Tag: email services

Should we be managing multiple email accounts?

Windows Live Mail client-based email interface

Multiple email accounts may be beneficial to your privacy and work-life balance.

Some of us may find it convenient to handle all of our email through one account. The advantages that are often seen include dealing with one inbox and sending from one account.

But we are increasingly entering a world where we have to deal with multiple email accounts.

Why run multiple email accounts?

One reason this is becoming important is to keep business and private email separate. Here, it may be about preserving a separate business and social persona, or simply to delineate your time between home and work activity. Similarly, the separate email address for business / work email is an advantage in preserving a professional appearance.

As well, the correspondence associated with your personal email address that you maintain yourself isn’t subject to the same kind of legal scrutiny that the correspondence associated with your business email address would be subject to. This is important if your workplace or business is to change hands or is a party to legal action of any sort.

People who have a public-facing business life such as politicians or celebrities will maintain a public-facing email address to maintain an email correspondence consistent with that public-facing role. This is becoming more important where people in the public eye are becoming more vulnerable to “dirt-digging” – the practice of trawling for any information to discredit one’s reputation.

This practice is also becoming important with the emails we “tie” with various social-network presences. Here, we may want to operate a professional-looking persona on the public-facing social-media profiles while keeping a private persona that you have on your personal social-media profiles.

The situation extends to where we have our email address on material that the public have easy access to, whether it’s that notice on the church noticeboard or our entry on that petition.

Those of us who engage in online dating are having to find that maintaining a separate email address for use with dating apps and Websites gives us greater control over what potential suitors know about us. It may also offer a chance to control when they can contact us while keeping this life private from family or work.

Account types list in the Add Account option including option to add POP3 or IMAP4 accounts

It also applies to businesses and organisations who maintain a public-facing email address that is written on the public-facing material. This keeps a professional appearance and keeps your staff’s business and private email more private. Similarly, you can maintain multiple email address for particular job descriptions or workflow requirements.

Conversely, some of us maintain a separate email address that we give to marketers or online email newsletters as a crude method of spam control. Similarly, separate email addresses are being seen as important as a failover measure should one email server crash or as a security verification means for email services.

How is this achieved?

Who will provide the email inboxes

email settings in Samsung Android email app

Add Account option in email settings on Android (Samsung) email app

Your workplace will give you an email address that is tied to your tenure with that employer. The provision of a tied email address will also apply for most college students or staff who have access to college IT resources. If you run a small business or other organisation with a Web presence and own domain name, your Webhost or domain name provider will offer at least one email inbox under the main domain name you purchased.

Most ISPs or telcos will provide you with at least one email inbox as part of your Internet-service deal. It will be something that is very common with fixed-line Internet service especially from major providers.

Of course, there are the Webmail providers like Outlook.com and Gmail who will provide you at least one email address for free. It also includes the secure email hosts who provide a secure user experience at a premium price.

Now we are seeing the rise of dedicated service providers who provide email inboxes as their main business. Such providers will offer Web-based or standard client-based access to these mailboxes.

What to look for

Samsung Android email app account types

Account types offered by the Samsung Android email app

A feature I consider very important for email accounts is that they support multiple-device access and full “on-the-road” use. Typically it would mean use of a major Webmail host or a host that implements “hosted Exchange” or IMAP4 email protocols. This is important where we use a mobile device or secondary laptop computer to work our emails and want to work our email from anywhere.

You may find that a Webmail interface that allows the operation of multiple accounts from competing services may come in handy if you are using shared computers or public computing facilities.

How do you handle the multiple email inboxes

Different users may manage their email from multiple accounts using one of two paths. One is to use a single interface for all of the email accounts, with the other being to use different interfaces for different accounts.

It may include having all your personal email accounts operated with one interface like a Webmail interface while your work or business email accounts are operated with another interface like a business-optimised email client.

One email interface for all accounts

Most email interfaces, whether Web-based or client-based, will support the operation of multiple email accounts. In this case, using the one interface will underscore the idea of going to one email interface for all of your email activity.

