Do You Use a Mail Client, Which One, and Why or Why Not?


gmail-shortcuts-in-windowsOne of our recent Google (s GOOG) Gmail posts offers a bunch of great commentary; enough to warrant continuing the conversation in a full-blown post. These types of discussions usually offer a wide variance in solutions and reasoning and I find tremendous benefit in them. Hopefully you do as well.

James kicked off the original topic with his Gmail IMAP issues while on the road. As I stated in a comment there, I’ve been solely using Gmail’s IMAP service since leaving my Microsoft (s MSFT) Exchange provider back in October of 2007. There were a few bumps along the road, but by and large, I rarely have issues. Some readers don’t either while some do. One thing that’s constant however is the mail environment that works best for you.

About half of my daily e-mail activity is in the Mail application on my iPhone. (Note to iPhone owners using Gmail IMAP: you don’t want to tap the Gmail button when configuring your iPhone’s Mail client! Follow the manual instructions provided by Google instead.) The other half of my time is split between using the Mac Mail client and Gmail’s web interface through either Firefox or Chrome. Several folks asked in the original post why bother using a mail client at all? Great question!

For me, it’s simply a matter of preference and the fact that I sometimes like to keep web reading & writing separate from mail activities. At times like that, I use Mac Mail to segregate my activities. There’s really not much of a technical advantage to my using Mac Mail, or any other client for that matter. The main reason I used a mail client at all was because I wanted offline access to my mail; Gmail’s newly added offline feature has essentially resolved that, so there’s no longer a reason I need to use a mail client any longer.

Another situation where I use the web for mail is when I’m on my netbook. While these smaller notebooks can do most anything a standard notebook can do, I try to conserve resources. Why bother wasting CPU-cycles and memory by running an application like Outlook or Thunderbird when I don’t have to? I’ve found Google’s Chrome browser to be ideal for Gmail on my netbook. As a nice touch, I’ve used Chrome to create a “Gmail application” on my Windows desktop, which is essentially just a dedicated shortcut to Gmail in Chrome. Actually, I have two of these: one for my personal Gmail and one for my GigaOM mail, which is a Google Apps account. To do this, just click the Page icon at the top right of Chrome and select the “Create Application Shortcuts…” option. You’ll be prompted for which location(s) to create the dedicated shortcut: Desktop, Start Menu and/or Quick launch bar.


In an effort to broaden horizons on the topic, why not share your mail client preferences? Do you use a mail client at all? If so, which one and what’s the compelling reason for you? I realize that some of you are in situation that warrant the necessity of using a mail client, so this definitely isn’t a “one size fits all” type of discussion. But perhaps you’ll get some insights that you hadn’t thought of. Have at it in the comments!


Joe T.


One other disadvantage to Outlook/Exchange: cost.

This is important for the home user, but not really for the power work user, where costs for the extra features are inconsequential.

For the home user using a (POP) e-mail client with a free service like Yahoo Mail, the advantages are features like auto-scaling of pictures they send, vs. disadvantage of being responsible for their own backups.

Hardeep Singh Dang

Gmail Java client on Cell phone. Great while traveling. And Thunderbird to send 120 attachments in 1 go.
LOL Its a snap in Thunderbird, which cant happen in Gmail’s web Interface.

Miles M

I use Gmail Mobile’s java application on my non-Smartphone handset. The app handles multiple Gmail accounts offline.

I also use Google Map Mobile’s java application, and wap version of Google Calendar.

Those three, along with the Opera Mini, give my lowly Sanyo Katana handset near Smartphone capabilities.


I’m often stuck without broadband and only with a wireless dialup connection, so waiting for gmail to load isn’t fun. I used to originally use thunderbird, but recently gave windows live mail a try, and wow i’m impressed, and I’m using it all the time now on my netbook.

Chris Fabri

Another comment on multiple email addresses. I only have 2 – work and personal. And I like having them separate. I know that if I’m looking at email and there’s something there for work, it will potentially suck me in. So on the weekend or on vacation, I like to have them truly separate.


Probably like most of us, I use Gmail. The web client is all I need personally. I love having the ability to get my mail from any internet connected computer without having to configure anything, or worry about weird mail interactions if I were to use a client on my home PC, then trail to manage mail from another computer.

I IMAP my work email into my personal email address which has several benefits. I get everything in one inbox, I only need to configure one account on other devices (like my iPhone for example), and using Gmail’s new multiple-inboxes feature (in labs) I could easily sort work mail away from personal mail if I want.

This solution works incredibly well for me. I rarely even think about how or if my mail will work, it just does on every computer I use.


I’ve used most of the available options including OutlookExchange, Thunderbird, Gmail IMAP & Web, Windows Live Mail, Evolution, Outlook Express and my preference tends to be Outlook when paired with Exchange.

