What You Said: Desktop vs. Web-based Email Clients

We clearly tapped into a subject you all have a strong opinion about with this week’s Ask the Readers post; read on to see how your fellow readers manage their email on, off, and across desktops and devices.

Earlier this week we asked you to share your email workflow and you all responded in force.

TusconMatt doesn’t miss desktop clients one bit:

Switched to Gmail years ago and never looked back. No more losing my emails and contacts if my HDD crashes or when I reinstall. No more frustration with not being able to access an email on the road because it downloaded to my drive and deleted from the server. No more mailbox full messages because I left messages on the server to avoid the above problem!

I love having access to all emails from anywhere on any platform and don’t think I could ever go back to a dedicated email client.

Before switching to Gmail, I used Thunderbird in Windows and Evolution in Linux.

Thunderbird got lots of love in this week’s Ask the Readers comments, Merriadoc was but one of the many, many, readers that based their workflow on Thunderbird:

I’m using Mozilla Thunderbird, it allows me to check several email accounts at the same time without having to open a web browser (and logging in).
It has also the lightning extension, wich I synchronized with my different Gmail calendars. Very useful and easy to use.
I use GMail on Android, only to read email.

I used Eudora, Lotus Notes, Outlook Express in the past. Not my cup of tea.

Anonymous Andy weighs in with the most detailed response in favor of ditching desktop clients for web-based email:

No. I don’t use a desktop email client. And for some good reasons:

1.) It usually costs money to use an email service provider who can provide POP access. (So far as I am aware, only GMail is free.) Of course, I could probably do it myself if I wanted to build a server somewhere but what a PITA!

2.) Although my ISP does provide POP email services I still don’t use it mainly due to spam. Personally, I find it easier to filter any spam/bacn with my (free) online account rather than actually download everything and then filter it with a client. Of course, I could do a half and half solution but who has the time to figure it all out? And can we say large “attachments”?!

3.) Viruses! If I open an email while online it’s likely prone to just infect my account – not my computer. Think Java script, flash, etc. with site re-directors here. However, attachments are still something to beware of as well as any bad add-on code. But since I already limit via my browser with various blockers and limiters I see no good reason to try and keep up with all the extra junk that keeps an email client safe too. In fact, email ports (110 & 25 usually) are just two more ports that need to be kept open – and are two more ways to let your computer get cracked.

4.) Free anonymous email accounts. Look around and it’s hard to not find a free online email service somewhere. Yahoo, MSN, Google just to name a few, will all give you a free online account. You can even tell them your name is Bozo The Clown while registering with a burner cell phone or even a temporary email address like what you get with 10 Minute Email – assuming they even go that far. And once registered, you can use your email until you grow tired of it. (Don’t you just love the idiocy of it all? Cause anyone serious about email security would probably be offering free POP-only service and making it much harder to get free online email.)

Of course, a downside might be that I don’t get the immediacy of an email. And I’m also pretty much tied to using an open browser with Internet access to get my email. But again, not being alerted every time an email comes in is also kind of nice. And for anyone who needs/wants to get a hold of me that urgently I usually just tell them to call me anyway (hopefully, from an unblocked caller ID number too).

For more reader comments, hit up the full discussion thread here. Have an idea for the next Ask the Readers question? Send us an email a tips@howtogeek.com!

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.