Your email interface will have an option in its account-management settings to add or delete email accounts. Most of the current interfaces will have a “quick-setup” routine for the popular Webmail providers; and will have a setup option for accounts using Microsoft Exchange, POP3 or IMAP4 accounts.

Receiving email

The user experience for reading your email will have separate inboxes for each of the accounts you manage. You may also find that some of the email interfaces like the GMail Web interface may offer a combined-inbox view for all of your email accounts with better interfaces using visual clues to differentiate each account.

Sending email

Should you send an email, you will be asked to choose which account you use to send your email via.

On some email interfaces where you choose the account you are operating at the moment like Windows 10’s Mail app, the account you are operating would be the one you send your email via. Other interfaces may require you to determine which account you send the email from when you click the “Send” button. As well, most of these interfaces may offer a default-account setting for new email, with the option to override this when you compose your new message.

The default behaviour for replying and forwarding would be to use the email service you received the email via for sending the replies or forwarding the email.

Your contacts list

Of course the contact list kept in your email interface will, in most cases, be shared amongst all of the accounts you operate.

Different email interfaces for different accounts

On the other hand, some of us may choose to operate each inbox with its own interface setup. This may be due to an email client not handling multiple inboxes how we want it or simply to delineate the operation of each inbox as a separate task.

This is a simple task with operating each interface with its own account. You will have to copy across contact details you want to use across multiple accounts if you operate them with separate interfaces.

A combination of this situation and the former situation will apply if you choose to operate some accounts with one interface and others with another interface. This is a useful practice for those of us who want that “church and state” separation between business and personal or public and private email activity.


Operating multiple email accounts may come in to play as a measure to protect your privacy and manage our email inbox properly.

Google brings forward a feature that ends email remorse


Compose Email or New Email form

Sometimes you may wish you haven’t sent that email

Now you can avoid email sender’s remorse with Gmail’s ‘Undo Send’ feature | Naked Security (Sophos blog)

My Comments

You end up sending that misspelled email to your boss or click “Reply All” instead of “Reply” when you send that reply. Or a late Friday night alone with some music playing on the stereo and a half-empty bottle of whiskey beside you means that you type out that inappropriate email to that former love interest. These can lead to situations where the email you sent can have embarrassing or disastrous consequences.

Google has now integrated a “delayed sending” feature in to the GMail service so that you can opt to cancel sending that email. Here, once you enable this feature, you can specify a certain amount of time to wait before actually sending that email. This enables a “Cancel Send” button which takes the email out of the Outbox so it isn’t on its embarrassing way and would cope with situations like misspelt or misaddressed messages or “half-the-facts” situations. This is another feature that Google dabbled with in their labs to beat the “I wish I didn’t send that” blues and they rolled this in to production GMail deployments.

The previous feature they worked on was a CAPTCHA setup that would come in to play when it is the late evening. Here, you would have to solve a maths equation before you could send out that email, as a way of assessing whether you had a bit too much to drink and were about to send that drunken email. But they could extend this functionality to cope with the drunk email by having a user-selectable option to hold all emails that you send during a certain time window like 10pm-6am on Friday and Saturday nights for a longer time or until the next day.

This can easily be implemented in email client software as well as Webmail setups so you don’t have to use GMail to have these features. But Google is the main email service provider who is targeting the issue of sender’s remorse by providing the delay options.

Microsoft gives street-cred to the Hotmail service by relaunching as Outlook.com


Microsoft goes cold on Hotmail as it rolls out Outlook.com | The Australian

Outlook.com preview: Microsoft reinvents its online email offerings | Engadget

Microsoft previews Hotmail successor, Outlook.com |CNet



Home Page


My Comments

Microsoft has launched a brand-new consumer webmail service called Outlook.com which is built from ground zero but to be an improved experience compared to the typical Hotmail or Live Webmail user experiences.

It is intended to answer Google’s Gmail.com by providing that same clean user experience rather than the cheesy look that Hotmail and Yahoo Mail were known for. This was where there were plenty of gaudy targeted ads including TV-commercial “video ads”. Instead, there will be less space devoted to ads and there wont be those TV commercials. Similarly the user interface will also have a “Metro” look similar to the Windows 8 touch-screen user interface.

