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.
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.
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?
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