We’re very conscious that when our clients talk about email software for their computers, most of the time they will probably be talking about Outlook. Outlook is Microsoft’s email software which comes as part of the Office suite. It’s very popular and a lot of people wouldn’t consider using anything else – there’s even a version that you can run on your Mac.
However, we don’t use Outlook. We have experimented with it at times but quite frankly don’t get on with it. Our preferred email software is Thunderbird, and has been for the last twelve years. Thunderbird is free email software offered by Mozilla (the same organisation that produces the Firefox web browser). We love it because it does exactly what we need it to do:
It’s Cross Platform
Thunderbird works on Windows, Mac and Linux, so whatever your computer is running you can use it.
Handles Multiple Email Addresses
We can easily manage multiple email addresses within the same software, keeping each separate so there is no confusion as to which email address is being used.
The software is actively developed by Mozilla, which means there are regular updates to it (which are applied automatically so we don’t have to actively update it ourselves). This means that the software is constantly improving and we can be confident that it is secure.
Easy to Use
We find it much easier to use than Outlook. It’s fully featured but not overly complicated. It does what it does well.
Simple to Back Up
Using the MozBackup tool it’s very simple to run backups of your email. We use the tool to take regular backups and store the backup files on an external hard drive. So if we are upgrading to a new computer or (horror of horrors) our computer goes pop, we can easily reinstate our full back history of emails without losing anything.
Thunderbird is something that we’ve been using for so long that we pretty much take it for granted. But when we hear from a client that their computer has gone up in smoke and they’ve lost all their emails, it reminds us how lucky we are to be able to easily reinstate our email at any time with the minimum of fuss.
Thunderbird does exactly what we need and doesn’t have the frustrations of other email software that we’ve tried using, and it’s free! At this point we wouldn’t even consider using anything else.
When you set up on your email addresses on your chosen software you have the option of choosing between POP3 and IMAP. They both allow you to access your email address but behave differently so you need to choose the best option for you.
If you use POP3 your emails are downloaded from the mail server onto your computer. Once downloaded the email is deleted from the server (unless you set your email software to leave all the emails on the server). If you use more than one computer or device (tablet or smart phone) to access your emails you could well find that emails you have already viewed only appear on the one computer – in other words if you download it to your desktop it then won’t be available to view on your phone.
- Because the emails are deleted from the server this helps prevent your mailbox getting too full and having emails bounce back.
- If you use multiple computers/devices it can be difficult to keep track of where you have downloaded your emails to.
- It is more difficult to access your emails on multiple devices.
IMAP, on the other hand, stores emails on the mail server. What it does is sync your emails between the mail server and any computers/devices you use. It also syncs any emails you have sent with the server – so you can access your sent emails on your phone if when you’ve sent them from your computer. This makes it the better option if it’s important to you to be able to have access to all your emails on all your devices. However, because all your emails are stored on the server you have to be aware of how much storage space you have and monitor it to make sure you don’t fill up your mailbox. A full mailbox means that you won’t be able to receive any new emails, they will instead bounce back to the sender.
- You can access all your emails (including sent email) on multiple devices.
- All your emails are stored on the server so you could find you quickly use up your storage space and cause a blockage with sending/receiving emails.
- It takes extra management to monitor your storage space.
- It really does sync between all devices – if you delete an email from your phone it will also be deleted from your desktop computer, if you’re not aware of that you could easily lose an email you meant to keep.
Just a word of warning. Many of the current email programs, for example Outlook, try to automatically choose your email settings for you and quite often default to IMAP. When setting up your emails please be aware of the settings and make sure you choose the options which best suit you and your mailbox storage allowance.