New users would be assigned an email address with the Outlook.com domain rather than the Hotmail.com which is, in some areas, is treated with disgust. As well, they would get a virtually-unlimited Inbox and 7Gb SkyDrive storage,

Existing Hotmail and Live users can upgrade to the new user interface but would have to preserve their current email address, not just for continuity’s sake but so that other Microsoft Live ecosystem services that they are part of still work. This is because these haven’t been migrated to the new domain name. Of course, there will be a question raised about whether Microsoft will cease the Hotmail service or run it side-by-side with the option to use the new user experience or fully merge to an Outlook.com account.

One key drawcard with the new Outlook.com service is its Social Web integration where you can work Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Gmail contacts from this service. You also have “one-click” access to these services so you can post or share material to these social networks. There is work in progress with integrating Skype in to the service so you can start a Skype videocall from your Outlook.com session.

One improvement I see of this is an attempt to work over an “old-dog” Webmail service in a manner to make it fresh to today’s expectations and throw away the cheesy look of yesteryear.

Email Essentials- 2 Tasks and Tips

In the first article of this series, I talked about the two different classes of email interface – the client-based interface and the Webmail which is the Web-based interface.

Then I talked about the different folders and views that are part of an email user interface such as the Inbox, Outbox and the Sent Items folder and the Unread Items and Starred Items / Flagged Items view.

Now I will be talking about the basic tasks associated with using email such as reading new email and sending out email. This will also include extra tips to get the most of your email.


Sending a new email

  1. If you are sending a new email, you just click on “Compose”, “New Message” or “New Email”. It may be a button with an envelope and a + symbol on it. This gives you a blank form to work with.

    Compose Email or New Email form

    Compose Email or New Email form

  2. You enter the email address of the correspondent or, in most cases, their name if you have the correspondent in your Contacts list, in to the “To” area.
  3. You can add extra email correspondents if you intend to send it to other people. As well, you can add other email correspondents in to the “Cc” field which stands for “Courtesy Copy” or “Carbon Copy”. There is also a “Bcc” field where you can enter a correspondent’s email address or name but the correspondents who are in the “To” or “Cc” fields don’t see the fact that you sent a copy to the “Bcc” correspondents.
  4. Then you enter the subject of the email in the “Subject” field. It is a good practice to use this so that the correspondent can know what the email they are receiving is all about.
  5. Subsequently you write the text of your message in the large “Message” field.
    In most email user-interfaces, you have the ability to vary the way your text looks using the formatting buttons typically located above the message form. Here, you could do this before you type the message or select the text you want to modify and use these buttons to modify the look.
    As you work, the email will be held in the Drafts folder and, with some email interfaces, you may be required to expressly save or delete the email if you close it.
  6. When you are satisfied with the message you are to send, click the “Send” button. The message will appear in the Outbox as it is being sent, then will appear in the Sent Items folder once it is sent.

Reading an email

This task is the simplest to do in that you just visit your Inbox and click on emails that you want to read.

New emails that haven’t been read will typically appear in bold and some email user interfaces will provide a view or filter that shows only the new emails.

You can mark important emails as “starred” or “flagged” as a way of bookmarking them for later reference. When you need to come back to them again, you select the “Starred Items” or “Flagged Items” view to see just these emails in your Inbox,

Replying to an email or sending the email to someone else

  1. When you read an email and want to reply to it, you just click the “Reply” button. On the other hand, if you just need to send it to someone else, you just click the “Forward” button. The “Reply All” inserts the addresses that a multi-destination email was sent to in to the “To” line and is best used if you really intended the contents of your reply to be seen by the other correspondents.

    Reply and Forward buttons

    Reply and Forward buttons

  2. You will see a “new-email” form with the text of the original message set in a manner to identify it as that. The Subject will be the same but with “Re:” in the case of a reply or “Fw:” in the case of a forwarded message. The cursor will be position in a blank space above this text.
    As well, the name or email of the sender will be placed in the “To: field” of this message if you are replying to the email.
  3. Here, you write the text of your reply or explanatory text for the forwarded email. The process for sending this email will be the same as for a new email.

