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There are basically two ways to access your email. You can either use an email client or webmail. What’s the difference between the two? An email client is a program on your computer that allows you to send and receive messages without the need to go through your internet browser. Webmail is accessing your email through your internet browser and using the software on the server to send and receive email. A couple of examples of webmail are yahoo and gmail. Those are some broad definitions of the two, but we shall get into more details later on.

Some people have conformed to webmail to the point that they don’t recognize the potential behind an email client. This is especially true at my place of employment, but that is an issue for a different article. An example of some email clients are MS Outlook, Thunderbird, and Evolution. The advantage of an email client really shines when you have multiple email accounts. With an email client you will be able to have all of your messages downloaded to your computer from all of your email accounts. This eliminates that need to log into different websites to check messages.

Email clients could also serve the purpose of being a company bulletin board. What do I mean by this? Assuming all of your employees have a computer at their desk and that you have setup a local email server, managers/bosses can send mass messages over the local network about new projects, deadlines, meetings, etc. This is a great way to keep people on track and open the lines of communication with the employees and management teams. As a side note, there will be less excuses like “I didn’t get the email.”

What else can an email client do? It can be the greatest organization system that you have. You can actually go beyond organization if you are really nit picky. The standard sections that you see when you access your email are inbox, sent, drafts, trash, and spam. That’s great, but it doesn’t really organize anything. With an email client, you can setup folders for each type of message. If you are a real organization freak, you can create folders within a folder. For example, my inbox contains the following folders: school, work, friends, and family. Within the school folder are the following folders: a folder for each current class, a folder for messages from faculty, and a folder for messages from classmates. Most email clients are bundled with an address book / contact manager. Using the bundled contact manager keeps all contacts in one spot instead in multiple email accounts. Since the contact manager is bundled with your email client, most likely, you can type in someone’s name instead of their email address, which makes life so much easier.

I have rambled on and on about how great an email client is. What about webmail? Webmail is the best thing to use if your email account doesn’t support email clients. At this point you have no choice. Yahoo is a great place to get a free email account, but in the past, if you want to use an email client, you would have to purchase Yahoo’s monthly service. However, today Yahoo is allowing free accounts to be accessible through an email client. Or there maybe times when a public firewall doesn’t allow you to use your email client. At that point, webmail is your only choice.

What do I prefer? Obviously from what I’ve been saying, email clients are the way to go. Which email client should you use? That is entirely up to you. Since I’m a Linux user, I have a choice between Thunderbird and Evolution (there are more email clients for Linux, but that is for another article). After using both email clients, I have decided that Evolution is my choice. If you are using Windows, I would recommend Thunderbird most of the time. When I did use Windows, I always preferred Thunderbird over MS Outlook. There is an exception to this. If you own a smart phone like the Blackberry or if your smartphone has software that syncs with Outlook, then MS Outlook is the best email client to use. Outlook is a program that is much more than an email client. It is a personal information manager. Since this article is focused on just email clients, I’ll save all of Outlook’s greatness for another article.

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