Advantages of OutlookExchange include:
– Integration of email, calendar, contacts and task management, RSS and notes
– Wealth of Outlook Add-ins such as Tablet Enhancements for Outlook, GTD Add-in, Xobni, Newshound
– Integration with Skype, Jott, Evernote, Mind Manager
– Ease of archiving email
– Ability to design custom forms and define views
– Integration with other Office 2007 tools such as OneNote
– Simplicity of keeping several systems in sync
– OWA on Exchange 2007 emulates Outlook look and feel
– Reliability

– Performance – this area requires more MS attention as the 2007 versions of Outlook and Exchange perform worse than earlier versions.
– Would love to see true NNTP integration
– RSS feeds requires work – duplicates when operating on multiple machiness


I’ve been using Gmail for years now. I recently switched from a Windows based PC to a Mac and am now using Mailplane as my email client. Basically it makes using gmail like you’re using an email client. Love it!

Chris Fabri


Google has easily answered item 2- their keyboard shortcuts kick both Thunderbird and Mail’s asses.

Item 3 I don’t know, you can handle multiple accounts in gmail, but it’s not quite as elegant as a dedicated app.

Item 1, well, I can’t say I’ve ever been concerned about how fast I can read my email. :)

I’ve completely moved to gmail, with offline access it’s pretty much all there when I need it, and I think the interface is great, the threading is amazing, labels are far superior to folders, and the keyboard shortcuts make it almost like using elm (which I’m honestly not sure why some continue to use).

Have any of you Mac users tried using Mailplane?
It looks pretty cool, I think I’m going to give it a try.


I used to use Outlook with an “old school” email account for win mobile compatibility mostly. I then switched to gmail apps on the back end for spam reduction. I eventually transitioned to the online apps client because of 1) multiple devices and 2) the outlook “personal folder” I had to handle with windows reinstall (everyone does that every 6 months right?) was getting obscene in size (what is that “delete” option for again?)

George Danzey-Smith

I’ve used a whole range of services over the past few years.

I used the mail solution provided with cPanel hosting for quite some time, simply using POP to connect. I then progressed to using IMAP, always in Outlook 2003 & 2007 or when I was on OS X. I now use a Google Apps account to host mail for my websites after I switched to Godaddy, whos included email is frankly rubbish. I have this configured in Outlook via IMAP on all of my machines, but I usually just end up using the Gmail web interface most of the time now.


For me, there are three main reasons for using an eMail client (MUA) over any Webmail application:

1) speed — so far, I didn’t found any webmail application which beats any eMail client in speed of displaying and selecting eMails

2) usability/keyboard — also for speed reasons I’m heavily relaying on keyboard shortcuts while handling eMail (my hands are already on the keyboard for typing in text, so why should I switch back to the mouse for selecting the next eMail?).

3) multiple accounts — as others already mentioned, I also have couple of eMail-boxes/accounts which I prefer to be seperated from each other, but are still handling in _one_ application.



I have had a gmail account for several years and created a second gmail account about a year go. My main account is accessed via the web on the laptop and java client on the mobile device. My main mobile device is a blackberry where I use the java client for gmail. I also use the google sync app to keep my google calendar and contacts in sync with my blackberry.
I use the second gmail account for service sign-ups and access it mostly on my blackberry via POP access. I use it that way as an alternate mobile meathod for mail because I could not save my attachments via the gmail java client. I normally keep the device inbox clean and let it just store online as an archive.

Jose R. Ortiz

i’ve been using outlook for quite some time now (even back when i had pop3 accounts). today, i use outlook 2007 along with exchange 2007. exchange simply offers too many niceties for me to pass up and it makes it extremely easy to switch between not only laptops, but phones as well (which i do quite often). owa on ie is good in a pinch but i prefer to use the outlook client when available.


“Do you use a mail client at all? If so, which one and what’s the compelling reason for you?”

Apple Mail. Because of Spotlight. Absolutely indispensable.

Dave Zatz

I’ve been using Yahoo mail for 1998 or 1999, and it’s been my primary solution for at least half of that time period. While they do offer POP access (I pay $25/yr for Plus), there’s no desktop IMAP support at this time (other than Zimbra). Which means nearly all of my mail tasks are done through a web browser or the iPhone. I’d kill for IMAP access – if nothing else, so I can archive everything. :/


I’m on a Mac and have used for the last four years or so and been quite happy with it. I recently switched over to gmail’s web interface exclusively and it’s amazing. I spent ten minutes familiarising myself with all the keyboard shortcuts that gmail offers and now processing email is a breeze – much faster than I also like that I have access to every e-mail that I’ve sent since 2004 through gmail’s great search.

My other e-mail adresses can be consolidated in gmail as well through pop, so Martijn, you don’t need Outlook to have just one icon to get to all your e-mail ;). I use the google notifier app that lives in my menu bar and I’m really happy with that setup.

Google also offers a web interface for my iPhone that kicks the built-in mail app’s butt (you can actually search and star messages) and it’s easy to switch from my mac to my Wind that I currently have running Windows 7 without having to juggle several sets of controls.