Deleting emails

When you delete an email in most email user interfaces, it will be moved to a “Deleted Items” or “Trash” folder and won’t appear in your Inbox. You can come back to that email or move it back to your Inbox.

But when you delete emails from the “Deleted Items” folder, they will be gone for good. Similarly, if you click on an option to “Empty Deleted Items”, all the emails in this folder will be gone for good.

Similarly, there is an option to permanently delete an email from the system when you see it in the inbox. This may be in the form of selecting the email and choosing the “Delete permanently” option or, with most desktop email clients, selecting the email and then pressing Shift and Delete on the keyboard at the same time.

Printing out an email

If you want hard copy of your email, there are different ways to go about it depending on the email user-interface you are using.

If you are using a client-based email interface, you just simply view the email then select the print option in your email client. This typically would be done by clicking “File-Print” or by pressing CtrlP / CommandP on your keyboard; then selecting the printer you normally use then clicking the “Print” button.

For Webmail users, they just look for a “Print” option on their Web-based user interface which will provide the email in a printable form without any extra display clutter such as columns, banner ads, etc. Then, depending on the interface, you will start the print process by clicking a “Print” option on the printable view.

Some Webmail interfaces may immediately cause the browser to show the printout user interface so you can start the print process. But there are some other Webmail user interfaces that work properly with modern Web browsers by properly setting out the email for printing when you start printing using the Web browser’s print command.

Junk-mail filtering

Most Web and desktop email interfaces use a “junk-mail” filter function which keeps junk email a.k.a. spam out of your inbox. Typically they use one of varying algorithms to determine if the email is junk or not and, if it is junk, the interface will direct the email to a “junk-mail” folder.

Here, you can override this setting for particular contacts that you deal with by using a method specific to the interface. In most client-based interfaces, this may require you to right-click /Ctrl+click the email address and select “mark as safe”, “mark as trusted” or a similar option for that address.

As well, it may be worth checking this Junk Mail folder if you find that the business email you were expecting had not shown up in your Inbox when you were expecting it.


Using email in conjunction with instant-messaging, mobile-phone texting or social networks

Some of you may catch on to instant-messaging programs, social-network messaging functions or mobile-phone texting services and forget that email does exist. Here you may become tempted to write longer messages fit for email services using these services; and I have covered this topic on this site previously as I have had to help users who were wanting to take material in their conversations further such as to prepare legal release documents.

But the email still has its role even if you use these services as your online communications tool. Most of the instant-messaging systems and social networks don’t have a way of taking the text of a message further than the conversation you have with your correspondent. This may be important if you want the message to be printed or used as part of a document for example.

Here, you need to make sure that you know the latest email address of your regular correspondents that you talk to on Skype, Facebook or Windows Live Messenger; and have these addresses in your email interface’s Contacts List / address book. Then, if you want to pass information that is to be taken further than the conversation you have in this application, you send that information using email.

Then your chat / messaging session on Facebook or your texting session on your mobile phone can just exist for conversation-style text communication.

Cleaning out your email inbox

If you have to clean out your email inbox, delete the newsletters and any automatically-generated confirmation and notification emails first. Then empty the “Deleted Items” folder.

If there are receipts that were generated as part of an e-commerce transaction, print these out or make PDFs of them using a “print-to-PDF” program so you can reconcile them with your credit-card statements. Then you can delete them. This is important with businesses and others who need to retain transactions over a significant number of years for the taxman.


These articles, which are written to work for most Web-based and client-based email interfaces in current use, will help you to understand how to get the hang of your email system.

Email Essentials–1 User Interface Types and Features

A very common task that I help computer novices with is how to work with email, which is an essential part of the Internet. This article will appear as part of a three-part series with the first part talking about the user interface.

Email interface classes

Webmail (Web-based email)

Webmail interface - GMail

GMail - an example of a popular Webmail interface

A webmail service is based around you using a Web browser pointed to a particular Web server to read and send your email. It is as though your Web browser is effectively a “terminal” for your email service.

Typical examples of these services are Hotmail, GMail and Rocketmail but if your ISP or company sets up your mailboxes, they may set up a Webmail front-end for your inbox. This option may be set up primarily as a portable client-independent email option for travellers or nomadic users.

