Bentley Home PC Support - Articles - Testing and Tagging


<< Back to Articles

What's a good email program?

What constitutes a good email program? Well, partially that it's not made by Microsoft, for starters. I know a lot of people use Outlook, and I'm not against it necessarily, but there are so many problems associated with that program I'd need an entire book chapter just to explain them. Let's just say it has some technical issues and each version introduces more features and faults. But other than that caveat, how do you even judge this? Well, inter-operating-system compatibility (ie. being able to use the same program on different computers) is a big thing. Because, laws of entropy being what they are, your computer will die eventually.

I mean, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but at some point. Then you're going to need to get all those address book details and email folders you made on a different computer. Guess what? The built-in mail programs that Microsoft provides with it's operating systems don't do that. You can't use Vista's "Windows Mail" on Windows 7, and Microsoft try to stop you using "Windows Live Mail" on Windows 10 (it is still possible to do so with the right knowhow). It's not quite so bad on Mac - in most cases you can transfer your mail data from one computer to another without a heck of a lot of hassle, provided the old computer isn't too out of date.

Mind you, none of that matters too much if you're using IMAP. What is IMAP? Well, there's two main email standards, POP and IMAP. I mean, I'd explain what the acronyms mean, but let's face it; you don't care and neither do I. The main thing to note is that IMAP is a reflection of what's stored on your email server, whereas POP downloads your emails to your computer and then (in most cases) deletes them from the email server. So if you're using a POP account (as most xtra email addresses do) and your computer dies, and you haven't backed up, you lose those emails permanently.

If you use IMAP (like all Gmail email addresses do) and your computer dies, it's no big loss as all your emails are still on the server and you can access them on another computer - no sweat! Most people use IMAP nowadays as it's easier to work with across multiple devices, but POP can be more handy in other respects, for example, if you need to be able to refer to emails whilst being offline. So if you're using POP, make sure your backup routine (whatever it is) also backs up your email data, in case your computer goes down at some point in the future. But to return to the topic at hand, backing up that email data won't help if you can't get the same email program on a new computer.

That's why I recommend Thunderbird. Thunderbird is an open-source and free email program which is very stable and compatible across a wide range of operating systems, including Mac, Linux and Windows. That means you can transfer your data not only between computers, but between different types of computers as well. Of course, a lot of people check their email on their phone too nowadays (not me) and Thunderbird doesn't exist on any mobile platform. But for desktop or laptop computers it's very good. And it supports both IMAP and POP.

Email is a very old, stable technology now, it's finished evolving, so there's not really any new things that an email program can do. It's all basic stuff. But what you want to make sure of is that you've got access to it in all scenarios - because like most things, you don't know what you've got till it's gone.

- Matt Bentley, computer expert at Bentley Home PC Support.
Email info@homepcsupport.co.nz or phone 0211348576.

Click here to go back to the main page.

© 2019 Matthew Bentley. All Rights Reserved