Outlook: more complete list of pros with some cons:

MS Outlook 2007/Outlook mobile plus exchange.
-integrated e-mail, calendaring/tasks, contacts
-Good to have e-mail/calendaring/contacts on phone; easy to set up, no need to combine diverse products
-Outlook contacts readable by skype, only need one list for all systems
-Customizable interface, good visual display of information (with some good new features like color categories)
-Extra features come in handy (e.g. “meeting request” saves several e-mails plus an add to calendar)
-Very good anti-spam technology
-backed up e-mail, good connection to server (push)
-RSS reader handy
-flexible rules
-excellent web interface when needed

-WM platform badly needs update
-task/alarm management and viewing could have more options


I’ve been using Microsoft Outlook for years, for the same reasons already mentioned: One place, everything bundled, calendar, mail, etc…. also syncs with my mobile phone.

Yet, I must admit that I’m more and more turning my back on Outlook. It really lacks a decent view for conversations, and performance has decreased a lot over the versions. Besides, I’m an archiving-freak, I like to keep a copy of everything and this is where Outlook gets really bad. It can’t really handle large amounts of data and gets a lot slower as your mailbox grows. Microsoft’s suggestion: Several pst files, open only those you need, archive each year in separate file, etc. That is what’s annoying most. It shouldn’t be the user’s task to split up his mail in a way Outlook can handle it with performace. It’s Microsoft’s task to find a suitable data storage structure for Outlook so it can deal with a growing amount of email. Large database systems can handle terabytes of data without trouble. Any reason why Outlook shouldn’t be able to handle a few thousand emails?!

With Outlook responding very slowly everytime I try to open it, it’s sometimes just so much faster to open the GMail website and type my email there. Still, if Microsoft gave Outlook a MAJOR refresh I’d probably use it more often again.

Simon Dale

Outlook 2007. I’ve never really found web based services to be feature rich enough for me, although I may be out of date with my thinking there.

For instance all of my email comes in to one hosted exchange account from various forwarders, etc. When I want to create a new outgoing email I select which account from the accounts drop down and send through one of several different SMTPs or the Exchange account itself. Outlook automatically changes my signature file too.

I love how it syncs with my laptop and iPhone – although that’s mostly down to Exchange rather than Outlook but the two go hand in hand in some respects.

When I briefly used Mac OS X (I bought an MSI Wind purely to put Mac OS X on to have a play with) I used Entourage and I found it to be just as useable as Outlook. That keeps a mutiny to Apple on the cards for one day in the future.


I have been using Gmail since it first came out, first POP then IMAP. I use the Mozilla Thunderbird email client (previously used MS Outlook). At work I am forced to use Lotus Notes and Sametime instant messenger. I like the way I can manage my offline folders and easily move large amounts of old mail around to different devices using a thumb drive.


i’m using outlook because work requires that we have to (long story). what i can’t stand is when i send a message from gmail webmail, i get a copy of the message i sent in my outlook inbox. why can’t gmail do something about that instead of having to contact my provider for configuration on their end? that is completely inexcusable and the main reason i use yahoo mail as my personal e-mail account.

Craig Newmark

Almost all my email usage is via Pine, which is probably the most popular emailer at CL, particularly in customer service.



I am in the minority I guess since I use Windows Live Mail on the PCs, on-line and on my phones. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a Gmail, Yahoo and other accounts but they all forward to my Live account.

The main advantages to me are that Windows Live contact management is much better than Google’s, and both the contacts and mail are “push” to the phones and PCs. That way I everything is updated in real time and stays in sync whatever device I’m on.


MS Outlook 2007/Outlook mobile plus exchange.
-Nice integrated e-mail, calendaring/tasks, contacts
-Good to have all these features on windows mobile, easy to set up
-Outlook contacts readable by skype, only need one list for all systems
-Customizable interface, good visual display of information
-Extra features come in handy (e.g. “meeting request” saves several e-mails plus an add to calendar)
-Very good anti-spam technology


Now that they have added offline access I believe that Gmail has no competition (in terms of usability) in the email space.


Gmail . No second thoughts. Have been using it for last 4 years. I even forward my office mails to gmail and use that actively. Now use google apps. I wont change to IMAP / POP / Yahoo even of they pay me.


Nice post man…well i usually used outlook express as my email client. Never found windows mail in vista quite useful to me.

But for now i stick with Gmail’s web interface since it already offers offline access which i find quite useful.

Martijn van Gompel

I’ve been using Microsoft Outlook for a couple of years now. Especially the last couple of years when I got an exchange account. I like the offline acces to all my e-mails, it seems faster. Or the webacces I have is just so immensly slow. (adding things to the web calendar is this painstakingly hard) Another reason for me to use outlook is that I’ve got all my e-mail accounts bundeld. I have a private pop e-mail account, I have an exchange account (I used to have another exchange account but since I got fired I don’t use it anymore) and I’ve got a pop account wich I use for my website. I don’t wan’t to have 4 icons on my desktop wich link to 4 different websites. Its all nice and tidy under that one Outlook 2007 icon.

Haven’t really thought of saving CPU cycles on my tablet-pc by using an online e-mail client. I think the difference is negligible.

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