The main advantage of these setups is their portability and the reduced need for software to be configured. On the other hand, you are limited by a user-interface speed that can be affected by the number of users using your service and the Internet connection that you have.

A trap I often see with email novices who use this interface type is that they will work on an email but start to browse around the Web for other material. This would then cause the email that they are working on to be “effectively” lost and better-designed Webmail interfaces warn users that they could be losing their email if they navigate away from the page. Here, they would have an opportunity to save their work-in-progress as a draft.

But if you are intending to browse around the Web, including other emails in your Webmail user interface, open up a new browser window (CtrlN / CommandN) or tab (CtrlK / CommandK) and do this browsing from there. Then come back to the email by switching windows or tabs in the browser.

Client-based email

Windows Live Mail client-based email interface

Windows Live Mail - an example of a client-based email interface

The client-based email service requires that the device you are using to view your emails uses an email client program to manage your emails. The typical clients that you may use are the email software integrated in your iOS, Android or other mobile device; or Apple Mail, Windows Live Mail, Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird on your regular computer.

The email service will typically be provided by your ISP, Web host or your employer as a mailbox. On the other hand, some companies who run Webmail services do provide a client-based email option for these services and there are some companies who simply provide client-based mailbox services for Internet users. These setups will use one or more of these protocols: POP3/SMTP, IMAP4 or Microsoft Exchange.

The main advantage here is that you have quick response for your email tasks and you use an interface that is native to your computer operating environment.

Key folders in your email user interface

Folder list in an email interface

List of folders and views in a typical email user interface

In your email user interface, you will see a few folders that are very important to your email use. The folders and views are typically listed in a column on the left of your email interface’s screen if you are using a Webmail or desktop email client.


This folder is where all incoming email messages, henceforth known as emails, first land. It is like your mail box where all your postal mail will land, waiting for you to collect it. Typically, the new unread emails will he highlighted in a bold font so you know what has been read.

Unread Mail view

Most email user interfaces will have an “Unread mail” view which only shows the messages that you haven’t read. As well, a lot of client-based email software will flash up a notification icon and sound an audio prompt when new email arrives. The notification icon will disappear when you visit your inbox.

Starred or Flagged Messages view

An increasing number of email interfaces have a “starred” or “flagged” view where you can mark a message with a star or flag as you go through your Inbox. This feature works more like a bookmark system for your Inbox. Here, you select a “starred messages” or “flagged messages” view which only shows those messages so you can focus on them easily.

Messages From Contacts view

Another feature that is part of many desktop email clients is a “messages from contacts” view which only shows those messages that have come in from your contacts that are in your interface’s Contacts List / Address Book.

This feature allows you to separate the email that comes from your contacts form the newsletters and similar material that end up in your Inbox.


In a typical email user environment, the Drafts folder is where any email that you are working on is saved. This will happen if you close an email message that you are working on without you sending it, and some email user interfaces will automatically save emails that you are working on in this folder regularly until you actually send them.


The Outbox folder is where all of the messages you have composed and sent will land before they are despatched over the Internet to your correspondents.

Typically, the messages will appear there for a short time but there are a few circumstances that may cause your messages to be here for longer. One is if the email server is not functioning as it should or you are offline. This may be the case if you operate your client-based email system in an offline mode and click “Send / Receive” to check for email.

Another is if there is a large attachment such as a batch of photos and the email is taking a long time to send with some consumer email servers.

Sent Items

Once an email is actually sent out over the Internet, it will appear in your “Sent Items” folder so you know what has actually been sent

Deleted Items / Trash

When you delete an email, it will end up in this folder as a safeguard against you making a regrettable mistake. But if you delete an email from this folder, it is gone for good.

Conversation View

Most email user interfaces provide a “conversation view” which shows all emails with the same subject name and between you and the same correspondent. They will typically ignore the “Re:” or “Fw:” prefixes that are used to indicate a reply or a forwarded message; as well as showing the messages in reverse chronological order with the latest message first.

