get access to an extension repository that provides them with hundreds or even thousands of different extensions for all kinds of purposes. Want to change the layout in the client? You can do that! Encrypt all your emails? That too. Integrate a different spam filter? Yep, absolutely.

Advanced filters

You can create basic filters in most web-based email clients. But when it comes to advanced options, desktop clients provide you with more versatility. Thunderbird's filters for instance allow you to use combinations that most web-based email services do not offer. Want to automatically filter email messages from certain senders that exceed a specific size and use specified tags? Or maybe you want to automatically reply to priority emails?


There are other reasons that may not be that important, but I think they still count. I can for instance open multiple emails in tabs in the email client, do not have to spend bandwidth browsing my emails, or wait for the web-based email client to load the email. Even if the loading only takes half a second or so, it adds up.

There is also a difference when it comes to the sequence of events.  On the desktop, you can add attachments and send the email the second you have done so, while you have to wait on the web until the attachment has been uploaded to the email provider first, before the email can be send.

Plus, you can write emails offline if you want at any time, and send them the next time you go online.

What about you? Are you using web-based email, desktop email, or a mixture of the two?



Tutorials & Tips

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  1. JMGG said on January 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

    You said that Outlook isn’t your main email client, so which is your main one?

    1. BalaC said on January 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

      I think its thunderbird

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on January 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

      It is Mozilla Thunderbird.

  2. Salaam said on September 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Awesome! This actually solved my problem… what a stupid bug.

  3. Claud said on December 19, 2012 at 2:08 am

    If this is the same bug that I’ve encountered, there may be another fix: (1) hover over open Outlook item in Taskbar, cursor up to hover over Outlook window item, and right-click; (2) this should give you Restore / Move / Size / Minimize / Maximize — choose Move or Size; (3) use your cursor keys, going arbitrarily N/S/E/W, to try to move or size the Outlook window back into view. Basically, the app behaves as though it were open in a 0x0 window, or at a location that’s offscreen, and this will frequently work to resize and/or move the window. Don’t forget to close while resized/moved, so that Outlook remembers the size/position for next time.

    1. Lynda said on February 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      THANK YOU Claude!!! I could get the main window to launch but could not get any other message window to show on the desktop. You are my hero!!!!

    2. Chad said on November 20, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      Solved my issue! 6 years later and this is still problem…

    3. Ivan X said on January 21, 2021 at 4:50 pm

      Fantastic. Thank you. Size did the trick.

  4. Andrew said on October 26, 2013 at 7:06 am

    This solved my Outlook problem, too. Thank you. :)

  5. Charles said on December 7, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Thank you so much, this started happening to me today and was causing big problems. You are a life saver, I hope I can help you in some way some day.

  6. garth said on November 7, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    You are a god – thank you!

  7. Faisal said on February 9, 2015 at 10:09 am

    thanks a lot…. work like charm.. :-)

  8. Simon said on March 24, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Yah…thanks Claude. I’ve been having the same problem and tried all the suggestions…your solution was the answer. It had resized itself to a 0/0 box. Cheers

  9. Olu said on April 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Excellent post. This had me baffled even trying to accurately describe the problem. This fixed it for me.
    Thank you

  10. Coenig said on July 23, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Thanks a lot for the article. Don’t know why it happenend, don’t know how it got fixed, but it was really annoying and now it works :-)

  11. Fali said on January 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks a lot. I was facing this issue from past 3 week. I tried everything but no resolution. The issue was happening intermittently and mainly when I was changing the display of screen ( as i use 2 monitors). The only option i had was to do system restore. But thanks to you.

    1. MIki said on January 10, 2019 at 11:54 am

      I’ve been tried to sole this problem for 12hours. Your comment about changing the display of screen helped me a lot!! Thanks!!

  12. Christina said on January 20, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you…don’t know why this happened but your instructions helped me fix it. Running Windows 10 and office pro 2007

  13. Oz said on July 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Great tip! Thanks!

  14. Tracy said on September 1, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Worked for me, too – thank you!!!

  15. shawn said on September 9, 2016 at 10:25 am

    It’s Worked for me, too
    thank you very much!

  16. Jari said on October 31, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I had a similar issue with Outlook 2013 on Windows 10 and this helped me to fix it. Thank you very much!

  17. Michel H said on November 30, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Thank you so much. Solved!
    Considering you published this in 2012, incredible not been debugged by Microsoft.
    Thank you again. M

  18. Ziad Bitar said on January 9, 2017 at 2:00 am

    This problem was faced by only one user logging to TS 2008 r2 using outlook 2010.The issue was resolved.


  19. Anonymous said on February 15, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Great tip. Thank you!!!! If it helps, I had to use the Control Key and the arrow keys at the same time to bring my window back into view. Worked like a charm.

  20. Rochelle said on March 6, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Thank you, this worked !!!!

  21. anom1234 said on May 20, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    Man, you are a fucking god. Thanks a lot, what an annoying bug!!

  22. JC said on October 12, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Awesome, this post solved the issue. Many thanks!

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