Contact List (Address Book)

The Contact List or Address Book is where you keep your regularly-used email addresses. You can add a contact to this list using the “Add New Contact” option in the Contact List view or you can add an email address for a sent or received email to the Contact List by clicking on an “Add this to my Contacts” option.

Here, you may have the opportunity to add further details or amend the details about the contact so you have better information for that contact.

Next, I will be talking about how to perform the various tasks that you need to do when you use your email facility as well as writing some useful tips for this facility.

Email suits messages to be taken further better than the social-network message

A common task that I have had to help people with lately is when they use an instant messaging service or the messaging function in a social-network service to send a message that is to be handled further. This is more so with people who rely heavily on Facebook as their online communications medium and start to forget their email address.

For example, it may be a message that is to be sent to somebody by email or to be printed out in order to be signed then sent by postal mail or fax. This includes messages that contain “boilerplate text” that is to be modified with further information before being sent or printed out.

Most instant-messaging or social-network messaging user interfaces don’t have a way of allowing you to print out or select the text of a particular message. This is typically frustrated by the “conversation” view that these user interfaces show the messages in, and this problem can be made worse by hard-to-manipulate user interfaces like laptop trackpads or touchscreens.

What do you do?

Here, it would be preferable that if you are talking with a correspondent via a service like Facebook, make sure that each of you know each other’s email address, not just the “handle” or member-name for these messaging services.

Then, send the message that is to be “taken further” to the correspondent using email rather than the message system. Infact you compose the message to be taken further using your email software or Webmail user interface. The correspondent can then print out that message or copy it to their word-processing software for modification and printing out.

The recent Telstra security breaches–how were they handled?

Through this last year, there has been an increasing number of incidents where customers of high-profile companies have had their identifying data compromised. One of these incidents that put everyone in the IT world “on notice”, especially those involved in consuner-facing IT like ISPs or online services, was the Sony PlayStation Network / Qriocity break-in by LulzSec / Anonymous.

Close to that, I had attended a presentation and interview concerning the security of public computing services hosted by Alastair MacGibbon and Brahman Thiyagalingham from SAI Global, the report which you can see here.

The BigPond incident

Over the last weekend, Telstra had suffered a security breach that compromised the user details of some of their BigPond Internet-service customer base. This was through a customer-service search Webpage being exposed to the public Internet rather than Telstra’s own customer-service network.

The privacy compromise was discovered on Friday 9 December 2011 (AEDT) and mentioned on the Whirlpool forum site. It was in the form of an in-house “bundles” search page exposed to the Web with the database containing usernames, passwords and fully-qualified email addresses of a large number of the customer base at risk.

Telstra’s response

But Telstra had responded very quickly by locking down the BigPond customer email servers and Web-based self-service front-ends while they investigated the security compromise. The customers whose data was exposed had their passwords reset with them being required to call the BigPond telephone support hotline as part of the process.

As I do maintain an email account through this service for a long time, I had taken steps to change the password on this account. This was even though I wasn’t one of the customers that was subject to the aforementioned mandatory password reset.

Telstra also maintained a live channel of communication to its customers through their own Web sites, through updates to the main media channels and through an always-running Twitter feed. Once the email system was open for business, a follow-up email broadcast was sent to all BigPond customers about what happened.

My comments on how this was handled

Like the Sony PlayStation incident, this incident was one that affected a high-profile long-established brand which, like other incumbent telecommunications-service providers, was in a position where the brand has a bittersweet connotation. Here the brand is associated with a portfolio of highly-established high-quality stable telecommunications services but has had negative associations with poor customer service and expensive telecommunications services.

What I saw of this was that after the Sony incident and similar incidents against other key brands, the IT divisions for Telstra haven’t taken any chances with the data representing their customer base. They had quickly locked down the affected services and forced the necessary password-reset procedures in order to reduce further risks to the customers; as well as keeping customers and the public in the loop through their media, Web and Social-Web channels.

The Telstra incident also emphasised the fact that the risks can come from within an affected organisation, whether through acts of carelessness or, at worst, deliberate treacherous behaviour by staff. As I have said in the previously-mentioned interview and conference article, there needs to be data protection legislation and procedures in place in Australia so that a proper response can occur when these kinds of incidents occur.

What about having IMAP4 as a standard email protocol


Most email services, especially those offered by consumer ISPs, use the old POP3 / SMTP protocols as the backbone for their email services. This works properly when only one computer is working as an email client because there is an expectation for the email to be downloaded off the mail server to that one computer.

Now the reality has changed due to Moore’s Law allowing for the ISP to offer email storage capacity to their customers in the order of gigabytes. As well, the computing paradigm has shifted towards people viewing their email from multiple devices. This has been brought about with small business owners having an office computer and a home computer, as well as the increasing popularity of smartphones, tablet computers and secondary-tier notebook computers like netbooks and 13”-14” ultraportables.

What does IMAP4 offer over POP3?

The IMAP4 technology requires email to be stored on the server and allows a copy of the mail to exist on the client devices. When the email client connects to the IMAP4 server, it simply synchronises all the email between the client and the server. This includes synchronising the client outbox to the server outbox in order to have emails being sent.

There is the ability for an IMAP4 setup to support “header-only” downloading, which would be of importance to people who use portable devices or low-bandwidth connections. As well, an IMAP4 setup can allow the user to operate in “offline” mode where synchronising is done when the user explicitly goes online so that users can prepare their email where Internet access is unavailable but synchronise when it is available.

Compared to POP3 / SMTP, this allows for increased flexibility when it comes to maintaining a mailbox from different email clients. Primarily, the contents of the same mailbox appear in all client devices that can access that mailbox. An example of this benefit would be that the Sent folder contains all messages that are sent from all of the clients rather than from that particular client. Similarly, one could “rough-out” an email using a smartphone or other portable device, then “finish it off” on the desktop because the email will be held in the Drafts mailbox folder.

It also supports the ability to create mailbox folders which will allow you to file the email in a manner that suits you, yet see the same filing arrangement across all your client devices.

It is also worth knowing that IMAP4 is the basic email protocol that OMTP have called as part of their standard for mobile “visual voicemail” services. These services allow a user to manage voicemail that they receive on their mobile phone in a similar manner to how they manage email on their computer or smartphone.

The status quo with IMAP4

IMAP4 is a free open-source technology that is independent of any licensing requirements; and nearly all email clients for desktop and mobile operating environments offer IMAP4 support as standard.

It is even though most of the consumer ISPs don’t offer it as an email protocol to their customers. This is while an increasing number of these providers are now offering mailboxes with gigabyte file capacities to new customers and upsizing existing customers’ mailboxes to these capacities. As well, the current range of data-centre equipment that works as mail servers can handle IMAP4 easily.

Some of these providers would rather offer a “hosted Exchange” service which would require the user to use Microsoft Outlook in Exchange mode. These services are more expensive to provide and may cost more for most personal and small-business users.

What could be done

An Internet service provider could offer IMAP4 mailboxes as a standard option for new customers or customers opening up new mailboxes. As well, they could offer it as a free upgrade option to existing customers, with information on how to convert from POP3 / SMTP to IMAP4.

This kind of setup that IMAP4 offers can allow telcos who offer Internet service and telephony as a bundle or triple-play services to provide a unified messaging environment where customers can manage their voicemail, fax and email from the same terminal. It also opens up ways for these companies to add value to their telephony and Internet services.

It also is a way of supporting the Internet-usage reality which is a reality driven by multiple-computer setups and portable computing.

Why are we using email client applications over Web-based email


What draws people to Windows Live Mail and other email applications | The Windows Blog

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Previous use of desktop email clients until Web-based email matured

Ever since the start of the Internet, we mainly used desktop email clients which were often part of a larger electronic-mail infrastructure like CompuServe or AOL or a corporate messaging platform. Some of us who used terminal-based email like email applications running on corporate or university mainframes; or through viewdata services like MiniTel may have had the opportunity to send Internet-based email by adding a special Internet-mail qualifier to the address.

These desktop email clients had become more sophisticated by inheriting personal organisation or word-processing abilities. It also included HTML-based email as well as easy-to-manage attachments.

The Web-based email services started to appear in 1997 with the likes of Hotmail and allowed people who use Internet cafes to send and receive mail from any computer without configuring email clients. These email services were considered as an auxiliary or temporary email service for people with their own computers as well as primary email services for nomadic people.

Mature Web-based email services

Over the years, GMail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail improved their Web-based email services that they became a similar standard to a desktop-client experience and some computer users had moved towards these services rather than setting up a POP3 inbox and a desktop email client. Similarly, most Internet service providers and companies are also running Web-based email front-ends for their email servers.

It has also been intensified because of Internet service providers locking down their SMTP outbound-mail services in order to make it harder to send spam and this has put various limitations on travellers and others who move between locations with their own laptop computers. It also became easier for multiple-computer users to see what was read on each terminal synchronously – if it was read on one PC, it was treated as read on the other PC. This was more so as the home network became more popular as people signed up to affordable always-on broadband Internet.

Return of client-based email

We are now seeing the return of client-based email due to varying factors.

One is that Web-based email services are increasingly becoming oversubscribed and their front-end servers are taking a longer time to respond to user-generated activity. It has led to the service providers scrambling to increase bandwidth and server power to service an increased user base.

Similarly, there is an increasing number of free desktop email clients that come with either the operating system or available for download, whether as part of a Web services platform or a sidekick application to one of the many Web browsers. These clients are becoming as good as either one of the current Web-based services or as good as a premium desktop email client of a generation or two ago. They include functionality like calendar / taskpad management and RSS feed-reading support which provides for a highly-valuable highly-affordable personal-information-management solution.

The same email clients are being integrated in to handlheld devices like smartphones which have Wi-Fi or wireless-broadband support. Similarly, the size and cost of laptop computers has reduced due to the arrival of netbooks and ultraportable notebooks that have integrated Wi-Fi and, perhaps, wireless broadband. These lead to the ability to check on your email anywhere you go rather than operating a large computer for this purpose.

In the same context, Web-based email services now offers SMTP/POP3 or IMAP support either as a free service or as an add-on for a small extra cost. ISPs are also setting up secure portable access mechanisms to their SMTP servers, such that users have to log in to these servers with their mailbox credentials before they can send mail through them. This has now made client-based email become increasing relevant for more users.

Why use a desktop email client

The desktop email client provides for use of standard email application protocols and allows the messages to be held locally on the computer’s hard disk.

The speed and performance of the desktop email client is consistent to that of the local computer device rather than combination of Internet bandwidth and a busy Web-based email server.

Similarly. the experience provided by these programs is consistent to that provided by the local computer device and you can even use keyboard shortcuts that are provided by the local computer device for expediting most tasks.

People who use portable computing devices like smartphones or laptops “on the road” can benefit from creating emails offline then sending them out when they choose to go online to update the mailbox. This is also of similar benefit for rural users who are stuck with dial-up Internet and who should be getting broadband Internet service.

Why use a browser-based email experience

A browser-based email experience would suit users who have to use shared computers such as Internet cafes, public libraries or friends’ houses. It can also be used as an adjunct to client-based email setups for quick creation of supplementary email accounts.

What needs to happen further

A major flaw that currently exists with most client-based personal email setups is that there isn’t support for synchronous multi-terminal access. That is if you read an email on one computer or other device, it is marked as read when you see your emails on other devices.

This could be achieved by allowing people who subscribe to personal email services like ISP-provided email to use IMAP4 or “hosted Exchange” mail protocols as alternatives to the POP3/SMTP protocols. These protocols are being supported by most email clients that are currently in service. These protocols allow for “header-only” view for skimming email lists on low-memory devices as well as synchronous multi-terminal access.

They, especially the IMAP4 protocol, could be provided for free by most personal / residential ISPs and there could be an “auto-negotiate” routine which prefers the best option available for the user as part of email client setup.


Now that client-based email use is returning to common use, ISPs and third-party email providers should consider operating a speedy AJAX-driven Web-based interface with “best-case” rendering as well as a client-based interface that works with secure implementations of the POP3 /SMTP, IMAP4 and “hosted-Exchange” protocols.